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June 14, 2013

Seeing opportunity through the smoke

GREENVILLE — Summer is well underway, and with that comes grilling; lots of grilling.

For grillers looking to add new flavor to their cooked meat, Greenville resident Richard Nelson believes he has created something right up their alley: the SmokeCage.

SmokeCage is a grill accessory that houses pecan shells, which, when burned, add a wood-smoked flavor to meat.

According to Nelson, the idea came from his background as a sales manager for Sunshine Nuts. While on a tour through a factory, he noticed something interesting.

“Off to the side was this huge drum full of pecan shells,” he said. “So I asked ‘what do you guys do with all the shells?’”

Nelson said the company had hired a disposal company to come and remove the more than 10 million pounds of pecan shells going out the back door on a regular basis.

“I thought it would be good fuel for barbecue,” he said.

After floating the idea around in his head for a while, Nelson said he figured out how to implement it when he went on a competitive sailing trip with his friend.

When they were packing for the trip, he noticed a perforated metal sheet in his friend’s car he wasn’t using.

Nelson took the sheet to a design company and had them mold it into a cylindrical cage and did a test run on the grill.

“It worked, and it worked really, really well,” he said. “I can’t be too open about this because it works really well and no one has done it.”

After the test run Nelson quickly trademarked the name and began showing it to friends and businesses.

Home Depot has a diversity supplier program which is designed to promote small business growth in America. Nelson was recently accepted by the company to pitch his idea to them to sell in their stores.

“I’m pretty confident that it will be accepted,” he said.

Nelson said he is capitalizing on the recent upward trend in barbecue grill sales.

“I’ve never seen more buzz and jazz about barbecue than now,” he said. “This is the right time to be launching it.”

According to Nelson, because of the unique flavor, he is confident the local business will take off.

“It works on every meat kind there is,” he said. “I have never had anyone return one.”

For more information on the product, visit www.smokecage.com.

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