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Louisville man's salmon side hustle turns into profitable, brick-and-mortar business

With a speakeasy feel, the preorder for Sinclair Smoked Salmon is just one of the fiercely local elements of the business

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — As the economy continues to constrain Kentuckians and Hoosiers, people are getting creative to make some extra cash. 

What started as word of mouth between friends and neighbors is still word of mouth but with a brick-and-mortar.

Inside his storefront at the Douglass Loop, Cooper Sinclair's fresh never frozen mentality is giving him much more than a side hustle. 

The story of "Sinclair Smoked Salmon" didn't start in 2021 with a storefront.

"So, what we have here is fresh salmon that's been dry-brined, but not yet been smoked," Cooper Sinclair, the man behind the business, said.

SSS didn't start even back in 2018, when the seed was planted.

"A lot of folks would start to ask 'Hey, is Coop going to bring the salmon to the party tonight?'" Sinclair said.

Twenty years ago, Coop first started smoking other meats and veggies. Back then, he could have never imagined his side hustle as a salmon smoker. 

"I was actually running the entire business on 6 different residential 22' Weber kettle smokers," he said of the experience starting up SSS in early 2021.  

With the demand for over 200 pounds of smoked salmon some weekends, the workload can be a lot on top of Coop's other career. 

The full-time financial professional says his career helped him make good business decisions when starting out.

"If you're willing to work incredibly hard and to keep your current career intact if possible, it's afforded me a lot of leeway and ways to design this business that would not have been possible any other ways," Sinclair said.  

A fiercely local business, the salmon is sourced from a local company, which flies it in fresh from Chile. The wood used to smoke is locally sourced hickory hardwood and black cherry. Even the ordering is only available to locals.

"There's not an Amazon Kindle book on how to open a smoked salmon takeout business, right?" Coop said with a chuckle.  "What worked for me, and from an inventory perspective, was to make it about preordering." 

Customers text or email Coop by Wednesday each week with their orders by weight, then have the opportunity for pick-up on Saturday mornings. 

Sinclair Smoked Salmon is profitable and gives Coop a creative outlet he was missing, but his biggest takeaway is subsidizing his soul. 

"A lot of it is again the connection to people," Coop said.  "Being able to provide them something unique and fortunately the response has been so overwhelmingly positive, it's given me the confidence to continue to scale up with a bigger commercial smoker unit, so I think it's just going to continue to grow over time.

Click here to preorder your very own smoked salmon from Sinclair Smoked Salmon.

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