“You have your voters, and then you have your customers. You have the ideas you’re pushing, and you have the products you’re pushing,” he said. “The very real thing about campaigning is getting your ideas and your candidate out there, getting them the press, going through grass-roots efforts to meet potential voters. We try to do all we can to get attention to the company and get in papers, on TV, on the radio.”
Part of what they call their “grass-roots effort” to get their brand out involves offering free samples in stores — more than 55,000 of them last year. And they frequently participate in competitions, picking up several awards around the country.
They sell two sauces and a spice rub in major grocery chains, and they’re opening a restaurant in Alexandria, Va., this July. Hall explained that he hopes their restaurant will, like the D.C. food scene itself, bring the best national food traditions to one location.
“We’re going to take the influences we’ve learned from some of the best grillmasters across the nation and bring them back,” Hall said. “We won’t call ourselves a Memphis barbecue joint or a Carolina joint, but we’ll really try to integrate all the food traditions of barbecue in the U.S.”
Even though the business has grown past what they had originally hoped or imagined, neither has plans to leave their day jobs for a life of professional barbecuing. They both expressed contentment with having a foot in both worlds. “It’s the American dream to own your own company, and in some ways, I feel like we’ve already achieved that,” Thompson said. “I’m very happy to be in my position.”
However, Hall said, there’s one thing he enjoys about barbecue that he can’t find in the political world.
“In politics, you can make 50 percent of the people happy and 50 percent of the people mad,” he said, “but with barbecue, it’s hard not to get into that upper 90 approval rating.”