BAD-AsH-BBQ named New Business of the Year
By Sue Cook, staff reporter
MEDINA – Gerald Heideman started his barbecue business back in May 2014. He’d been making barbecue at his own house for three years and the response to his food was enthusiastic.
“Everybody was telling me, you gotta do something with this,” he said. “You got an itch. I never thought it would ever happen. Now I bring my business to other businesses.”
He wasn’t sure if it would amount to anything or if he’d be doing it for very long, but he was injured about a year ago and was unable to return to work at his regular job.
He never earned even a GED and didn’t have much knowledge of running a business, but he wanted to be able to help support his family more. He has three kids: Makayla, 11; Mason, 2; and Kennedy, 1. He also has a fiance of 10 years, Jamie Payne.
“It’s a dream,” Heideman said. “I’ve got to keep on going forward with it. Nobody could tell me no. Once I had a set mind, I was going to do it. I live it. I sleep it. I eat it pretty much every day. I’m not your average person. I’m a rebel.”
On his own, he built his barbecue pits and sales stand. He also completed multiple classes for food safety and other regulations. The regular menu includes baby back ribs, pulled pork, pulled chicken and sometimes more. He usually purchases between $500 to $700 worth of meat for most events.
Heideman doesn’t consider himself to be a chef, but instead prefers the title of pitmaster. He cooks using his self-built old-fashioned offset stick-burner pits.
“There’s adrenaline,” he said of the excitement of his work. “I haven’t opened my pit in four or five hours today and that could be burning on there. It’s a chance I have to take.”
Now he is on call for events and businesses, which means he has no regular location or schedule. He has even booked dates for weddings and parties into 2015.
This year, the Orleans County Chamber of Commerce awarded him with their New Business of the Year Award. He will be presented with the award on Sept. 20 at Tillman’s Village Inn during their banquet as recognition of his hard work and entrepreneurial spirit.
“I never imagined I was going to win the New Business of the Year Award,” he said. “It’s a good feeling. They said I had a run for my money, but that I had such an abundance of nominations.”
While he does work to earn a profit, much of his work is also for charity and other good causes, such as a brain tumor removal for a woman he never even met or new uniforms for the Medina football team and cheerleaders. For charity work, Heideman has the customer pay for the meat, then donates all of the money and his time. This often includes a 10-hour cook time, about eight hours of serving and then added time for cleaning the pits after.
Heideman grew up in Lyndonville and attended school there. He has since moved to Middleport, but believes in supporting the county he came from. Aside from one benefit in Niagara County, all of his work is done in Orleans because it’s where his roots are and where he attended school.
“I’m originally from Orleans County,” he said. “That’s family, you know?”
Local businesses have teamed up with BAD-AsH-BBQ. LynOaken Farms, whose owners are old friends, allow him to cut wood from their property for his pits. Payne’s Carpet in Albion has asked him to attract extra business during special sales. Heideman buys the cornbread for his meals from The Bread Basket in Medina when he hasn’t had the time to do it himself on his smoker.
Heideman has future plans for the business if he can find an investor for his work. He would like to add a food truck and maybe expand into steamed and fried foods, plus a vegan menu.
“I’ve got so many ideas that Orleans hasn’t even seen before that I want to do,” he explained of his hopes for the future.
Heideman enjoys running his own business and helping others while also working for himself.
“I love doing it. If I didn’t love it, I wouldn’t do it,” he said.