Four years ago, Joe and Christy Poteet were at a crossroads.
Her career as a paramedic had come to an end following an injury and he was seeking a new opportunity even though he had a good job at the Georgia-Pacific mill.
“2015 was that year of ‘What are you going to be when you grow up?’” Christy Poteet said.
She was considering going back to school when her husband started talking about a different idea.
“He, for whatever reason, started going online and doing some research on food trailers,” she said.
Joe Poteet is an avid fan of barbecue and had been smoking his own meats for more than 20 years. The more he looked into the possibilities, the more he became convinced that owning and operating a food truck could be the next step for them.
They had a trailer built by a company in Portland and looked nationwide for the right smoker to fit onto it. They ultimately settled on a unit built by Lang BBQ Smokers in Georgia that can hold up to 300 pounds of meat.
They launched J & C BBQ and Catering from a food truck in Sweet Home in July 2016 and it was an almost immediate hit.
Joe Poteet kept his job at Georgia-Pacific in case the new venture started slowly or even failed. But after the first month, Christy didn’t think it was possible for him to do both. They already had so many catering orders that his attention was needed full-time. So he quit his job and they put all of their efforts in the food truck.
“It’s now or never and a leap of a huge amount of faith,” she said.
They wanted their food to be as authentic as possible, but they also had to take into consideration their location in the Pacific Northwest and their food truck roots. They settled on what they call southern style barbecue with a food trailer twist.
The business continued to grow and the Poteets purchased a second smoker, this one a pull-behind unit, also from Lang BBQ Smokers. They use this unit to travel to festivals and competitions.
Within 18 months it was becoming clear to them that they needed to find a bigger, more established location. They thought they had found a site in Sweet Home but that fell through.
They then heard that the iconic Korner Kitchen in Lebanon might be going out of business. It didn’t take long for them to realize that the location on Main Street was perfect for their business. They signed a lease in August 2018 and opened at the new location in mid-November.
Christy Poteet said in some ways this was the wrong time to open a barbecue restaurant – just before the season of family holidays. But it gave them an opportunity to find their footing in this new setting.
The restaurant has become a family affair with daughters Kaitlyn and Brittany both helping out. Kaitlyn helps oversee the kitchen while Brittany takes orders up front.
Even with that help, there were still new employees to hire and train, and an expanded menu to craft.
The restaurant is open Tuesday through Saturday and serves breakfast, lunch and dinner.
They didn’t originally intend to serve breakfast, but customers requested it. As the Poteets considered it, they realized they already had staff in the building getting ready for lunch so it would take little extra expense to serve breakfasts.
When it came time to outfit the new location, the Poteets once again turned to their friends at Lang BBQ Smokers. This time they purchased two commercial smokers, each of which can hold up to 500 pounds of meat.
All of their smokers run on wood only, no charcoal or pellets. They burn oak which they get from a local supplier. They chose oak because it can be used to smoke every meat on their menu. The smokers can be seen from Main Street behind the fence at the location.
Joe Poteet comes in at 8 p.m. each night before they are open and starts the fires burning in the smokers. The meat, which always includes brisket and pork butts, goes on by 10:30 p.m. and is slowly cooked all night to be served the next day.
“I enjoy creating quality authentic barbecue. There's an art to what I do. It's not just about putting meat on the smoker, but creating a flavor profile with this type of cooking. For instance, not paying attention to how the smoker is working can produce a bad smoke that will ruin all the meat that's on it. You have to pay attention not only to the weather forecast for the night, but the quality of the wood - how dry it is - the efficiency of the fire, the color of the smoke and the temperatures throughout the barrel,” Joe Poteet said.
Joe Poteet is happy with their choice to launch their own business.
“I think I work harder now than I ever did working a regular job, but at least I'm working for myself," he said.
The past two years, the Poteets have traveled to North Bend for Memorial Day weekend to participate in a Kansas City Barbecue Society competition. They will compete at that event again this year, which will require closing down the restaurant over that weekend.
Customers who are hoping to order from them for that holiday can place orders which can be picked up in advance.
“They can also come down and see us in North Bend. It’s a lot of fun,” Christy Poteet said.