This month’s Black Business Spotlight turns its attention to SouthernQ BBQ and Catering (411 West Richey Rd., Houston, TX 77090), owned and operated by the married team of Steve and Sherice Garner. In business for a dozen years, Southern BBQ not only cooks up the goodness, the Garners own the building in which their restaurant resides, which is a huge advantage for any business owner.
SouthernQ BBQ specializes in smoked brisket, ribs, chicken and homemade side dishes like potato salad, collard greens and mac and cheese, all based on family recipes. Pit Master Steve is the founder and Talent behind the smoked meats. But before that, he drove an 18-wheeler professionally.
Sherice, who’s responsible for Southern Q’s marketing and accounting, was a teacher before transitioning to being an entrepreneur.
This northside establishment has made a name for itself all across the Greater Houston area and the country, as it has been featured on the Travel Channel’s “Food Paradise,” Houstonia Magazine, Southern Living, Texas Monthly Magazine and more. In addition, SouthernQ was Good Morning America’s BBQ Challenge winner, a national competition hosted by the award-winning morning show.
The Defender spoke with the Garners about the origins of SouthernQ, surviving the COVID pandemic and more.
DEFENDER: So, when I’m hungry and ready for some barbecue, why should I come to SouthernQ?
STEVE GARNER: Because we have some of the best home-cooked food in town. Everything is great, from the brisket meats, slow-cooked meats, to the sides. You’ll come in and get some great southern hospitality and we’ll treat you like you’re family.
DEFENDER: You both came from different careers, and didn’t start out as entrepreneurs. What were your careers?
SHERICE: I worked in education as a technology specialist for the Spring Branch Independent School District. And Steve was a truck driver.
DEFENDER: So, when did the entrepreneur bug hit you?
STEVE: It started off as a hobby. I was just barbecuing on the weekends, actually, from my church as an outreach tool, just to invite people to church. And it quickly turned from a hobby to something serious. I just enjoyed the cooking process, enjoyed taking care of customers, and just loved having my food being shared with a lot of people. So, we just took that, started in a food truck, worked the food truck around town for a couple of years until we found our restaurant.
DEFENDER: Tell us about how you got connected with the JP Morgan Chase small business program.
SHERICE: Originally, we just had our personal accounts with Chase. And from there, as we were growing our business, basically as a hobby and started taking it more seriously, we were given the advice to open a business account with Chase. We did that. And that was the extent of our relationship for many years. We just had a personal account and a business account. Once we got into our building that we’re currently in, we needed funds to build it out. It was a rental space that we needed to build out, and we used all of our personal capital. And so, we realized we needed more money. So, we went to the bank just to see if it was an option. We never thought it was in the past. And luckily, they approved us. They gave us funding. We were able to build out that building. We opened it up, and then three years later, when the opportunity arose for us to be able to purchase that building, we went back to Chase and they held our hand and walked us through the whole process. And we’re now owners of our building.
DEFENDER: So, how did you all survive COVID? Because COVID knocked out a whole lot of businesses, specifically Black businesses. What did you all do to maintain?
STEVE: I think how we survived COVID was being consistent in what we believed in as a business, as far as our food, as far as our service, as far as our employees. We just kept a high level of standard. And we just didn’t waver from that during the pandemic. And, throughout the pandemic, we actually got probably more business and more customers during the pandemic. So, we were able to maintain and survive that.
DEFENDER: On your website it says “Our secret sauce has to be our happy marriage.” Any advice for couples who are in business?
SHERICE: <laughs>. I think, with any business partner, there’s an aspect to it. We definitely have our lanes. I’m more of the front staff type of person. I do cashier, marketing and accounting, where Steve’s more the talent. He’s Pit Master, he’s smoking the meat, he’s back there cooking the food. So, that’s more of his lane. And I kind of stay in my lane. Just stay in your lane. Everybody needs their area.
DEFENDER: Finally, any advice in general for young Black boys, young Black girls, thinking about, or maybe not even thinking about entrepreneurship? What would you tell them about going into business?
STEVE: I would tell them if you’re thinking about going into entrepreneurship and business, have some kind of a plan outlined or some kind of an idea of how you want your business to be, especially in the beginning, and maybe a few years, three or four years later. Then, maybe have a 10-year plan and just go move forward daily to execute that plan. Nothing’s gonna happen overnight. It’s gonna take time. But if you move slowly towards your plan, make little adjustments on the way, get as much help, get as much knowledge as you can from as many business owners and people that you can find, and just use that as a roadmap for success.
SHERICE: And I would like to piggyback on what he said. Definitely get some help. I think you should build your team early on. As small business owners, we wear many hats. Most of it, just to survive financially. We’re like, “We can do that. We can fix the plumbing.” But, I think if you build your team early and make sure you get your CPA, you get your accountant, you get your bookkeeper, get those people lined up, it will make life easier down the line. It is more expensive upfront, but it’s definitely something you need to do early on. Build your team.