Time to start Christmas shopping, so I headed out to a local shop I’ve passed a hundred times, BBQ Outfitters on FM620.
Although it was Small Business Saturday, and they are, indeed a small business, salesman Randy Thomassen assured me it didn’t make a difference. Their top seller, the Big Green Egg, was rolling off the showroom floor as fast as ever.
Some folks would rather Be BBQ-ing on Small Business Saturday.
As Randy showed me all the features of the ceramic BBQ, a customer who was buying pizza-making accessories interrupted us to show us a picture of his smoked Thanksgiving turkey. “I just have to show you this,” he apologized and whipped out his phone. (I showed him pictures of my oven-roasted turkey, too; although I am not yet part of the Big Green community of “Eggheads.”)
A passionate following is partly why people seem to shop at this local mom and pop store. Besides the popular Egg, the store also sells built-in BBQs, accessories, fire pits, and wood and charcoal.
Our discussion moved from BBQ to masonry, to landscape design, to living in Austin, and the recent growth in the area.
“Used to be, back in the 70’s [as a UT student], if you were going to Round Rock, you were really going somewhere. Now it’s just up the road.”
Growth is relative.
Randy told about doing a chimney job in Austin over thirty years ago, for a couple that were “older than I am now,” he said. They told him stories about Austin in the 1930s, when the town’s population was just 50 thousand people, including the University of TX. And they had distant relatives who remembered when Austin was called Waterloo.
The current location of BBQ Outfitters near the Four Points area is in one of the hottest spots in Austin commercial property. Was it just luck that the surrounding areas have grown up so fast, and all the new homeowners out west needed “outdoor cooking experiences?”
The location on a busy corridor of west Austin, the popularity of their products, and certainly the friendly service contribute to the success of the shop. In spite of a major competitor in town, the owner recently opened a second store in San Antonio. Both shops’ top seller for the Christmas season will be, as it has been for years now, the Big Green Egg.
As I snapped a picture of Randy for this article, he grinned and told me it looked like the picture his girlfriend took of him cooking last weekend out at the beach.
“Oh, so you have one of the portable Eggs?” I asked. No, he just used the built-in park grill, proving his die-hard BBQ tendencies.
That kind of enthusiasm usually clinches the deal at the typical small business. The employees are involved and connected to their customers and products in a way you don’t get at big box stores.
Location is a factor, but where else can you stop and pick up a bag of wood, get a referral on a landscape architect the sales guy’s known for 30 years, and get a heads-up about Eggfest, a BBQ fanatics’ extravaganza hosted right here in Austin, at the same time?