Mt. Washington barbecue joint continues to grow
CINCINNATI (WXIX) - A Mt. Washington barbecue joint has serving up meats for nine years now but the woman behind the shop says there have been hard times.
Kristen Bailey says it has always been her life-long dream to open her own business. While she was able to make that happen, she says she almost lost Sweets and Meats when the pandemic hit.
Instead of shutting down, she shifted her focus and says business has been booming ever since.
As the team at Sweet Meats crank up the grill, prepping the food at the start of each day, it’s more than the food that keeps people coming back.
“It’s the best thing you can put in your mouth,” Bailey describes. “Literally, it’s Thanksgiving every day here at Sweet and Meats. All the specialties that our grandparents used to make.”
Bailey is the CEO of the catering company that she brought to life with her partner Anton after leaving a career in banking.
The business grew from the two having fun cookouts in their backyard to selling plates in the Creamy Whip parking lot.
“I said, ‘You know what, let’s start a business and see how it goes,’” Bailey remembers. “And so we set up at the Creamy Whip, which is about two blocks from where we are now here in Mt. Washington. They let us use their parking lot, and on the weekends we would sell food. We’d encourage people to go inside and get the sweets, and Sweets and Meats really took off.”
As the lines grew longer, they expanded the catering company by adding food trucks and a carryout restaurant.
Bailey says business was smoking until the pandemic smothered the flame.
“We lost over 300 events during the pandemic,” says Bailey. ”Everything was shut down, and I was like, ‘Okay, what can we do?’ My staff wanted to work, and I wanted to close out of fear. So, we started going into the neighborhoods.”
She used her food trucks to reach customers safely right at their front doors. Gaining new clientele in the process.
“We hit over 150 neighborhoods during the shutdown alone,” Bailey explains. “We created pockets of customers all around the Tri-State. We were traveling all the way up north to Columbus or traveling to Louisville sometime within the same day. We had to shift the way we were doing business in order to survive, and we actually doubled our business.”
Bailey says it is also gratifying to be able to give her team opportunities that they may not have elsewhere.
“We’re a second-chance employer,” Bailey explained. “We’ve helped people who’ve been incarcerated. We’ve helped people who maybe had addiction problems as employees, and they’re some of our best staff and just to see that growth in them is very fulfilling to me.”
Starting with humble beginnings, Bailey says it’s incredible to see what she’s accomplished with her team.
“Literally, we started our company with $500, and we did over $1 million last year,” says Bailey. “There are so many people who want to see us win here in Cincinnati.”
Sweet and Meats continues to grow as it recently launched a new division, All Occasions Catering, which extends its menu beyond barbecue.
They are also currently on the hunt for a larger building where they can have a dine-in restaurant.
This story is part of a weekly segment called Breaking Through.
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