By Megan Knowles
NEW HAVEN — Good people can have a real impact on a new business.
That’s a lesson Jason and Staci Voelck, owners of Smokehaus BBQ, 717 Broadway, have learned in their eight months of being open.
“We can’t do this by ourselves and we figured out early on we have to have good people. The people make us or break us,” Jason said.
Unfortunately for the Voelcks, it didn’t start out that way. What began as a business partnership around a barbecue food truck fell apart after about 10 weeks, Jason said.
That’s when he brought Staci, his wife, into the picture. While she had been a waitress in the past, Jason said she’d “never done something like this before.”
The couple jumped right into it, with their first event as a team being Gearfest 2018, an event that drew more than 15,000 people.
“We were overwhelmed to say the least. It was a crazy event but we did well,” Jason said. “She nailed it. I was so proud of her, and she did an amazing job.”
That success led to the brick-and-mortar establishment as well as a catering business, which brought on more employees like Chelsea Clear, who was recently named Smokehaus’ general manager.
Great employees have been one of the backbones of Smokehaus’ success, Jason and Staci said.
The other has been the support of the New Haven community.
“New Haven has been very good to us. … They have opened their arms and hearts to us like we’re long-lost family,” Jason said.
The couple has owned Wicked Automotive in the city for the past 12 years, which has also received support from the community, Staci said.
“So we thought, why not New Haven?” she added.
Some of the support they have received includes hosting the weekly meeting of the New Haven Chamber of Commerce and several events for mayoral candidate Steve McMichael.
“It’s a little hometown diner, and the people of New Haven are what make this place great,” Jason said.
When they established Smokehaus, the Voelcks wanted to give families another dining opportunity in town, they said.
“We really wanted to have a family restaurant where you can bring your kids and yet still have a beer,” Jason said.
The menu offers all the foods you’d expect from a barbecue establishment, including pulled pork, ribs, brisket and “meaty” wings.
Everything is smoked in a light dry rub, allowing customers to add their own sauces, including the Carolina Reaper pepper-based Reaper Madness. And it’s all made from scratch, the Voelcks said.
“That’s one thing we pride ourselves on here at the restaurant every single item is homemade … from the barbecue sauce to the potato salad,” Jason said.
The sauces were developed over time. The potato salad, macaroni salad and monster cookies are all family recipes, they said.
The food truck has continued as the restaurant has grown, going to places like Huntertown’s the Local, the Leo-Cedarville Freedom Festival, Two-EE’s Winery in Roanoke and many businesses in between.
They will also participate in New Haven Parks and Recreation’s Music, Market and Munchies July 17 at Schnelker Park, blocks away from the site their restaurant calls home.
“We are proud to be a part of New Haven,” Jason said.
“We definitely wouldn’t be here without New Haven’s support,” Staci added.
For more information on the food truck location and the restaurant’s hours, visit their page at Facebook.com/smokehausbbq1/.