What did two college friends from Georgia do when the recession left them jobless in Boulder? They started something new that reflected their roots and was unique to Colorado: slow-cooked Southern-style BBQ.
Matt Alexander and Nick Reckinger founded Georgia Boys BBQ in 2011 after the recession of 2009 left them and many others unemployed. Matt’s past experience in the restaurant industry combined with Nick’s clean energy background got them thinking about starting a small-scale meal delivery operation in Boulder. They began by cooking pulled pork sandwiches in their apartment which they delivered to area workers. They expanded their presence to Longmont through a partnership with Left Hand Brewery which let them sell their BBQ sandwiches in the parking lot.
As demand grew, Matt and Nick expanded their mobile menu to include slow-cooked beef and chicken in Southern-style sandwiches, and platters with sides and desserts made from scratch. “The fact that we built up our customer base for a year before we opened helped our first restaurant be successful when it did open,” recalls Matt.
Colorado Enterprise Fund involvement
Increased requests for their BBQ made it hard for Matt and Nick to continue operating their business from their home kitchen. Although had invested $16,000 into their growing business, they needed more cooking equipment and a larger space.
Like many start-up enterprises, Matt and Nick struggled to obtain bank financing until they discovered Colorado Enterprise Fund (CEF) while participating in the City of Longmont’s Economic Gardening Initiative. Their first CEF loan in 2011 enabled them to get a business license, purchase a large commercially-certified smoker, and pay their first month’s rent at their new location.
“The loans we've received from CEF were instrumental in both the opening of our original location and our expansion to a second location,” Matt stated. “The second loan we received also allowed us to renovate our first location to serve more customers."
Georgia Boys BBQ’s first restaurant in Longmont has been profitable since day one when Matt and Nick sold out of product in an hour. Locals love their food as well as their 110-year-old venue, called The Shack, modeled after BBQ joints in the South. In 2014, Matt and Nick opened their second restaurant, The Smokehouse, in Frederick with a similar Southern vibe and state-of-the-art wood-burning smoker. Employees grew from 4 to 90.
Word-of-mouth advertising, along with positive restaurant reviews like Denver-Eater and numerous ‘best of’ awards, have made Georgia Boys BBQ a popular destination not only for dine-in and take-out, but also for catering events throughout Colorado’s northern Front Range.
Looking back, Matt had this to say about CEF. “They are the spot to go to when banks say no since it's so hard to a get a loan in the restaurant industry. If CEF hadn’t been there for us, we wouldn’t be where we are today.”