Sausage Factory official Wolf Pack frankfurter

Carson City has a new "link" to the University of Nevada, Reno football program.

In a recent deal with UNR, The Sausage Factory now provides the "official frankfurter of Mackay Stadium, home of the Wolf Pack."

Joe Tonino, who owns the Sage Street factory with father Al, said for years the company has wanted a place at Mackay stadium and an opportunity to be associated with Wolf Pack athletics.

In the last few months a deal to provide frankfurters for the 2001 football and 2002 baseball seasons was finalized.

"This is big for us," Tonino said from the factory headquarters Wednesday. "We've been a small company and haven't spent anything on promotions until now.

"This is really the first step in taking a stronghold in marketing and advertising."

Depending on the sizes of crowds at UNR's five home games, more than 100,000 could be exposed to one of The Sausage Factory's signature products. Mackay Stadium's marketing value can be invaluable to local businesses.

"We really liked the idea of a local company providing products to our fan base," said UNR assistant athletic director Rory Hickock. "I don't know of any other venues in Northern Nevada that can bring 25,000 people at once."

In addition to the frankfurters being offered at concession stands inside the stadium, the company name and logo will be placed on the scoreboard.

"It's one giant demonstration of my products," Tonino said. "When people taste our frankfurters, they say, 'That's the way a frankfurter used to taste.'

"We sell everything on quality. Now we can go into a sports bar and say, 'We are the official maker of the Wolf Pack frankfurter. Want to get involved?'"

Since it started in 1968, The Sausage Factory has seen steady growth from back room operations like casinos and restaurants to its most recent foray into retail sales.

Now, with growing name recognition and an emphasis on quality and freshness, Sausage Factory products can be found in groceries throughout the West, and even a couple in the East.

"We had a guy in Louisville who had one of our hot dogs in Virginia City years ago," said sales coordinator Layne S. Holmes. "When he decided to open up a hot dog stand, he called us."

The Tonino family boasts a 15 percent to 20 percent yearly growth rate on a product line that includes Italian sausage, Basque chorizo, British bangers and old-fashioned franks. In fact, the largest portion of the company's business comes in the form of made-to-order products.

Tonino said restaurant chefs will work with head sausage maker Otto Sandmeier, tweaking recipes with a variety of spices and meats, and determining how long cooked sausages will spend in the oven or smoker.

Although small at 25 employees, meeting the increased demand of weekly football games will not be a problem, Tonino said. "As small as we are, we have the ability to gear up almost instantly," he said.

On Wednesday, Mayor Ray Masayko and Chamber of Commerce Executive Vice President Larry Osborne were among the visitors who stopped by the factory to congratulate Tonino on his success and pose for photographs.

The Sausage Factory is an offshoot of the Ideal Sausage Co., started in Italy and moved to Hackensack, N.J., in 1954 by Tonino's father Al and uncle Luciano Tonino. Al bought a small sausage plant in Carson City in 1968 and expanded it to 2,500 feet to create The Sausage Factory.

The plant has constantly evolved to increase production and comply with sanitation requirements, Tonino said. Besides specialized equipment, a meat processing facility requires special insulated walls and ceilings, extensive refrigeration capabilities and multiple floor drains.

Poised to further expand, the company recently purchased a 22,000-square-foot warehouse next door that will eventually be home to the expanded distribution business, Tonino West.

Tonino describes the distribution operation as a way to fill the empty spaces on trucks while expanding its offerings. "We will only deal specialty, and high-quality products," he said.


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