Burnt out with corporate culture and working during the COVID-19 pandemic, Crystal Gay called her husband during a lunch break and said they should open their own barbecue business.
Bobby and Crystal purchased a location off US 441 in High Springs in November 2022, and now Sweet Meat Butcher Shop is ready to launch with a four-sided business—butcher shop, barbecue supply store, smoker manufacturing company and catering company.
The couple didn’t choose BBQ on a whim; the two have travelled to compete across the Southeast, from the Big Pig Jig in Georgia to the Jimmy Jam BBQ Slam in Florida.
“I’ve gone from really bad to a few weeks ago I was on the Food Network for a little bit, so I’ve gone through a pretty substantial progression in competition barbecue,” Bobby said.
The Gays plan to open on Sept. 1 with a soft opening from Aug. 29-31 from noon to 5 p.m. The store is located on US 441 South, just past Bev’s Burgers.
Bobby said the store will focus on the full-service butcher portion of the business, but the family—including their sons Evan, 4, and Easton, 1—also wants to draw in the community with events and, of course, food.
On July 13, the High Springs City Commission approved plans to build a pole barn behind the shop, and Sweet Meat will use the space as a gathering place for concerts, comedians and other events. The shop will also host barbecue classes, hosted by others involved in the competition circuit. The first class will be on Saturday with Bearded Monkeys Twisted Q.
“Our focal point is to bring the community together through barbecue, grilling steaks outside, spending time with their family, and that’s really where this started at,” Bobby said.
Sweet Meat even sells their own custom-designed, gravity-fed smokers, and shelves are filled with every type of seasoning and rub. Crystal said the store aims to help customers increase their skill level of grilling no matter where they start out.
“We have found that we can sell competition quality meats at grocery store prices, and that’s kind of our niche,” Bobby said.
Sweet Meat will also cater, and they’ve already got quite the clientele, cooking up a full hog for Coach Steve Spurrier and delivering it to his restaurant in Celebration Pointe.