Faces Q&A with Jim Burt, Owner of We Are Nuts
© 2009 Pioneer Press
Jim Burt always knew he was going to be a salesman.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
My father sold cars all of his life. I'm not saying I wanted to sell cars, but I always knew I wanted to be a salesman.
What was your first job in the food business?
I worked in a grocery store when I was 14 years old. When I was 20, I bought a grocery store on 35th and Lyndale in Minneapolis — one of the Dairy Home stores — and ran it for a number of years. Then, I got tired of it and went back to St. Thomas University and graduated with a marketing degree when I was 30 years old.
What exactly is We Are Nuts?
A seasonal discount nuts and variety store. When I answer the phone and say, "We Are Nuts," there's always a little giggle before we have a conversation.
What do you do the rest of the year?
I own a large food brokerage, and that's my little secret as to how I get this stuff for We Are Nuts. I buy all my vendors' short lots. We literally put new stuff in every day. This is our 22nd year.
How did you come up with the idea for We Are Nuts?
For years, my first and only customer was 3M. My wife and I packed nuts at night and hand delivered the orders to all the offices, and there would be a whole wad of checks for me. So many of the employees kept coming over to my warehouse that I finally had to put in the store. I do all the roasting on site here in this building so customers are really getting everything fresh.
How did you pick the warehouse location?
It was where I did my food brokerage business, and it's inexpensive rent. If I were in any popular location, like Mall of America, you wouldn't see these low prices.
What's the best seller? At the end of the day, it's always cashews.
What's something few people know about nuts?
They don't know how well they freeze. You can pull them out of the freezer, thaw them out in one day, and they'll be like fresh — provided you freeze them when they're fresh.
What's your favorite restaurant?
Carmello's (in St. Paul). It's like my nuts store, an out-of-the-way place, and you look at the storefront and say, "How good can that be?"
What's the weirdest food you've ever eaten?
When I was in Croatia, I ordered eel. When they brought it out, I said, "What did you do to fix it?" They said, "Nothing." It was supposed to be eaten raw.
I'm teaching my son to be a great nut entrepreneur so I can go to Croatia and eat eel.
— Kathie Jenkins