Sowell’s BBQ overcomes challenges during COVID-19 threat

Kiley Wilson awaits a curb-side order at Sowell's BBQ in Three Rivers. (Photo by Chris Filoteo)

THREE RIVERS – For 10 years, Sowell’s BBQ has been a Three Rivers downtown staple for a place to eat.

But it’s more than just that for owner Rick Sowell.

“Our place has been a community gathering for lunch for some time,” he said. “We used to have lots of laughing with music. It’s not the same.”

 Since Governor Greg Abbott lifted restaurant orders to allow dine-in service, Sowell’s has continued to find a way to keep the doors open providing quality BBQ to the community.

“Nothing will set us back,” Rick said. “We will always produce some food. My coaching background prepared me to find ways to make things work. We made a plan after the initial order and made it work.”

Other factors than COVID-19 have played a role with declining business at Sowell’s.

“Now the lack of business with oil prices and fear of the public is hurting us the most,” Rick said.

Currently, Live Oak County has five confirmed COVID-19 cases, which placed the county restaurants within opening their dining rooms at 25 percent capacity.

Sowell’s can host 24 customers inside its dining room, which is open Monday-Saturday from 10:30 a.m.- 2 p.m., along with curb-side service.

“Right now we are at 90 percent curb-side business,” Rick said. “We will continue to keep the curb-side going. It helps the elderly and people in a hurry. That’s been a big surprise.”

Despite losing business during the COVID-19 threat, Sowell’s has provided donated meals to first responders and insecure food families.

“By far its been the people donating pans of food,” Rick said about positive outcomes during this time.

“One day we had $1,400 in orders for donations. I’m proud to feed front-line workers and local families with the family meals. There are several families that donate two pans a week. It feeds some people that really need it. If you’re hungry we will feed you.”

With restrictions slightly lifted, there is a common denominator for Rick’s staff during operating hours.

“It’s the constant reminding of protocol for standards,” Rick said. “My staff is great and they already know the standards.  I’ve always been a hugger and person that shakes hands. I can’t wait to get back to that if we ever do.”

Another part of business that has suffered is not being able to cater events.

“We’ve always done local catering for events,” Rick said.

“If it’s allowed we will do a graduation ceremony.”

Sowell’s BBQ is located at 114 W Thornton in downtown Three Rivers and can be contacted at 361-786-3333.