The Beginning. Surviving a Pandemic. The current.
Justin and Valerie are transplants to the Pacific Northwest from the south and midwest. Moving to Wenatchee in 2015, both working full time healthcare jobs, they decided to call it "home", purchasing a house and settling in. Burch Mountain BBQ was born in 2018, when Justin decided the pot luck foods he was preparing for work related lunches or co worker's graduations/birthday parties may have business potential. Justin began to cater small events, delivering his foods to these events.
A custom mobile grilling/smoker unit was built and delivered to our place on Burch Mountain Rd in February of 2019. As our booking calendar filled up, as well as our driveway, with all things BBQ, we realized we quickly were outgrowing our current space as well as our mobile smoker. Justin spent all of 2019 traveling to wineries, fairs, pop up events, and catering. Our 2020 calendar was full by the fall of 2019, as well as a larger pit on order in Austin, TX.
In the spring of 2020, we catered a local employee appreciation lunch, which would be our last for many months that year.
We had a new 1,000 gallon smoker on order in Austin, a fully booked 2020 calendar, and a world wide pandemic crashing in on us. The emails and phone calls started that spring for what I call "COVID cancelled" (I do have an email folder labelled that, for real). That fully booked 2020 calendar became very open.
Burch Mountain BBQ was never supposed to be and still is "not", a restaurant. Justin and Valerie went into "survival" mode. One day on the living room floor with a permanent marker and a piece of butcher paper, we were going to take our food on the road. All of the restaurants are closed, people are on lock down, but we all have to eat. We wrote out a menu on that butcher paper, embraced social media, and took orders for family meals. For over six weeks, we delivered these meals to families in the area, as well as set up our catering van at central locations for families to pick up meals in a socially distanced model at increments of 15 minute delays. Some call this pivoting, we called it survival.
After this time, we soon realized that COVID was here to stay and the delivery model could not sustain or bring the products we wanted to be know for.
In the summer of 2020, we signed a lease for a space in Rock Island in order to provide a location for our customers to pick up food from us at a central location and be able to prepare larger quantities. Still in "survival" mode, we took a chance. We needed the outdoor space this area provided us in order to run our current smoker, as well as in anticipation for our new 1,000 gallon we had on order. For the next year, we would operate out "To Go Window" at "The Island", which is what Justin began referring to this location as. See you at "The Island" was a phrase heard often during that year.
The summer of 2021, we drove to Texas to pick up our first Moberg pit and brought her home. We put her to work right away with a catering and a winery pop up the weekend after we returned. That summer and into the fall, our catering bookings began flooding in for 2022, as well as the rest of 2021. During this time, we kept pushing to keep our "To Go" Island window going and catering and attending pop ups at the local wineries.
May of 2022 would bring us to realize that the model we developed for "survival" during a Pandemic, was no longer going to be possible. The small staff we had during "The Island" time, had moved on to other jobs during the reopening. It was not possible for Justin and Valerie to keep up with window operations, pop ups, and catering. Our business model was never a restaurant model, so we had to divert our energy back to catering and mobile events, what Justin started out to do with his business.
As we move into the winter of 2022 and approaching 2023, we will still place our main focus on catering and mobile events, however, our plan is to bring "The Island" hours back once a month on Saturdays. Our customers kept us on a lifeline during the pandemic and we want to continue to provide them a place where they can get our food and we can continue to enjoy seeing them marry, have babies, and the smiles from enjoying food. It is a labor of love and we could not have done it without each and ever one of them. Burch Mountain BBQ "survived". Sure, the business mind will call it a pivot, we still call it survival, because that is what it felt like. Justin and Valerie both lost parents to the pandemic. They kept on working through the bereavement they were experiencing, despite these losses. Again, we will continue to call it "surviving" COVID We may not have had conrol in saving our parents, but we did have conrol over saving the business, and we did.
What's next? Well, only 2023 will tell. Oh, and our Instagram. If you are a follower of our Instagram, you already know that Justin is happy to tell you what is next. If you are not a follower, look us up on Instagram and give us a follow.