Catering requests really started flowing in around the time we were shut down at the stand. That’s when I knew we had something special, and it was time to find a place to call our own. That’s when we came across the shack… but before we get to that, let’s talk about the job transition.
It didn’t take me long to figure out that I really sucked at doing two completely different things at once. I already struggle with a limited attention span, and this proved to be too much for me. I knew that if I was going to make a real run at the BBQ business, I needed to find an exit from my day job. I also didn’t want to leave my brother high and dry. However, if I was being honest with myself, I knew I wasn’t adding much value at Encore and was probably more of a pain for my brother. I wouldn’t recommend everyone taking this route, but I knew I needed to put 100% of my focus into the new business and thankfully the catering requests continued to roll in. So, I reloaded with darts and went looking for Stacey. I couldn’t have asked for a better partner to do life with. She has always been so supportive and tends to see things in me long before I do. She knew I had an entrepreneurial spirit and encouraged me to take the leap of faith. (Looking forward to writing a post about where that spirit was born).
Brett and I were having lots of 2014 strategy meetings in December and decided that it would be best for the business if I go part-time starting in January of 2014. But that season didn’t last long… only 1 month to be exact. By February 2014, I was off to the races. I had so much momentum and have always been so thankful for my brother who continued to encourage me to take the leap and had some incredible ideas on building it. Both he and Stacey knew what I needed long before I did. He was also one of the first people in line at the produce stand, back on that beautiful Saturday in October.
Lane’s BBQ became sealed in stone in February of 2014. I completed all the LLC paperwork and knew this was about to be an exciting season of life. Truthfully, it was like drinking from a firehose. While I was confident that I had a great product coupled with a huge passion for cooking and serving…I felt like a kindergartener when it came to running a business. I was learning new things every day about marketing, budgeting, and cash flow.
Each event brought on new challenges, and it was time to research some new equipment to cook the meat on. The stick burner was great and it put out an incredible product, but it was kicking my tail. I was exhausted. The smoker would have to be reloaded with wood every two hours which made for a lot of interrupted sleep. I also had it set up in our driveway, as the shared kitchen didn’t allow for smokers, and I couldn’t drive over there every 2 hours to reload it. I had a Primo (Ceramic style) smoker at the house and absolutely loved cooking on it. However, a buddy of mine Josh Kemerling gave me a great deal on a couple of XL Big Green Eggs from Georgia Spa Company. This was a total game-changer for me. I could set the Primo/Eggs up to cook at night with a Flame Boss (a device that regulated the internal temp of the smoker by adding puffs of air if it needed to heat up or restricting it should the smoker get too hot). The main issue I had with the ceramic smokers was that I simply couldn’t cook the same quantity of meat as the stick burner. However, the quality was still there and since we weren’t selling at the produce stand any longer, I could make enough on the two to fill the catering orders. Plus, I kept the stick burner in case I needed some extra cooking space.
Let’s get back to the shack. One day I came home from an event and Stacey and Ansley were having a play date. Stacey’s friend Sarah mentioned a house for sale in Bethlehem. It was zoned commercial and was already being used by a catering company. We drove past it every day, but it had never stuck out to me. It just looked like someone’s house… but it also had a little smoke shack on the property. Stacey and I went and checked it out and made an offer that week. After some negotiation, we ended up getting the property under contract. Deep down I knew that the business wasn’t in a place financially to be able to afford rent, utilities, and all the other things that a new business needed. However, I could see the future of Lane’s and we would be there soon. The most beautiful part of the whole situation was Mrs. Jane. She had run a successful catering business for years and wasn’t interested in buying the house. She wanted to continue to rent the space until I felt like Lane’s was ready to take over. She provided so much insight and tips on how to run a catering business over the next couple of years and even helped us out on a couple of events. I loved hanging out in the kitchen while she was there as she had so much knowledge to share and she was an incredible cook…don’t get me started on the crab cakes! She even let me use the smoke shack that was on the property. My buddy Damyn and I dressed up the shack the best we could with a limited budget. The cedar siding and smokestack just screamed BBQ shack! Now I had the perfect pickup location, and it was time to introduce The Fast Lane…