For Jessica Brown, Low Country BBQ is a family thing.
Her father, Bennett Brown, opened the catering company in 1986. But, while so many restaurants offer catering alongside their in-house services, he never opened up an eatery to go along with the event business. Instead, 30 years later, Low Country BBQ, along with its sister company Low Country Catering, is still sticking to what they know best – event planning and delivering delicious food.
Jessica was entrenched in the family business from a young age.
“I grew up in this business,” she said. “I think I was drinking vinegar-based barbecue sauce out of a sippy cup.”
From that sippy cup, she only moved up. Jessica began helping run the business in 2016, and with her father’s retirement approaching this April (although she expects he’ll still be involved as much as he can), Jessica will be taking over the day-to-day operations of the company.
Though Jessica caught the hospitality bug early, she didn’t always think she would follow in her father’s footsteps. In college, she thought she wanted to be a vet. But one morning while driving to an event for Low Country BBQ, something clicked while she was on the phone with her father. He was venting about the trials and tribulations that come with running a business, and at that very moment, she threw all dreams of veterinary medicine out the window.
“I’m here, I have ideas,” she recalled saying to him. “Let me come in and help you with this business.”
Her father was shocked, she said.
“I remember him saying that he never really imagined any of his children stepping into the business,” Jessica said. “So I think it was a pleasant surprise. He tells me that he was super proud in that moment.”
Stepping in to run a 30-year-old business is no walk in the park – especially with a looming, global pandemic on the horizon. When the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020, it devastated the food industry, and Low Country was no exception.
“It was tough,” Jessica said. “[My dad] thought 2008 was bad. He thought after 9/11 was bad. COVID definitely rocked everyone’s world.”
But the pandemic rocked Low Country BBQ in more ways than you might expect. Back in 2012, the company rebranded to Low Country Catering. The change opened doors to menu items outside of barbecue, but according to Jessica, a lot of the company’s customers thought that the new name meant that Low Country BBQ had gone out of business.
In 2019, the company decided to once again refresh, bringing back the name Low Country BBQ and differentiating between the two sides of the business. Low Country BBQ would feature an exclusively barbecue menu and offer carry out, delivery, and casual full-service catering options. Low Country Catering would offer a more expansive menu, taking influences from all over the world for its food while giving them a distinctly southern feel, and offer catering for formal events like weddings.
The company was all set to launch their rebranding in March of 2020 when the pandemic began in earnest. But luckily, Jessica said having both of those arms of the business helped keep them afloat – Low Country BBQ took care of take out and delivery orders for those eating at home, and Low Country Catering provided services for weddings and events later on down the line.
“That’s how we really made it through COVID,” Jessica said. “Thank God for our clients hanging around, but then [also] having that image refresh right at the start of it.”
Jessica is looking to continue to grow both Low Country BBQ and Low Country Catering this year, as well as spread the word about the delicious items on their menus. Her favorites? She loves the barbecue chicken, which is caramelized with a vinegar-based barbecue sauce and grilled over charcoal. On the Low Country Catering side, she has to go with the pimento mac and cheese with crumbled pretzels on top.
“We always eat pimento cheese with pretzels at the beach, so we had this crazy idea to put it in mac and cheese,” she said. “It’s such comfort food.”