---- — Shop Talk is a weekly column featuring locally owned and operated businesses. This week, we talk to Russel Matson, who owns and operates The Meadows Golf Center and All American BBQ with his wife, Julie Hernandez, in Margaretville.
How long have you lived in the area?
We purchased our Margaretville home in 2000.
Tell me about your business:
We're a family-friendly nine-hole golf course, with a practice range, a miniature golf course under construction and a Southern barbecue restaurant and caterer located on 25 valley acres fronting the East Branch of the Delaware River.
Describe a typical day in your business:
Barbecue is served on Saturday and Sunday. The alarm clock is set for 5 a.m.; I arrive at work by 6. I start a hardwood fire in our Lang Model 84 cooker smoker, then jump on our greens mower to begin cutting the greens. I return to the shop after cutting greens for holes 9, 8, 7, 6, and 1 to check on the fire and add more wood. I then cut the practice green and holes 2,3,4, and 5 before checking the fire again. I watch to see if the cooker has reached 190 degrees before adjusting the dampers and add wood as needed.
By 7:30, I jump on a golf cart to put the flags out on each putting green and on the practice green. I return to the barbecue commissary to prepare that day's meat. I do the butchering of our St. Louis cut rack of ribs, then dry-rub them before they go into cooker smoker. I've cooked my own barbecue sauces for 40 years and it will soon be in neighborhood supermarkets.
The rest of the day is spent cooking and serving barbecue, cleaning up, helping in the shop and on the driving range (giving lessons), fixing golf clubs, preparing food for party pickups and finally finishing up my day by sitting in our Cushman turf trickster picking up all of the golf balls hit onto the driving range. After that, I go home for a few hours of paperwork.
How did you get started in this line of work?
I learned to cook when I was 14 and my dad was hospitalized. Mom spent the dinner hours visiting with him; I liked to eat, so I cooked my own dinner and saved her a plate. Later on, when I was in college, I was elected the kitchen steward of my 50-member fraternity. This is where I got my first taste of quantity cookery including menu planning, ordering food, training cooks and dishwashers, and cooking dinners twice a week, a weekday dinner and a fancier Sunday dinner for members and their guests. My interest in golf started after I graduated from college and worked for a Japanese company where everybody played golf.
Where do you see this business in five years?
Our ultimate goal is to be declared the Delaware County Tourism Business of the Year. We might never attain it, but we want to work towards that goal by living by our motto "Where Golf is Fun for Everyone." Thanks to Gordie Faulkner from Stamford, we got our Junior Golf program under way this year. We want to expand our junior program exponentially, and we also want to serve the disabled communities. We want to become a premier golf-teaching facility. All American BBQ wants to be known as a top barbecue in New York and the northeastern United States. A guest spot on the Food Channel would be great also.
Describe a memorable moment in your workplace:
Getting a trophy for chicken at my first and only barbecue competition, the St. Raymond's "Grillin' on the Bay" in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn.
What have you learned from your work?
That it is best to always have a plan but expect that circumstances will always intervene to send those plans awry.
What is the most challenging part of what you do?
Managing and prioritizing my time. There always seems to be more things to do than time will allow.
The most enjoyable?
Putting a smile on people's faces, whether it is the taste of genuine barbecue, or offering a tip that helps a struggling golfer.
How do you define success for your business?
Success will be measured in the quality and quantities of memories of those whose lives we have touched.
What are some advantages as well as drawbacks of doing business in this area?
Our business taps disposable income _ something that many people just don't have a lot of these days. High unemployment and rising energy costs make it tougher to attract customers. Luckily, our area is relatively affordable, and our business in particular reaches out to the value-conscious consumer.
What sets you apart from your competitors?
We set the bar lower than most any other golf course. We are unpretentious and family-friendly. We allow "walkers" to enjoy the course along with their golf playing partners and we don't enforce too many rules. All American BBQ strives to serve a variety of meats and sides culled and reverse-engineered from our travels over the years. If it's cooked over flame, we want to taste it and be prepared to add it to our menu.
What advice would you give to someone trying to enter your field of work?
Be prepared for long hours _ not just the hours the business is open, but the hundreds of hours developing marketing plans and materials, and of course doing the more mundane bookkeeping and payroll. Make sure you have a passion for whatever field of work you intend to be in. Life is too short to spend time in the wrong job or career. These are the United States of America; you can grow up to be anything you like.
Shop Talk interviews are conducted by Terry Hannum. For information, call The Daily Star at 432-1000, ext. 217, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.