Cotton Gin BBQ Supply Co. opens in Niles

Published 11:00 am Monday, July 24, 2023

NILES — A new retail store aims to be the go-to place for grillers and pitmasters across Michiana.

Hundreds of people from Niles and beyond gathered to celebrate the grand opening of the Cotton Gin BBQ Supply Co. Saturday in Niles. The retail store, located at 1831 Terminal Rd., will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and offers a variety of BBQ products and accessories including sauces, rubs, apparel and charcoal in addition to their nationally-renowned smokers.

“It means a lot to me to be able to do this,” said owner Matthew Messer. “Today’s been fantastic, a  great turnout… It’s just cool to be part of that crowd and try to bring some good eats to Michigan. We’re from Texas, originally, so we’re trying to bring a little bit of Texas barbecue up here to the Midwest.”

Some of the biggest names in the BBQ industry were on hand to celebrate the event, including brands like the New York-based Good Charcoal Company, Lut’s Craft BBQ, Tribal Fire Grill, River St. Joe Brewery and the National BBQ Association’s BBQ Magazine based out of Douglas, Georgia.

 “(The NBBQA) came from about 13 hours away to get here,” Messer said. “That’s a lot of love right there.”

The day was a dream come true for Messer, who created Cotton Gin Smokers in 2018 and began selling his smokers in 2019. With their headquarters strategically positioned in Niles, Cotton Gin Smokers caters to customers all across the Midwest and beyond, shipping their top-notch smokers far and wide.

Messer assembles the drum-style charcoal smokers by hand and offers a variety of colors and customizable emblazoned logos. Cotton Gin also provides catering services for a variety of occasions including corporate events, weddings, graduation parties and more.

While his smoker business was originally a side job, Messer, a Texas native who moved to Michigan eight years ago, decided to quit his other job two years ago and pursue his passion full-time. He said the decision to offer BBQ supplies in addition to his smokers was a natural one.

“It means a lot because barbecue is about bringing people together,” he said. “It’s a big family, whether you’re just cooking in the backyard or you’re communing.”

Messer motioned toward the spice rub shelf on the wall.

“If you look at all the rubs that we have here for sale, I know the vast majority of these guys,” he said. “It’s weird to walk into a store and see a rub and say ‘I know them’ but they’re just normal people; I’m just a normal person. So let’s come together and eat some good food. That’s what we hope to do here is help people enhance their cooking.”