March 1, 2018: JEFF SAY @ Culpeper Times

Shawn and Magdalena Moss are blessed.

The owners of Shawn’s Smokehouse BBQ Company will celebrate five years in business March 4.

Their BBQ has become a staple of Culpeper cuisine and they expanded to Warrenton in November 2015. Along with their catering company, which Shawn’s mom Sue started in 1980, they have a lot of successes to celebrate.

“It’s unbelievable,” Shawn said. “We feel blessed more now than ever. From the day we opened to where we are now, we’ve been through a lot of trials and tribulations. We’ve had some ups and downs, through it all we keep building a solid foundation.”

Shawn and Magdalena are quick to point to their faith and the relationship they’ve built with His Village church pastor Erick Kalenga.

Shawn said joining his church has helped them connect with the community and he sings his praises, calling Kalenga a pillar of the community. They meet once a week outside of church to talk about plans and life, and that has helped Shawn deal with the day-to-day struggles of owning a service business.

“It’s improved the quality of our relationship, the quality of our life,” Shawn said. “Just walking by faith, believing and putting that first. He’s a huge asset to this community and to us.”

He admits that early on, there were tough times but he’s learned along the way and used those lessons to make the business stronger.

One of the first things that occured after opening was Shawn starting a “scrunch,” after Carl and Barbara Becker’s story went regional after they were asked to leave a local restaurant.

“The economy was tough when we first opened, then you kind of saw it open up a little bit,” Shawn said. “We had a lot of things happen at the beginning. To be perfectly honest, it was all like a blur. Now I look back on it and wish I could have done some things a little different. We went through some point of sale systems and some growing pains. “There’s a reason for those growing pains, I truly believe we’re meant to go through them. Each growing pain we’ve gone through, I’ve chose to learn from it.”

Through it all, Shawn said the the “tight-knit” community of Culpeper supported them – from the youth sports leagues, to the school system all the way to the Culpeper Chamber of Commerce.

He’s active in the schools, he has three children at Emerald Hill Elementary, one at Culpeper Middle School and a 10th grader at Culpeper County High School, and he loves helping the local sports leagues.

“Everybody has been very supportive,” Shawn said. “We love to sponsor the little leagues and be part of the teams. That’s what it’s all about.”

Two things have always been at the forefront of his strategy – quality of the food and customer service. His smoked BBQ is known for the high quality of beef, pork and chicken he uses and smokes.

“Those two things will never change,” Shawn said. “Quality is very important to us. Over the past five years there have been some spikes in the meat market. Through those times we stuck with the same product.”

The company uses Harris Ranch all-natural brisket from California and he says he often gets comments on the high quality of products they utilize.

As for customer service, he’s always looking to improve the customers’ experience and has plans to implement a new point of sale system that will allow people to order and pay online, simply having to pick up the food at the restaurant at 602 Sperryville Pike.

The business has grown in five years, to incorporate the catering and the Warrenton restaurant. His mom still helps with the catering and Shawn says she plays a big role in the business.

“She’s still a big part of the catering business and running the operations,” Shawn said. “Each location kind of stands on its own. The catering supports itself.”

Magdalena can often be seen in the kitchen at Culpeper while Shawn bounces around.

“It can be tough at times,” Shawn said. “I’m very blessed to have her (Magdalena) because we’re a team and she’s often here in the kitchen. I float back and forth. We have a good solid crew in Warrenton. It’s a good system. I couldn’t do this without her.”

On Sunday, they will be offering $5 pork sandwiches to celebrate and they are also offering fried catfish on Fridays through Lent.

“We started that years ago and it’s just been a hit,” Shawn said.

They now employ about 25 people per restaurant and another 15-20 full time employees on the catering side. There’s more to come, he said.

“We’re growing,” Shawn said. “We want to build a bigger foundation before we take the next step. We do want to open more restaurants, and it will happen. But I don’t want to rush it. I don’t want to lose the quality of the food and the service. I want to keep making a solid foundation. There is growth in our future.”