Family Style • By Emily Patrick
story and photos by emily patrick
Morgan County’s Big Kev’s BBQ combines a family effort with entrepreneurial spirit
mustard, tomatoes, vinegar. Three simple ingredients mean so much when it comes to barbecue.
When Kevin Armstrong decided to open Big Kev's barbecue, in 2007, he knew that he was taking a risk with what he calls “a clash between vinegar and tomato-based.”
“We just wanted to do it and do it different,” said Armstrong. “Surprisingly, people really took to the sauce that we do that we make from scratch.”
Whether it's the recipe or the restauranteur that has made Big Kev's a success, the mobile business based out of a white cart at the intersection of 278 and Newborn Road has proved its staying power over the last four years.
Armstrong contributes the success of his viand venture to the hard work and support of his wife, Alvona, and their four children.
“It's really a lot of fun,” Alvona Armstrong said. “It's a lot of work, but we don't have to worry about employees not showing up. It's family.”
The Armstrong family has a history of entrepreneurship. Kevin's grandfather owned an auto body repair shop where Kevin used to visit him as a child. He said his experiences there gave him “that spark to entrepreneurship” and taught him important lessons that have made him the businessman he is today.
“Your name is as good as gold,” he said. “It's not what you own or how much money you have; it's your word. If you have that concept and apply it to business, it's a success.”
The Armstrongs also have a history with food. Kevin and Alvona both tempered their palates in Charleston, S.C., where they grew up.
“Coming from Charleston, everyone pretty much can cook,” Alvona said.
In 1993, Kevin opened his first restaurant, Kev's Seafood and Grill, in Richmond, Va.
“That's his passion, is cooking,” said his daughter, Dani.
When the family moved to Georgia in 1998, they knew it was only a matter of time until Kev's kitchen would open once more.
Recently, they have expanded the business into event catering. On weekends, they travel around the Southeast with savory offerings such as pulled pork, turkey legs and grilled chicken tenders. They have served the masses in cities such as Columbia and Macon as well as rural locales.
Joel Armstrong said he enjoys traveling with the family business, and he hopes to keep it going and possibly pass it on to his own children one day.
Even though the Armstrongs spend much of their time catering events, they still open up the food cart on the weekends they spend at home.
During the week, Kevin stays busy working for Odwalla out of Atlanta, and Alvona teaches at Morgan County Primary School, but on the weekends, they give family and barbecue their all.
Kevin looks forward to the prospect of settling the business into a brick and mortar establishment. He is considering real estate in Rutledge, Madison and Athens.
Alvona said the business will always remain a family venture, and when Big Kev's gets a solid foundation, any employees it gains will become part of the family.
Printed in the March 1, 2012 edition.