As any good barbecuer knows, the secret to a good roast is time and patience. The same principle applies to running a business.
Tom Dew and his wife Anitra started Country Boy’s BBQ together 12 years ago after he was fired from his sales job. Later that day, he purchased the foundation of what would become a staple restaurant in Cashmere.
“I had already been planning to start it,” Tom said. “We were just thinking about purchasing the building a year later… but everything fell into place. We came into some money we weren’t expecting and everyone was willing to help build it.”
Friends and family of the Dews came together to help remodel the small building, adding a dining room and a kitchen. Country Boy’s broke the “curse,” of the building, eight businesses had tried to operate out of it but had all failed shortly after their conception.
“People would say that we would never make it,” Tom said. “When I went to the bread delivery service, they wouldn’t work with me because everyone had gone out of business.”
Fast forward to the present, the Dews can safely say they proved all their doubters wrong, handling 234 catering events last year and 165 so far this year.
To keep customers flooding through the doors, Country Boy’s keeps its menu consistent, never compromising on which recipes and meats make the cut.
“I’ll ask people if they would buy it, and then if they’d eat it every day of the week,” Tom said. “If they said that they would, I knew if it was a good recipe. If they said that they’d eat it three or four times a week, the recipe was a failure to me.”
The Dew’s aren’t just passionate about the quality of their food, they also take care to hire quality staff.
“We’re not super easy to work for, because our standards are quite high,” Anitra said.
However, if you can meet their expectations, the Dews are happy to welcome you into the family that they cultivated at Country Boy’s.
“Anyone who has worked for us knows that we treat people like family. … You can’t spend this many hours a week with people and not think that they’re family.” Dew said. “We probably pay the highest wages for a restaurant job in the valley, and once they’re in they never leave. We have a lot of employees who start in high school and stay on through college.”
College students return to work at Country Boy’s in the summer when they’re on break, allowing the Dew’s to have a good supply of workers during their busiest season. Tom values providing a consistent experience for his customers, which continuity in his staff helps to create.
“The biggest compliment someone has ever paid me was when a truck driver would return year after you and thank us for not changing anything,” Tom said. “Everybody talks about how we also stay the same.”
That consistency applies to their catering business as well.
“We can mass-produce food and still have the quality be the same,” Tom said. “We could be at seven weddings and still have people lined out the door at the restaurant and everyone will get the same food, the same quality.”
Maintaining that consistency isn’t easy, as each cut of meat requires a different cooking time before it’s ready to eat.
“You can check the temperature, but if the collagens in the meat haven’t given up yet, it can’t be served. It takes thousands of tries to get it down,” Tom said. “Our briskets take about 13 hours to cook, but the collagen needs to melt at a low temperature for the meat to be tender. Three degrees can make a huge difference.”
Having longer cooking times makes it difficult for the Dew’s to maintain their supplies in the middle of a rush.
“Sometimes we just sell out,” Dew said. “After this many years, people know they can call and reserve some meats so we can save them for people. We’re lucky to have this many notes from all the years we’ve been in business to predict how much meat we’ll sell.”
Most barbecue places sell cuts from previous nights, but Country Boy’s isn’t most barbecues.
“What we won’t do is that we won’t recycle cuts that aren’t fresh. That’s how business is usually done, but we won’t do it. We take a guess. Sometimes we run out of food and we disappoint people, but it pays off in the long run,” Dew said.
The strategy pays off, Country Boy’s has 137 reviews on Yelp and maintained a perfect 5-star rating.
“I don’t think that there’s anyone in the state of Washington has over 100 reviews and five stars. I’ve looked,” Dew said.
If they don’t sell all of their product, they distribute the extra cuts to their employees, and, if they have enough excess meat, they donate it to various shelters in the valley.
“We didn’t know how much to cook in the beginning, and even the shelters in town got tired of eating barbecue,” Dew laughed.
Now that they’ve established themselves, people come from all over to eat their barbecue.
“This time of the year, it’s very tourist-driven,” Tom said. “During the off-season, it’s locals. Farmers, construction workers, everyone.”
A big aspect of their restaurant they’ve kept the same is their portion sizes.
“Our portion sizes are fairly large, I call them trucker portions,” Dew said. “Once you start doing the portions, you can’t go back. If we went back and did it again, I would maybe do smaller portions, but I can’t go back now.”
The Dew’s drew much of the inspiration for their business from what they liked in a restaurant.
“We eat out alot, and we see a lot of things we don’t like,” Anitra said. “We don’t nickel-and-dime people a lot, and we don’t like to leave a restaurant hungry. That’s probably where our portions come from.”
The Dew’s children all became entrepreneurs like their parents. Kelsey and Benjamin Dew have opened up the Sweetwood BBQ in Wenatchee, and Kelsey also owns the The Dilly Deli. Tyler, their oldest son, also started up Threads, a clothing store, with his wife, Beth.
“For them to see a plan and hard work pay off with their parents, then it makes them more likely to take the chance,” Tom said. “Time will tell, but right now it sure looks good for them. I’m very proud. The other day we were having a party down at Threads for their opening, and I had to pinch myself. It doesn’t get any better than this.”