ABILENE, Texas (KRBC) – It’s hard to walk through any Texas grocery store without seeing Stubb’s barbecue sauce on the shelf. The sauce and popular restaurant in Austin have become favorites for barbecue lovers. But it wasn’t always easy for the founder, Charles B. Stubblefield. KRBC is digging into the history behind the man on the bottle, Stubb himself.
Stubb’s family moved to Lubbock in the 1930s. Growing up, he learned to cook in hotels and restaurants, but it was during his service in the Korean War that he perfected his craft. He oversaw meal preparation for more than 10,000 soldiers in the 96th Artillery, the last all-black Army infantry.
When he returned home, he opened the first Stubb’s restaurant in 1968 in Lubbock. Stubb had a dream in his heart and a goal in his mind.
“He used to say, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, I’m a cook and I want to feed the world,'” his grandson, Rocky Stubblefield recalls.
His daughter-in-law, Joann Jones, “started [working] right out of high school, working as a waitress, cook, and dishwasher.” She says the restaurant’s quick success came from Stubb himself.
“[It] was him being excited about food, people, and knowing how to cook it,” Jones says.
Many famous musicians came to the Lubbock location, playing for plates of barbecue. While it seemed like a success, his grandson Reggie says, “He was in a lot of trouble getting started.”
“Some people didn’t want to go to his restaurant because he was African-American,” Rocky says.
But, Stubb stuck to his mission to feed the world.
“Stubb was the type, he didn’t see color, he just saw people,” Jones remembers.
He spent his life teaching Rocky and Reggie all about the barbecue business. It quickly became “part of the Stubblefield family history,” Rocky says. These men were around barbecue their whole lives, and learning the business was hard work.
“He always made you work if you want something,” Reggie recalls. “Hard work, too. He gave me my first job wrapping bottles with electric tape, going around in his Cadillac, and dropping them off to people.”
In the early 1980s, the Lubbock location closed. A new location opened in 1986 in Austin, and it was there Stubb truly got his claim to fame. His sauces became high in demand. In 1993, bottles of his sauce made with his secret ingredients “love and happiness” hit the shelves. He even appeared on Letterman in 1993.
Stubb died in 1995, but Rocky and Reggie are carrying on his legacy. Since his death, a new Austin location has been established, the sauce has gone international, and Stubb’s is pretty much a household name for barbecue lovers.
Rocky and Reggie say if Stubb was here today, he might not believe how far his dream has come.
“He’d probably faint,” Reggie says. “Or drink a Budweiser and say, ‘See, I told y’all.’ But, I know he’s looking down on us.”
While Austin is where you can get the authentic Stubb’s touch, sometimes that legacy makes a stop in the Big Country. Rocky and Reggie visit their mom, Joann, in Sweetwater and serve up Stubb’s famous barbecue and sauce.
“We’ll go through there with a trailer and they wave at us and they love when we come to town,” Rocky says.
According to the Stubblefield family, the key to good barbecue: “Stubb’s!”