Sportsman's Table

By J.F. Pirro

We are beside the Saucon Creek at Grist Mill Park behind the historic Wagner Grist Mill in Hellertown. While John and Amy Carber, owners of Sportsman’s Table, set up shop on a sturdy picnic table, eager fishermen throw lines into the creek and surrounding ponds. If anyone lands “the big one,” the portable filet station that John has set up could come in handy. “We’re an outdoor company, so we like the outdoors,” Amy explains.

Essentially what they’ve done with Sportsman’s Table, an e-commerce and mail order company that’s headquartered in Hellertown, is to take a page out of a general outdoors company catalog and craft an entire company. All Sportsman’s Table products – more than 600, including exclusive lines – are utensils, tools, marinades, handmade pottery, even wildlife-themed linens, that insure each catch is prepared, cooked, served and eaten – preferably as a family. “We want families to cook together and eat together,” Amy says.

The niche is sportsmen (a huge Lehigh Valley and Pennsylvania industry), and those who live outdoor lifestyles, but many products are suitable for any consumer’s kitchen.

Sportsman’s Table’s own beef jerky line and its knife sharpeners are among its most popular items.

“If you’re a sportsman, you want the knife sharpener in your truck and tackle box, but if you’re not a sports person, you want it in your kitchen drawer,” Amy says. “We have them in both places.”

Its cooking spices – for example, Venison Burger Steak Rub – are great on game, but also on store-bought chicken.

Launched in September 2006, the ah-ha moment came during one of John’s family game dinners when he thought back to growing up and searching through mail-order catalogs or other promotions for hunting and fishing gear. Amy grew up in a hunting and fishing family that dined on wild game. Her part: cooking and canning on the Bucks County farm that her third-generation farmer-father still operates part-time. “I was always like, ‘Bring it back here, so we can make something good,’” she says.

Both are a far cry from their previous corporate sales jobs in the medical and insurance industries, and they know that they’re appealing to a trend in self-reliance and sustainability, the back-to-nature, get-healthier movement.

Sportsman’s Table, which has over 35 product suppliers and craftsmen, pays local homage with its Pennsylvania blue stone photos. Initially hot plates, they’re now more of a decorative memento: Customers provide a favorite outdoors photo – say grandpa with last year’s fresh Thanksgiving’s Day turkey – and through a chemical transfer, the image fills the commemorative stone.

Their Sportsman’s Table-labeled beef jerky is made in Lancaster County. Initially, they were selling beef jerky kits (which are still available), but the scent of the seasonings at shows struck up a hunger for the finished product. “It was the power of suggestion,” Amy says.

So the Carbers began offering the end product. There are currently three flavors – apple-smoked, original hickory-smoked and black-peppered – but the couple is trialing some other flavors. It’s available in many of the local general stores, beer stores and gas stations.

They exhibit at local events like the Lehigh Valley Hunting and Fishing Extravaganza at the Kempton Fairgrounds, at local rod and gun clubs and at out-of-the-area shows.

A portion of every purchase is donated to Dream Catchers USA (, an organization that provides outdoor experiences for the physically challenged and terminally-ill, including veterans and children. “You won’t hear that in any business school: Give away profit,” John says. “But we’ve done it from day one.”

Some 85 percent of Sportsman’s Table products are also made in the USA: “We’re flag-wavers,” John explains. “We just feel like we’re blessed with what has come before us, so when it’s possible, we want to do it. We absolutely feel that these products are of superior value.”

They do a fair amount of corporate and custom gifts, too – mostly timber and construction companies and taxidermists thus far. Some products carry a horse theme.

It’s even a cowboy that lends them inspiration. The Carbers once had a storefront, but 18 months into their venture, a March 2008 fire in a six-tenant location set them back a year. They lost inventory and thousands of contacts in their not-yet backed-up database. They had to rise from the rubble. John, an eternal optimist, points to perseverance – and a completely charred cowboy napkin and salt-and-pepper holder made of horseshoes. Hurled across the room by flames, and burnt to crisp, the cowboy was still standing stall. It was the lone piece of merchandise that survived: “That’s when we decided that we were not giving up, that we had to keep going,” Amy says.

They never envisioned a storefront success. It’s just that they were in a perfect location on the main drag to and from Lake Nockamixon and preserved game lands. Then, and now, they see online exposure as the key to success, but they’re not techies. They’d rather be hunting or fishing, or doing face-to-face sales, but recognize the need to direct traffic to their site.

There, the “Share-A-Recipe” section features delicious recipes. Visitors are urged to contribute new recipes. Recipes are also handed out at shows and events and they are included with every shipped order.

As an added service, and as a tribute to the local population that supported the storefront, the Carbers provide free local delivery of orders.

For more information, visit To order, call the toll free order line, 1-866-640-6802.

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