J.R. Fisher's sales shot up after Hurricane Sandy in 2012. "When Ebola hit, we were swamped," he added.
But with the coronavirus outbreak, "sales are four or five times what they normally are," said Fisher, a 1983 Old Dominion University alumnus based in San Diego. Individual orders have reached five figures. "I don't know when this is going to settle."
Fisher owns Survival Cave Food, which manufactures canned beef, chicken, turkey, pork and ground beef. He founded the company in 2011 when he lived in Chesapeake.
The food comes in cans of 14.5 or 28 ounces. Each item has two ingredients: the meat and salt.
"I love being able to help people and hearing, 'We had a storm, we cracked open your food, and it was amazing,'" Fisher said.
One testimonial on the company's website says: "I can't remember the last time I tasted a steak this good." Another compares Fisher's beef to "my mom's roast."
Survival Cave Food could be making a lot more money, Fisher said.
Earlier this year, he started thinking about raising prices, which hadn't gone up in five years. Then the outbreak hit. "I couldn't do it because then I'd look like I was gouging people," Fisher said.
Food isn't his only line of business.
He's posted more than 400 videos on his YouTube channel, J.R. Fisher Training, on ways to make money online. Titles include "How to Build a WordPress Website in 28 Minutes" and "Launch Products with Facebook Ads."
"If I can free someone from going to a job they hate every day, that's my main goal."
Fisher's 2016 book, "The Great American Food Shortage: How to Prepare and Protect Your Family From The Upcoming Food Shortages," has enjoyed renewed popularity. It offers tips on what to grow in a garden, where to store food and how much to keep. And it has some prescient language:
"Never assume food will always be available. Within minutes of a terrorist attack, food shortage, or natural disaster, there will be a mad dash to the supermarket, grocery, and convenience stores. Everyone is going to be in a panic and want to buy as much food as possible before everything is gone from the shelves."
At ODU, "I didn't do the fraternities or clubs or any of that," Fisher said. "I went to school and bartended at Chi-Chi's in Military Circle."
In fact, his bartending job influenced his major.
The day he had to declare his major he didn't have much time because he had to get to work. "One line wasn't very long, and that was the finance line. I knew it would involve math, but it was a lot more than I expected.
"Old Dominion has been really helpful to me," he said. "It's kept me on the straight and narrow. I hate it when people say, 'I'm not using my degree.' You are using it. Everything you learn you're going to apply somewhere, and it's going to be helpful."
Read a longer version of this article in the summer 2020 issue of Monarch magazine.