Not Lost in the Sauce
Barbecue is a communal activity, whether it’s with a gathering of family, friends, or a combination of the two – note that you don’t see recipes for BBQ-for-one anywhere! It is an occasion, almost a celebration, facilitated by meat, fire, some time-tested combination of dry rubs and flavor-laden sauce, and time. Barbeque is a slow and painstaking process, “rich with both art and skill” according to Tory Campbell, founder of Felton & Mary’s Artisan Foods.
Fully embodying this spirit of community and hospitality were Tory’s grandparents, Felton and Mary Campbell. Originally from Texas and Arkansas, respectively, they made their way to Portland in 1984 after several years living in Oakland, California, bringing their love of barbecue and feeding people with them. They are remembered as being generous and adventurous, with the ability to make everyone seated at their table feel like family; it is in their memory and honor that Tory is “building on the shoulders of the family” by bringing his grandparents’ delicious legacy to the public.
Tory was one of the members of the large Campbell family to be embraced by Felton and Mary’s love of growing fresh food and the importance of excellence. “They always had a large garden, and I remember sitting on the kitchen counter when I was a kid, watching them make sausage,” Tory says.
The restaurant that Felton and Mary opened in southeast Portland was something of a risk; they were the only black family and business in their neighborhood during a period of racial tension in Portland. But with their cheerful tenacity and spirit – and “good pieces of barbecue on paper plates” – Tory watched them successfully “create an oasis” of community that persisted for the next twenty years.
When the restaurant closed, Tory wanted to share his family’s story and keep their delicious recipes alive. To date, there are several sauces and a classic spice rub available through the F&M website, the Montevilla Farmers Market, Green Zebra, Alberta Coop Grocers, Made Here PDX, and at New Seasons Market under the NSM label. “It has been a great relationship with New Seasons,” says Tory.
Tory has recently hosted a monthly “Barbecue Social” to give people a chance to taste his products. That, and being at the farmers market every Sunday, has helped to spread the word and get new followers. “Story and taste sells,” he has learned.
Though Tory inherited much of his grandparents’ wise business sense, he still feels a sense of impatience at the inevitable steep learning curve of running a small business, of not being able to implement new ideas right away. “I have to just sit in that tension, sometimes,” he says.
We think Felton and Mary would be proud.