About a thousand years ago, I had to read a short story by Eudora Welty called “Why I Live at the P.O.” for my high school English class. I feel like I need to write my own version of that story called “Why I Chose to Open a BBQ Restaurant”. So here’s a start.
A big reason why I wanted to open Satchel’s was to try to recreate something that I witnessed growing up in Alabama and something that folks here have seen when they visit family down south. Usually, at some point during those visits, they find their way to some favorite local eatery. It’s always kind of a greasy spoon, more like a cafeteria than a restaurant, and always very democratic: the bankers and lawyers eat alongside the construction crew. Yes, it is very informal, but there is always a sense of proper etiquette and civility. I wanted to build such a place here.
Now, eighteen months into this adventure, I still stand by that idea. I admit that at Satchel’s we have much work to be done: there is ample room for improvement. But the concept, the big idea, of creating a southern-style BBQ eatery, is sound and needs no modification.
Having said all that, as time goes on, I find myself wondering if there was something else that drove me to open Satchel’s, something simpler and more personal. I remember a conversation I had with an acquaintance a couple years ago, when I was just beginning to think about opening Satchel’s. He worked in the food service business, so I thought he might have some sage advice for me. Who knows? Perhaps deep down, I was hoping he would talk me out of it. Anyhow, he said, “The nice part about a restaurant is that you offer food, people walk in voluntarily and pay for the food, and if all goes well, everyone is happy. They thank you. You thank them. It’s a wonderful dynamic. And if you are good, it happens many times a day.” To someone who spent his life in banking and finance, this struck me like a ton of bricks. Simple gratitude, expressed politely, no different than you might express it at your own dinner table to a friend or family member. Maybe the decision to open this place was at least in part an attempt to create a life for myself where that exchange of civility is commonplace.
A far cry from Eudora Welty, but you gotta start somewhere.