BBQ was never our intention, but it has become our destiny. After Arnis was diagnosed with Celiac Disease - and before gluten free was having its moment - it became necessary to prepare all of our meals at home to avoid restaurant cross-contamination. What started out as excessive grilling in our Tucson, AZ backyard soon evolved into smoking. An electric smoker on the patio was where we started, but Arnis, who grew up welding on his family's farm, couldn't resist the challenge of building his own smoker. Our first reverse-flow - who we affectionately called The Black Pearl - was finished in February of 2014. Our cooking process was perfected over the next several months on willing neighbors and friends, and that's when our journey truly began.
We continued to operate our small but successful landscaping business by day, and by night honed our pitmaster skills (literally - BBQ is an all night affair). After acquiring a small food vending stand, Evie Mae's BBQ (named after our daughter who was one at the time) was born. We loaded up on a Wednesday morning, April 24, 2014 - Arnis with his meats, Mallory with her sides and desserts, and Evie Mae in tow - and parked The Black Pearl in an empty parking lot to try our hand at selling BBQ. We developed a faithful following over the next few months, and when the opportunity presented itself to move to Lubbock and be closer to family (we both grew up in Eastern New Mexico, which is why you will find green chilies in our grits and sausage, instead of jalapenos), we sold our landscaping business and decided to give BBQ a real go.
Building our first smoker
Our first vending trailer
West Texas sunrise over Evie Mae's BBQ
Building our first smoker
We went all-in and purchased the Evie Mae's trailer with The Black Pearl mounted to the back. We found a location in Wolfforth, just outside of Lubbock city limits, and set up shop. Without a penny to spend on marketing or advertising, we hoped for the best as we opened the trailer window for the first time on February 18, 2015. Everyone who stopped and tried our BBQ loved it, but attracting a crowd proved harder than we imagined. As the cold winds blew and the tumbleweeds tumbled that early spring, we began to wonder if we had made the right choice.
In early May as we were seriously starting to contemplate a plan B, our first review appeared on tmbbq.com. Within the hour, we had new customers showing up, and the next day, we sold out for the first time. We soon needed a new smoker, and within 6 months, a bigger space. We broke ground on our brick-and-mortar location in January of 2016 and moved in a few months later. It has been a wild ride since April 2014, one that we never anticipated but feel grateful for and blessed by. Owning a small business is hard work, but we are thrilled to do what we love everyday. As Arnis often says, "I hope everyone someday finds their BBQ".
Arnis and Mallory Robbins
Arnis, Mallory, Evie, and Jack Robbins
Photo by: Alisa Palmer