Couple's new business is cooking
Baumbach's Pit BBQ & Grill opened Dec. 16 in New Paris
By Shirley Belcher
For the Dayton Daily News
NEW PARIS | Whether it's freezing cold or blistering hot, Tom Baumbach can be seen outside his New Paris restaurant.
He alone knows the secret dry rub recipe. And he's not sharing.
Baumbach's Pit BBQ & Grill is getting a reputation for its barbecue ribs, which take eight to 10 hours to cook.
From the first day they opened Dec. 16, Baumbach's has drawn people from Miamisburg to Dayton, Cincinnati to Greenville, and even from Richmond, Ind.
The reaction has surprised Baumbach and his wife, Wendy, who live in Eaton.
Especially since it's only been two years since they started their authentic pit barbecue business in a CVS parking lot.
But Baumbach has had a passion for barbecue - even when he was a wholesale produce consultant who spent a lot of time on the road. He was researching how to get started in the restaurant business when he decided the time was right to chuck his job.
"We made a judgment call and Tom quit on the spot, on Father's Day," Wendy said.
She liked her job at Henny Penny, but said she also gave her notice because Tom needed her help with the restaurant.
"I wanted something that I could work for myself and pass on to the family and have something they could grow up in and learn and have something down the road rather than getting up at 4 a.m. and going into work and pouring your energies into somebody else's empire," Tom said.
So they started small - with a portable barbecue in the parking lot of CVS, off Ohio 127, near a traffic light.
"There were some hot, long summer days that we were sitting under an umbrella," Wendy said.
But the smell of the barbecue would waft out to drivers stopped at the light and it would entice some of them to pull into the parking lot.
"It was wonderful to see the delight on their faces after they experienced their first meal and then bring back more friends," Wendy said.
Tom said, "It was word-of-mouth. We have not advertised."
They guard the secret recipe but admit some of it has to do with the wood used to cook the meat - pecan wood from North Carolina.
"The biggest challenge was finding pecan wood," Tom said. "You don't have pecan wood around here. I cook with pecan wood and sugar maple. It makes for a nice wood. It is not overpowering. The beef doesn't come out with a real woody, smoky flavor. It's got a nice mellow flavor."
A Southern boy who grew up in south central Florida, Tom remembers a good barbecue being the highlight of his family's weekend.
"We would always go into the barbecue joint. I realized that I still have that love for barbecue, authentic barbecue, not just hamburger with catsup on it.
"Everything we do here is authentic and it is a dry rub."
They are attracting enough customers now that they are thinking about hiring more employees.
"I have 12 employees right now, but will need to bring on five to 10 more if it keeps going the way it's going before the summer season begins," Tom said.
The couple is finally reaping the benefits of their hard work. When they lived off one income, Wendy homeschooled their three children.
"We have not looked back," Wendy said. "We have been humbled by the response. I think the biggest and the neatest thing is watching the faces of our customers and patrons who we now call friends.
"They are getting food that is delicious, but it is more than that. They are getting treated the way they should be treated when they hand over their money at the door."
They have a sign that reads "kindness matters," and they believe it.
Their only regret?
"Not doing it sooner," Wendy laughs.
But Tom said he has proved his point.
"I set out to prove that a restaurant of this caliber is a good thing. The people that have been coming have proven me right, that good authentic barbecues don't cheat on anything," he said.
"Make it right and people will enjoy it."
Tom & Wendy Baumbach
New Paris, Ohio