We got connected to Howard Allen through our friend Sam Branch (maker of your favorite patties). Howard's approach to work seems right—he wants a nice business that his family can depend on—one that simultaneously develops a platform for social change. “What I’m doing makes zero sense. I had a corporate job, but I wasn’t satisfied. I watched my parents retire and saw how little they got after all of those years working. I knew I would have to go and do my thing. So now I'm betting heavily on myself,” he tells me. Previously a graphic designer, Howard followed an idea he had, pulled up at Smorgasburg with a grill and no food experience, and quickly had a line of customers waiting for sausages.
His Maroon Sausage Company is named after the Maroon people of Jamaica, who escaped slavery and established communities in the Blue Mountains. The jerk sausage he makes is inspired by his growing up in Chicago, and his wife’s roots in Jamaica. Sausage is their way to generate resources to support and educate around causes that badly need it—“Our brand embodies that struggle for freedom, so we promote organizations like Free the Slaves who work to stop human trafficking for the 21 million people that are still enslaved globally today. We have a story that we want to tell through food, about the contribution of the Maroon people. Lots of people love jerk, but they don’t know its history,“ says Howard.
He tests his products with whoever is around at the time — “The beauty of living in Brooklyn is that I can start the grill on the sidewalk, and people will come around to eat and drink beer. Then all I have to do is listen to what they're saying. It's a vibe.” He came to Queens one day this summer so we could have a taste, and we placed out first order right away.
With Smorgasburg on pause, small businesses like Maroon Sausage lost a really important home for their products, and a grass roots way of meeting new customers. At the same time, restaurants are closing and there's less options to distribute specialty products. At Green Top, we're hoping to be an outlet for more folks like Howard that are building purpose driven companies with education at their core. Try out some Maroon Sausage here.