Nova Scotia-based barbecue restaurant serves up a plate of ribs with a community edge – The Daily Gazette
SCOTIA — For Melissa Brown, food is love. And that message can be heard loud and clear at Backyard BBQ, Scotia’s barbecue restaurant that she runs alongside her husband Mac.
Providing good food is, of course, a top priority for the Browns. But as the dynamic duo attempt to revive their restaurant after a series of devastation, it’s become clear that their business brings more to the table than a hearty plate of simmering meat and tasty side dishes – they also bring l community spirit.
“Our restaurant – yes, we do barbecues, but it’s more than that,” Melissa said. “We will treat you as if you were our family and everything will be done with excellence, everything we do.”
The Browns opened Backyard BBQ on Scotia’s Mohawk Avenue in 2019, but the restaurant’s story began a few years earlier. Mac had grown up in Kingston surrounded by a family that loved to cook and bake, and that passion persisted in him as he grew older, although he never really considered opening a restaurant.
It wasn’t until 2017, when he was fired from Ethan Allen after 18 years on the job – not to mention countless remarks from friends and family that he should sell his food – that he decided to give a barbecue restaurant a shot.
“When he lost his job…he couldn’t find another job because nobody wanted to pay him because he was there for so long,” Melissa said. “So I said, ‘you’ve always loved cooking, and you always said you wanted to do your own barbecue business, so why not do that?'”
They finally opened at the Via/Port Rotterdam shopping center in 2018, but realized the location wasn’t what they were looking for. Mac wanted a brick and mortar, and in 2019, after two weeks of searching, Backyard BBQ found their new home in Scotland.
The business grew rapidly, and soon the Browns were selling their beef brisket and ribs over the weekends.
But then the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
Like many other restaurants in March 2020, Backyard BBQ was forced to close its doors and offer delivery-only services. Although Melissa worked long hours as a nurse during the pandemic, the income the couple lost as the restaurant closed made it difficult to pay monthly expenses.
“When restaurants close, you still have to pay your rent, you still have to pay your insurance, you can’t cancel it — everything has to keep getting paid while you’re not open,” Melissa said. “We used all of our savings, in fact, to keep our restaurant going during COVID.”
Eventually and slowly, the pandemic began to subside. Other restaurants began to reluctantly reopen in the early months of 2021, and in February the Browns began planning their next steps.
Due to ongoing restrictions and the pace of business before the pandemic, the Browns decided their best option going forward would be to continue the catering services they offered before the pandemic and participate in local farmers’ markets. They found their way to Schenectady Farmers Market and Delmar’s Feura Bush Farmers Market, both of which were due to open in May.
But the Browns were hit with another setback before they could make their comeback. Amid the pandemic, the couple packed all of their outdoor gear — grills, tables and other necessities for outdoor events — into a storage unit in Rotterdam. But on April 6, 2021, about a month before their Farmers’ Market appearances, the storage building, including the Browns’ unit, burned down. They suffered a total loss.
“We lost everything,” Melissa said. “We’re like, ‘what are we going to do? Are we just going to call in the day? Are we going to say, ‘you know what, we’re going to move on, this is too much’, or are we going to tell us, ‘you know what, let’s take what we got?’
The couple opted for the latter.
“We didn’t let it hold us back,” Melissa said. “We just said, ‘You know what, we’ll just figure it out from here. We’re going to find out because we know that’s what we’re supposed to do.
To get back on their feet, the Browns bought a few grills, pop-up tents and everything else they absolutely needed and then attended both Schenectady and Delmar Farmers’ Markets. Since then, they’ve also hosted a variety of events, including fundraisers, graduation parties, and a night at the Saratoga Casino Hotel.
The Browns have a motto: “faith, family, barbecue,” and it’s those first two things that have kept them going despite the devastation of the pandemic and the storage unit fire.
“If we hadn’t had faith, we would have given up when all of our equipment went up in smoke in that fire,” Mac said.
While faith, for them, was the biggest motivation to keep walking, they also say the role of family cannot be underestimated. Melissa and Mac run the restaurant as a married couple, but they also have two children, who both help out when they can. Their 19-year-old son, Darius, is often with them at the Schenectady Farmer’s Market.
“He sometimes helps out here cooking different things, salads, and he likes to help out on the grill as well,” Melissa said.
But at Backyard BBQ, family isn’t just about the husband and wife who run the restaurant or the son who stands next to his father at the grill. The Browns also start a family with their customers when they cook for them.
“It will feel like you’re part of our family,” Melissa said. “Let’s say it’s a college graduation – it will be like our kid has graduated and we want it to be the best day of his life.”
Because family is one of the most important aspects of the Browns’ lives, they also make sure that people outside of the restaurant’s clientele can feel that family warmth, especially since many have lost their family ties during the pandemic. For the past two years, the Browns have cooked turkey dinners for Thanksgiving and handed them out to people who couldn’t be with their families that day — bus drivers, Stewart’s Shop workers, the homeless.
“We go in, cook as many turkey dinners as we can and just drive around the community and just hand them out to people,” Mac said. “We would have to bring food to other people who can’t afford it or can’t be with their family on those days, so it was our way of giving back to the community and people who don’t. don’t have family – at least they have a Thanksgiving feeling.
By sharing this family spirit, the Browns hope to highlight the importance of community and encourage others to give back in the same way.
“I just go back to the golden rule of loving your fellow man,” Melissa said. “We want to show people and demonstrate to the community of people – that’s how it should be.”
The Browns have always been involved in youth activities. Their children were involved in school sports, Mac was a football coach, and Melissa was a commissioner. Today, one of the main ways the Browns try to support the community is through fundraising and organizing youth sporting events, even when it usually comes with a loss of income.
“Even though it’s hard and difficult for us to fundraise because you donate part of your profits, in the end it’s worth it,” Melissa said. “It’s worth doing because these kids are doing an activity where they’re building their characters, they’re learning to work with others, they’re learning a lot of different things.”
More recently, the Backyard BBQ hosted a few Tartan Youth Lacrosse tournaments in Scotia-Glenville. According to Rick Frederick, the president of Tartan Youth Lacrosse who asked the Browns to take care of the games, their enthusiasm to help was undeniable.
“When I first proposed to them to come to the lacrosse tournaments, they didn’t hesitate, they were definitely in agreement; they were really excited to be out there in the community and making sure everyone was fed,” Frederick said. “I’ve seen them at local youth football games and the same – a very positive vibe, and they’ve even donated to youth leagues.”
The Browns hope to grow their business enough to start hiring others in the near future. But in the meantime, Mac and Melissa will continue to run the show on their own and use their food as a way to support and inspire the surrounding community.
“You know what, we’re in this community, we’re in Scotland, we’re here for a purpose, we’re going to support them however we can support them,” Melissa said. “So for us, that’s how we can support them: it’s by going out and selling the food.”
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Categories: News, Schenectady County, Scotia Glenville