Tay Nelson’s Journey from YouTube Tutorials to Pitmaster
The Restaurant Business: A Family LegacyGrowing up, Tay worked in a local restaurant with his father. He started out washing dishes at the ripe age of 12, and by the time he reached high school, he spent his summers managing the lunch service. Tay’s father, Bobby Sr., loved to be in the kitchen and worked as a cook at various restaurants in Greenville. Bobby Sr. dreamed of owning his own restaurant but never realized his dream because of his untimely passing. Tay lost two of his biggest supporters, his father and his brother, Bobby Jr., within a year of each other. The loss of his loved ones fueled a desire within him to carry out their legacy through his passion for Texas-style barbecue.
While Tay spent much of his life in the restaurant business, he was never infatuated with cooking – until the day he got a craving for barbecue like his dad used to make. Clueless on where to start, he turned to YouTube and the guidance of everyday folks sharing their tips, tricks, and step-by-step tutorials on all things barbecue. Tay stumbled across a simple how-to video and tried his hand at smoking meat for the first time; from that day forward, cooking became an invaluable part of his life. “My wife told me not to become obsessed, and that’s exactly what happened,” Tay jokes.
The Leap from Hobbyist to PitmasterTay started exploring how he could turn his hobby into a livelihood for his family. At this point, he was going door to door in his neighborhood selling plates and catering events, but he wanted to take his business to the next level. He wanted to chase his dream. Tay and his wife, Sarah, had a clear vision and wanted to open a restaurant of their own.
As ‘ready’ as they were, finding a banking partner who believed in their vision was no easy feat. Although Tay and Sarah had a business idea, lending to a start-up restaurant with ground-up construction was a risky gamble. After getting turned down by multiple banks, they reached out to Adam Farmer, a commercial banker at SouthState. Inspired by their story, Adam had a feeling they would be successful and was determined to help turn their dream into reality.
“When I first met Tay and Sarah in 2018, it was clear to me that they had a great vision for what they wanted to accomplish with their business – but more importantly, their passion was obvious,”
With a small business loan from SouthState, Bobby’s BBQ came to fruition. Customers traveled from North Carolina, Georgia, and Texas to try Tay’s smoked meats and southern sides. As the business grew, they needed more funding to keep up with the demands from their customers. In 2020, Bobby’s BBQ obtained an auto loan to purchase a catering van so they could expand their line of services.
Fired Up About Creating CommunityBarbecue isn’t the only thing Tay and Sarah Nelson are passionate about – community is at the heart of their business. In true Southern hospitality manner, Bobby’s BBQ is a place where you enter as a guest, and you leave as family. “I truly thought that barbecue is what I loved the most, but what I really learned I love the most is the people,” said Tay.
Tay’s father would be proud of how Tay and Sarah are not only dishing up tasty food, but also building relationships in their community. “There’s a chain reaction that happens when a small business succeeds,” Adam says. “Tay and Sarah provide for their family because of the business. They’ve also created dozens of jobs that help others provide for their families. Their restaurant makes the community better… and for someone in my role, nothing is more rewarding than being part of that.”
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