A Hannibal man's passion starting at the age of 16 has blossomed into a forthcoming downtown restaurant, following a successful month-and-a-half of selling smoked meats and sides from the WAYNE BBQ food trailer at Huck Finn Shopping Center.
Josh Muehring and his wife, Olivia, own WAYNE BBQ, specializing in homemade sides and hand-rubbed, wood-fired smoked meats like baby back ribs and beef brisket. Muehring worked as a CDL driver for three years, but decided to follow his dream to start up a business selling the smoked meats he first prepared as a hobby during his teenage years. And when he suggested the idea to his wife, she enthusiastically jumped on board and has been helping with the renovation work at 218 N. Main St. over the past three days.
"She's in it with me 100%, which is awesome," he said. "I couldn't ask for a better wife."
Muehring said he felt blessed to be working toward his dream with his wife; his brother, Paul; his parents; and contractor Tommy Hodson to renovate the building in time for a planned early August opening. The brothers constructed a wooden serving and ordering area that will feature a concrete top. The interior walls were already being stripped in preparation for brick veneer on the north wall and hand-stained shiplap boards. Muehring said he is aiming for an atmosphere that combines rustic and industrial elements.
The Muehrings have long been customers of Java Jive, across the street from their new venture, and one day they saw a "For Rent" sign in the window of the site of their future restaurant. Muehring said he appreciates the high ceilings and large windows that define historic downtown structures along Main St., and he is eager to be a part of Hannibal which he feels is bustling with activity.
"I like taking things that are old and bringing them back to life," he said. "It's neat getting into one of these old buildings. I feel honored to be down here. Downtown is an important thing for Hannibal."
The food trailer will still be used for catering once the restaurant is complete. Muehring said the restaurant in the heart of Hannibal's downtown will allow for business hours from Tuesday through Saturday — the trailer's hot conditions combined with the time- and labor-intensive process of making the rub, starting the fire with hickory pecan wood, trimming the meats and smoking them to the right consistency limited the days the Muehrings staffed the trailer.
With the new restaurant taking shape, they can soon serve patrons throughout the year and provide a comfortable dining area and space to prepare menu items. Muehring is looking forward to welcoming his brother to the team, and he plans to hire another employee to assist him with the smoking process. And he plans to add more menu items to favorites like the baby back ribs, beef brisket, pulled pork, macaroni and cheese and baked beans.
The restaurant setting will bring a different dynamic to patrons than the food trailer, but Muehring said many things will stay the same — the quality of the food, the speed and quality of customer service and the time-honored work ethic that goes into preparing the wood-fired meats and side dishes.
"The old-school way, I think, is the best way of doing it," he said.
To find out more about WAYNE BBQ, visit @WAYNEBBQ on Facebook or their website at https://waynebbq.com.