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The Shed: ‘barbeque, beer and blues’ across country?

Ocean Springs — Those kids are at it again.
Brad Orrison and his sister, Brooke Orrison Lewis, started

The Shed Barbeque next to their parents’ Journey’s End Campground just north of the Interstate 10/Mississippi 57 intersection in Ocean Springs in 2001. Twice since then they have been named to the National BBQ News Magazine’s list of “Best of the Best Barbeque Restaurants in America.”

The brother-sister duo’s restaurant is the only barbeque restaurant in Mississippi to make the national list. And now the Orrison family is taking the show on the road, planning to franchise The Shed.

“The key to the expansion of The Shed will be keeping the original, funky, juke joint feeling in each new restaurant,” Brad said. “It won’t be a plastic and formica copy of a slick place, but one that maintains the rural local flavor and down-home roots. The Shed building in Jackson County will not be duplicated. That would be impossible. Each Shed will be its own unique entity ranging from pre-existing buildings to individually designed Sheds. Each will have a music venue of the blues, the same as the original. Though each location will be different based on space, layout and other considerations, the basic themes will be consistent.”

The Shed Barbeque was literally started in a shed-like building by the Orrison family. Brad likes to say they started The Shed on a shoestring budget — without the shoestring. A lot of the furnishings are eclectic items collected from Brad’s “dumpster diving.”

Brad learned a lot at Ole Miss that helped him launch the successful business — and not just in the classroom. His off-campus experiences also had a lot to do with his three B’s formula for success: barbeque, beer and blues. He enjoyed listening to blues music in college, and as a result has a different blues music band every Saturday night from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. on an outdoor stage.

“It is not just getting fed at The Shed that makes it successful,” said Brad, who graduated with a degree in marketing from Ole Miss. “It is an experience. From the time you come in the door, you feel like you are on a bayou somewhere or in a Third World country. We have a playground outside for the kids. The family atmosphere is really a major pull for us.”

Brad says they have received calls from across the country from people interested in franchising The Shed. There has been interest from Bay St. Louis, Hattiesburg and Oxford in Mississippi, and Seattle, Atlanta, Pensacola, Jacksonville, Fla., and New Orleans.

“I have to put one at Ole Miss because that is where I graduated from,” he said. “We have a bunch of possibilities. We are up to 20 states right now with people we have screened and are actually working with. We have a franchise team set up. Anyone who has a location where they think a Shed might work, please contact us. We’re hoping to find a Caribbean island location so we can go visit that a bunch.”

Brooke, who was only 19 when they started the business, said they have had overwhelming response to the first few articles about The Shed franchising.

“We are just extremely excited,” Brooke said. “A lot of people who have talked to us for years about franchising, who have wanted their own Shed, have flown in to discuss a franchise. They want a Shed in their hometown so they have a great place to hang out where there is good food and music. Most all the franchises will have a live music venue. Whether they want to do it one, five or seven nights a week is up to them. Hopefully, one day, we will have a Shed circuit so blues entertainers from New Orleans and other places will travel around the country to play at each individual Shed.”

What about sibling rivalry between the two owners? Lewis admits they are pretty normal and had their spats as kids. But now they make a great team patterned after their parents. Their brother, Brett, is also part of the team and books the musical acts.

“We have a really strong family,” said Brooke, whose husband, Bobby Lewis, is part of the corporate and franchising team. “Brad, my parents and our other brother, Brett, are strong and close to each other. Brad and my mother are the creative minds. They come up with crazy ideas. I take after my dad, and am the left brain person. I make sure there is the money to do it. I’m more the bean counter. Our parents have run a business successfully for 22 years, and still have a great marriage. My dad has his own place in the campground business with management and finances, and my mom, Linda, does the creative and marketing parts of the business.”

Linda Orrison says the entire Shed Crew is excited and confident that they will meet the challenge of this new adventure while keeping the quality and continual growth of the first Shed a main concern.

Linda and her husband, Craig, who is known as “Daddy-O,” taught their kids “true Southern hospitality.”

“We have grown up in the South,” Brad said. “Southern hospitality has been instilled in us since day one by our parents. Dad’s old truck had only one bumper sticker and it said: ‘Support tourism because tourism supports us.’”

And certainly a discussion of the Orrison family effort that makes The Shed wouldn’t be complete without talking about the owners’ grandmother, Nita Root, better known both inside and out of the family as G Maw.

“When we first started, G Maw gave me a Lowe’s card with $2,500 on it, and that is where all the stuff in the Shed that didn’t come from dumpsters came from,” Brad said. “She also runs G Maw’s World Famous Bar outside of The Shed on Saturday nights. She has been serving beer since the Prohibition. She has the coldest beer in the South.”

A great relationship with their employees was instrumental in the decision to franchise.

“We are going to make this a Shed Crew success,” says Brooke. “Everyone will benefit. We can’t do it without them. In addition to our corporate team, we have two retired engineers, Lee Ann and Gary Smith, who are our catering specialists. They do a tremendous amount of catering.”

Brooke said The Shed will be seeking potential franchise owners who are creative, fun loving but hardworking people who have a like mind-set to keep the Shed as a comfortable place to gather.

“We are looking not only for people who have the business ability to operate a sound, financially successful business, but also possess the ‘Spirit of BBQ and the Blues,’” she said.

The Shed has hired Paul Stewart of Paul Stewart and Associates in Dallas to help The Shed’s corporate team tackle the enormous step of franchising.

“Paul Stewart and Associates have franchised over 300 restaurants nation-wide and after an in-depth analysis of The Shed have agreed to team up with The Shed to accomplish their franchising goals,” Brad said. “They have provided The Shed a comprehensive franchise feasibility analysis. This analysis includes every aspect of The Shed concept, prototype, management, training, marketing, competitive analysis, financial analysis and spreadsheets, investment model, income model, summary and conclusions.”

The franchise fee for a Shed will be in the range of $20,000. Initial cost depending upon purchase of land, existing building or new construction is approximately $300,000.
In addition to live blues music on Saturdays, The Shed now has a Sunday night “Juke Joint Jam Session” from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.

“We will have the PA ready, and all you have to do is ‘plug and play,’” Brad says.

The Orrison family also believes in humanitarian work. The Shed held a Band Aid concert earlier this year to raise money for victims of the tsunami. About 2,400 people came out for the musical event that raised nearly $13,000 for AmeriCares.

Contact MBJ contributing writer Becky Gillette at bgillette@bellsouth.net.

About Becky Gillette

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