Small Business Spotlight: Burgers & Blues
by Stephen McDill
Published: June 20,2010
Appetite is necessary at this joint
Stamps puts his stamp on another successful restaurant in metro area
Tucked just blocks away from the teeming thoroughfare of County Line Road in Ridgeland, Burgers & Blues is off to a swinging start.
Owner Al Stamps is already a familiar face to Jackson foodies, thanks to his award-winning restaurant Stamps’ Superburger on McWillie Drive. The Jackson native said he learned to cook hamburgers after his father retired from teaching to open up a grill inside a neighborhood grocery store near Jackson State University.
“My father said teaching school was the toughest job he ever had,” Stamps said, his dreadlocks tucked back into a rasta hat. “Somehow (the burgers) caught on and became really popular.”
The younger Stamps and his wife opened up Superburger in 1998 and enjoyed their own financial success. Stamps said this is where he first met future business partner Steven Sahler. “He came up to me out of the blue and said, ‘Man, how would you like to open up one of these places in Ridgeland,’” Stamps said. The two men exchanged phone numbers and began planning.
Sahler, a seasoned veteran waiter and bartender for several other metro Jackson restaurants, said the combination of a family restaurant with a lively nightspot was always intended. Stamps said he wanted a place where he felt comfortable bringing his children.
“A lot of your restaurants — they either have one thing or another,” Sahler said. “Either they got great food or a great bar. The thing about a great restaurant is that you’re family friendly but the thing about a great bar is that you’re not family friendly. My vision was a kid-friendly place where I could hit everyone from infants to 90-year-olds.”
Appetite is a necessity for Burgers & Blues guests. In addition to signature creations like “The Stamp,” “Sonic Boom” and “The County Line,” other burgers are arranged with everything from pimento cheese to peanut butter. “The Whammy,” three one-pound patties with all the trimmings, is the restaurant’s ultimate eating challenge. Winners who finish in 30 minutes or less get the meal free as well as the customary T-shirt and Polaroid.
Kitchen preparation is labor intensive and Stamps said that every morning the produce truck leaves his crew with hundreds of pounds of potatoes and beef. “All of our stuff that we do here is made up fresh,” Stamps said. “It’d be one thing if we were just taking something out of the freezer but we feel like people can taste the difference in something that’s prepared right on the spot. That’s what we’re banking on.”
While the comment cards rave about the piping hot hamburgers and mouth-watering appetizers, the restaurant’s second most popular attraction is its lineup of live musical acts that perform every Wednesday through Sunday.
Both Stamps and Sahler said they figured the concept of a Mississippi blues-themed establishment was a good fit for the area. Sahler said that, when compared with Memphis and New Orleans, Jackson has only a handful of successful blues bars. “That’s when I said let’s take something that there’s not a lot of here and put it with (Al’s burger) and I think we’ll have a hit,” he said.
The restaurant is also open to classic rock and country acts. A recent weekend performance featuring Jimmy Buffett band member Greg “Fingers” Taylor left both the restaurant and its brand new outdoor deck packed with dozens of families and singles. Giant fans were brought out to chase away the mosquitoes and humidity. “We don’t play any rap or heavy metal or anything like that,” Sahler said.
Sahler said the economic slowdown’s impact on the food and drink industry does not worry him. “People still eat,” he said. “If you got good food, a good atmosphere and good service, people are gonna come. Cause not everyone wants to cook every single night.”
“We work really hard here,” Stamps said. “I think Monday was the first day I got to take off since we first opened back in April. I didn’t mind the work because we’re trying to keep our standards way up. I’m operating on a theory that if you build a better product the world will beat a path to your door.”
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