By Kathleen McKevitt – Special to the Pahrump Valley Times
“I love my job,” is not exactly an oft-heard phrase. But if you ask Beatty’s Miguel Castro how he likes his work, he will likely say just that.
Anyone who’s spent any length of time in the Pahrump Valley is likely already familiar with Castro’s work — he operates Miguel’s Fresh Jerky on Highway 160 at Gamebird Road, a stand selling all kinds of homemade products, not just jerky.
The small trailer and tent is located there every weekend. It serves as a store as well as a shelter from the elements. Castro said he’s been there every weekend for 12 years.
It takes him about 30 minutes early in the mornings of Friday through Sunday to put up road signs, and another 30 minutes, often in the dark at both ends of the day, to take them down.
Castro is from Beatty, where his family runs a permanent store on the way into town, he leaves at 6 a.m. and generally doesn’t get back home until around 9:30 p.m. — or later.
If he cannot be there on a given weekend, one of the other family members fills in, getting the children up in the dark, and taking them home late in the dark, and doing that for three days in a row until Miguel is back in town. Castro’s wife, Maria, says, “It’s really hard to get the kids out of bed so early on the weekends, but inside the trailer they can play, and our eldest child, also named Miguel, 10 years old, is being trained to learn the business, so it’s practice for him.”
The shop in Beatty, located at 1100 Highway 95, No. 33 and also named Miguel’s Fresh Jerky, isn’t hard to find. On Highway 95, large road signs on the north and south entries into the city point the way. The Beatty store is open from 8:30 a.m to 7 p.m.
Castro and his wife have managed the two shops for more than a decade. Castro’s father (also Miguel) makes the jerky and his uncle, Gus Castro, has 575 large apiaries of bees and collects and processes the honey for sale. He takes the hives to California in the winter and brings them back to Beatty in the summer months.
There are four types of jerky: beef, elk, buffalo and venison, in various tastes, such as hot and spicy, to standard “cowboy” jerky. Honey is offered in comb, alfalfa, sage, cactus, clover, dark and others, depending upon season, and everything they sell is organic, including pistachios, dried fruit, bee pollen, stuffed olives and pickled garlic and nuts.
“I never thought of quitting,” says Castro. Even when the days are over 12 hours long, driving in the dark, through ice or heat, I have always loved doing this and I love my customers.”
Castro seems delighted to talk about the beginnings of the businesses. “All of this,” he says, gesturing to the store and products, “it’s all from my father’s ideas. He thought of this and learned how to make the jerky and how to run this business.”
The business started with making and selling beef jerky as well as selling pistachios in California. But according to Castro, it required many permits, and he remembers driving long distances to get legal paperwork accomplished for running the business, and sleeping in the trailer — often working in the dark to make ends meet.
Castro says of that time, “Also, our English wasn’t very good back then (in the 1990s), and that added to the difficulty with everything.”
Maria Castro talks about their clientele. “We have people come by from Africa, Canada, New York, Reno, the mid-west, China and all parts of the world,” she says. “A lot of people don’t know that for some of our regular customers we deliver honey right to their door.”
Castro said his clientele is consistent every weekend, winter and summer, and those people are the best part of his job.
Castro talks about where they’ve been and where they are now. “Business in California was very hard. It was so expensive to start a business and get permits and the days and nights were very difficult. But we wanted to work for ourselves, to be our own boss, and this is so much better, and easier.”
“And,” he added, “a lot more fun.”
To drive through Pahrump or Beatty is to realize that there are many small, but stable businesses that cater to local needs. Most are also unique and offer a single service with one- of-a- kind product line, the owners have a love of being self-employed, a belief in their product and service, and really like people. Miguel’s Fresh Jerky is one of those.
Miguel’s Fresh Jerky has a website, www.miguelsfresh
jerky.com, from which any of their products can be ordered and shipped — except honey in glass bottles. The telephone number for the shop is 775-553-9948.