Leader photo/JOHN EBY Dowagiac festival vendors Rhonda and Greg Ivens of Cassopolis in May turned the former Arby’s into the permanent home of 3-year-old Smokin’ Good BBQ. Artwork is by Jake Rohdy of Dowagiac.

Bizline/Smokin’ Good BBQ

Published 3:13pm Friday, June 8, 2012

Owners: Rhonda and Greg Ivens

Address: 208 East State St.

Telephone number: (269) 445-3300

Hours: Closed Mondays. Open Tuesday-Saturday, 11 a.m.- 8 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. However, when a major holiday falls on a Monday, such as Labor Day, they will be open.

Motto: Good times, good food, good people

When business started: third year, but before May operated from a trailer at the Family Dollar corner and did catering out of their Cassopolis home on Mud Lake Street in Penn Township. They bought the former Arby’s 11-11-11 and have been scrubbing, painting and cleaning ever since to “turn it into us.”

What type of business do you operate — what you sell, services provided? Smokin’ Good BBQ offers ribs, chicken, pulled pork and tips.  Popular with the new location is Rhonda’s big $5 chicken wrap with salsa, cheese, sour cream, ranch dressing and spring lettuce.

What’s the secret of your barbecue sauce? “I can never tell or they’d quit coming, except we cook it slow,” Greg said. “I watched my mom over the years and tried different stuff.”

How did you hook up with Dowagiac festivals? Patti Badner, who carries their insurance through Kemner-Iott Agency, introduced them to the Chamber of Commerce, which hired them to cater an event.
“The Chamber has been very good to us,” Rhonda said. “We do the Ice Festival and the Harvest Festival. It’s the two of us, Greg’s sister and my aunt,” plus others as needed for their growing catering business.
Their daughter, Reva, played softball. Ivens grilled for team families or took pans of ribs to work. One thing led to another. Now they’re expectant grandparents.

Why did you choose to open a storefront? “Now it’s a daily thing. Before it was a weekend thing,” Rhonda said. “Greg lost his factory job and wasn’t having any luck finding a job. Our daughter was in college. As life evolved, we had to adapt and find something new to do. Greg found cookers he liked, which we had the Amish make in Pennsylvania. He had one grill custom-built.

Has our weird weather affected your business? “It just makes it more challenging,” Greg said. “Rain and wind make you cook differently. Most of my grills are charcoal, so it burns differently. You’ve got to play with it.”

How have you been received your first few weeks? “It’s all good,” Rhonda said. “We have truly been well-received by the community.”

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