Interview By: Catherine Stiles
Portraits by: Wyatt McSpadden
In this first edition of "Tales of a Barbecue Wife," we caught up with Mallory Robbins co-owner of Evie Mae’s Barbecue in Wolfforth, Texas. Mallory & her husband Arnis Robbins are juggling it all and making it look easy. We thought we’d get up close and personal with this Barbecue Wife as she walks us through a “day in the life” as she splits her time between being a mom of two and a small business owner.
Keep reading, as Mallory gives us a special treat at the end of the interview you can take with you. You'll soon see why we love catching up with Mallory every chance we get.
Name: Mallory Robbins Age: 34
Tell me a little bit about where you are from, where you grew up: I was born in Amarillo, TX, but moved to Clovis, NM when I was young. Clovis is a small town only a couple of miles from the Texas border. It's an agricultural, railroad and Air Force base town. I grew up "in the country" and have the best memories of playing outside and being on my grandparent's farm.
Your family, what did your parents do? What influence did they have on you becoming the woman you are today? My mom was a school teacher and my dad has been in the beef packing business for 30-plus years. My parents were divorced when I was young. My mom always had "side jobs" besides her school teaching career. She cleaned houses, decorated cakes, you name it. I learned from her that if you work hard and take care of people, you'll always have what you need. She worked really hard to take care of me and my siblings and I think that has had a huge impact on my work ethic.
What were you like as a child? What did you want to be when you grew up? I was a major tomboy. I loved being outside, at the lake, fishing, etc. I don't remember really wanting to be anything specifically, just that I wanted to be outside.
How did you land in Wolfforth, Texas? How did you meet your husband? Arnis and I met when we were kids. We grew up in neighboring towns and had mutual friends. We reconnected after college and both moved out to Arizona. We ended up getting married, started a landscaping company, had our first baby, and realized pretty quick that we needed to be back "home" and closer to family. We sold our business and got back to Texas as fast as we could. Wolfforth is just outside of Lubbock. Most of our family is within a two hour drive. The people here are so welcoming and nice.
How did you get into the barbecue business? What do you think people might not know about the "day in the life" of Mallory and your role in the business? My husband, Arnis, started experimenting with barbecue when we lived in Arizona. We owned a landscaping company and it was very stressful for him. He grew up on a farm and he was always tinkering with stuff and wanted to build his own pit. I think teaching himself to barbecue was a therapeutic hobby at first. I thought he was crazy. Barbecue isn't a big thing out in AZ. We started cooking for neighbors and friends. Then, he bought a little food trailer and we decided we would try selling bbq on Fridays and see how it went. We just set up in front of an old golf course on the side of the road. Things got busy pretty fast and we really wanted to move closer to family. We decided to sell our business, get a nicer food trailer, and relocate to Lubbock and try this bbq thing full-time. For the first year, It was just me and him. He cooked the meat and I did all the sides and desserts. It was stressful, but fun. Over the past 2 years, we've added another baby and moved from the food trailer to a brick and mortar.
People may not know that I manage our social media. I really enjoy taking pictures of food and working at the restaurant as much as I can. I love it there. It's hard to step back and let other people take care of things so I can be with our kids. We have awesome employees and I'm so thankful to have such amazing help.
What is the best thing about being in the barbecue business? What do you enjoy the most? The best thing about being in the barbecue business is the people. Not just the customers, they're great too, but the actual people involved in Barbecue all over Texas. I feel like we are part of this awesome group of people who support and root for each other. And not just the joint owners, but the bloggers, photographers, and foodies. It's really cool. I feel like I could reach out to just about anyone in the business for advice.
I don't do any of the cooking anymore, so I really enjoy hanging out during service and chatting with customers. I also love helping serve food and even cleaning tables during a busy lunch.
Obviously not every day is an adventure in this business. Any funny stories you would like to share? A funny story I could share is from a day I was at the grocery store. A guy put his fist up in the air and yelled way down the isle "Hey! I love your food!!". It was so funny. It's funny to be recognized places and have people go out of their way to say hi. I don't think I'll ever get used to that!
What is the worst thing about being in the barbecue business? The worst thing about the barbecue business is definitely the hours. It was really hard in the beginning (and still is sometimes) having a "pit master" husband. There are times when he won't see the kids for a few days at a time. That doesn't happen as much anymore, thanks to having great employees.
Any stories you would like to share about a bad day you just had to laugh about? (I always say, you have to have a good sense of humor to be in this business and laugh, or it can be a challenging thing to be in day in and day out) I have quite a few stories about "bad" days that I could share! Haha. It's tough when we get a bad review online. We take it pretty personally because this business is so special to us and we work so hard. I'm getting better about just laughing off the negative comments and knowing that you can't please everyone, even though we try! All we can do is serve the best food we can and take good care of people and hope that they spread the word and come back to see us.
You are a mom, which is also a full time job. How do you juggle being a mom and an entrepreneur in the family business? Any advice you would like to give to working moms in general and making it all happen everyday? Having a support system is huge. If it wasn't for my mom and my mother-in-law's help over the past 2 1/2 years, we definitely wouldn't be where we are today. I've been fortunate enough to be able to take a step back over the past year after our son was born to "stay at home" thanks to some awesome employees.
I think it's really important to be realistic about what you can get done in a day. There are days that I feel like Super Mom and everything is awesome. Dinner is made, house is clean, kids are happy. But, then there are days that I'm lucky if I even take a shower, I feel like I can't get anything done, and my 4 year old hates me. But, I try really hard to be realistic and not too hard on myself.
I think it's important to say "No" sometimes. A fellow Barbecue Wife gave me that advice. Give yourself some grace. Try not to compare yourself to other moms that seem like they always have it together. They don't. Don't believe everything you see. Take some time for yourself. I'm particularly bad about this, but I am trying to make myself more of a priority. Your mental health as a mom (working outside of the home or not) is so important.
What do you do for fun? Favorite Vacation spots you would like to share? Having my husband home from work, hanging out on the back porch and watching the kids play and not having to be anywhere or do anything is the most fun lately. Don't get me wrong, I'd love a good date night with him with no kids and no rush. Maybe someday soon! We also love going to antique stores. Just looking around for treasures is always fun.
Arnis and I went to Hawaii on our Honeymoon and I can't wait to go back. A beach with no plans is my idea of a perfect vacation.
When you actually get the chance…what do you do with girlfriends on a “Night Out” on the town? I'm embarrassed to say that I haven't had a "girls night" in quite a while. I love live music and a good, cold beer. Anything just hanging out and talking about life is great with me. A patio is a plus.
Favorite Musician? This is a hard question to answer because I have so many "favorites" in different genres of music. I may listen to The Statler Brothers one day, and Tupac the next. My mom is a huge lover of music so I was exposed to everything growing up. I love Willie Nelson, Michael Jackson, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Prince. Pat Green is also one of my favorites. He was just starting out when I was in high school and his music and song writing started my serious love of Texas country music. I have seen him in concert probably 10 times. There isn't a single song of his that doesn't spark some sort of memory from High school or college.
If you were to empty out your purse on the table right now, what would we find? Oh, yikes. You would find diapers, wipes, snacks, lipstick, probably some trash. Hand sanitizer. I'm a huge germaphobe. My little girl loves being outside and all things Nature, so there's a possibility of finding rocks, even bugs.
Is there a local or national charitable cause that you support that you would like more people to be aware of? (I’m a big supporter of giving back where you can. Just simply spreading awareness is a great way to give back). I don't currently support any one in particular, however, if you're in the Lubbock area and looking at donating time or money, The Carpenters Church or the South Plains Food Bank are a great place to start.
We are going to end each interview with a piece that we can share from your kitchen to the readers home kitchen. There is nothing more transcending than sharing a good recipe card from one friend to another. What is a favorite recipe that you like to share with friends/family?
Evie Mae's Green Chile Cheese Grits
2 cups corn grits/polenta
6 cups milk
4 Tablespoons of butter
1-2 cups of cheddar cheese
8 oz of frozen, chopped green chile (substitute jalapeno if you'd like)
Salt and Pepper to taste
Combine milk and butter and bring to a simmer/soft boil. Slowly whisk in the dry grits and continue stirring until they start to thicken up. Reduce heat and add cheese and green chile. Continue stirring until desired thickness and add salt/pepper.
If they get too thick you can add a little extra milk or butter. This is a great side dish or even a base for grilled shrimp or sausage.
We want to thank Mallory for taking the time out of her busy schedule to share a little bit about her adventures as a "Barbecue Wife." Next time you are in the Lubbock, TX area stop by and tell her "Hello."
Our goal is to introduce you to some of the amazing women that we meet along the Barbecue Wife trail as often as we can.
Till next time!
P.S. If you know a "Barbecue Wife" we should get to know, shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org We'd love to hear from you.