Carl Rhodes preaches a little gospel, sells a lot of barbecue.
Most days you’ll find Carl and his wife and soulmate Kim down at C&K Smoke House BBQ, 12125 U.S. 301, Parrish.
Despite the fact that the tiny eatery has no inside seating, business is brisk, proof that good barbecue knows no socioeconomic, gender, ethnic or age boundaries.
Within the span of an hour, a sleek Maserati pulled in for takeout, while construction workers chowed down on picnic tables outside; a couple walked in fresh from Chicago; a farmer from Fort Myers came by after hearing word-of-mouth ravings; and two sanitation workers took their lunch break there.
“You can’t beat that mac and cheese and garlic potatoes,” sanitation worker Michael Welch said as he left with his lunch.
Rich and Colleen Fortmiller walked in for the first time in a year, yet Kim Rhodes remembered that the Chicagoans always ordered the pulled pork sandwich and mac and cheese.
“It makes your tongue slap your brain silly,” Rich Fortmiller said.
Kim and Carl started the business in 2004. Carl, a 1969 Lincoln High School grad, needed a job, couldn’t find one, so began doing a little market research.
He found a market niche in the restaurant world, and a place for rent at the intersection of U.S. 301 and Fort Hamer Road and the rest is history.
Using trial and error experimentation with the way they liked to barbecue at home, they tailored a menu for the public, focusing on barbecued chicken and pork, but also those popular side dishes.
There’s a map of the United States at the entrance of the store, which is covered in push pins, each one indicating the origins of their customers.
“I need a bigger map,” Carl says, and he’ll have one, too, once the new restaurant is built on the property. But he’s holding off on starting the construction until the work on 301 out front is completed.
“We don’t want the new building, so much as we need it,” Kim said.
In addition to the restaurant, Carl and Kim Rhodes recently formed a new congregation, Life Changing Ministries Church, which meets 10 a.m. - noon Sundays in rented space at Williams Elementary School, 3403 Fort Hamer Road.
Rhodes has been preaching since he was 19. Kim Rhodes says Carl can be a quiet teacher, or bring the fire and brimstone when he needs to.
Asked about the effect of the recession on his business, Carl quips, “We don’t participate in it.”
He explains that if he took everything to heart that is reported in the news, he probably wouldn’t leave the house in the morning.
“Every day is a good day,” he said. “Whatever I make today is more than I had yesterday.”
For more information on C&K Smoke House BBQ, call 776-1440 or visit cksmokehousebbq.com.
James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee editor, can be contacted at 745-7021.