June 26, 2020
Written By: Shiloh Francis
Transitioning from airman to civilian left Felix “Sauce Boss” Irving feeling something was missing. He no longer had his brothers in arms to laugh and work with. There was a lack of a mission.
Looking back on his childhood in Louisiana, food was always at the center of Irving’s life. From his parents to great grandparents, he learned how to cook. “My momma always said her son needed to be able to fend for himself. I was raised to cook and clean and everything in between.” But there was an even deeper lesson there. Irving began to see the way food brings people together.
Becoming the Sauce Boss
With a large group of friends and family in town to celebrate his wedding, Irving found himself with all of the meat ready to cook but no sauce. He turned to Google and discovered he only had half the ingredients to make his own. The solution to his problem? Do what any good New Orleans boy would do: make it up.
“All my friends knew I loved bourbon, and I got a lot of bottles as a gift,” Felix laughed. “I needed to ‘church it up’ so I finished the sauce off with a splash of Bourbon for a blessing.” By the time the weekend was over the newlyweds found themselves with no leftovers and an overwhelming demand to know where he bought the sauce.
Trust the Vibe
That weekend sparked an inspiration. “All my life I would trust The Vibe and it never failed me,” he reflected. “I was getting a vibe (and a nudge from my wife) I needed to make the sauce.”
After several weekends of trial and error with his wife Amber, the couple finally settled on the recipe and Beard-BQ sauce was born. As he’d meet people who heard about the sauce through word of mouth, it became clear that this Vibe was paying off. Beard-BQ was more than a weekend success and a few jars for friends. Felix began selling his sauce at area vendor shows like
Kountry Junkin and can now be spotted at the Black Hills Farmers Market in addition to his online sales.
“I just love meeting people,” answered Felix when asked what he enjoyed most about his business. He can be found at his booth talking, laughing and sharing tips, tricks and recipes. “I was able to share tips with one guy who was so excited about his brand new smoker…and the very next show he came back to tell me all about the tips he learned from me!”
Felix found vendor shows to be a great way to get the word out, but the Farmers Market is where he feels at home. “There are local ranchers selling meat and Beard-BQ is the perfect compliment to that…it’s my real tie to the community.”
Local. Small. Everywhere.
Three words to best describe how Felix plans to grow Beard-BQ. The sauces are shipped all over the United States, but he loves being able to support and promote other Rapid City businesses. “The Pool & Spa Center should really be called the Pool and Sauce Center if you ask me! They sell all sorts of sauce!” Selling locally not only allows him to passionately support local businesses, but once again gives him a tie to the community. Many customers have been in store looking a jar of sauce, only to find themselves speaking with the Sauce Boss himself.
Iriving has been able to grow his sales enough to now be working full-time for himself. This has allowed him to expand marketing efforts to a Podcast and Youtube series where he shares recipes and cooking tips. “People think cooking is hard. I want to show them that it really isn’t.” It’s more than a sauce to him, it’s about starting a revolution.
Life in the Black Hills
Enlisting in the Air Force, Irving quickly found himself in a whole new world. His first assignment was in North Dakota and later to South Korea. “I passed Geography, but I still had to get a map to figure out where the heck North Dakota was!” When at last the day came to learn of his assignment back in the States, the captain delivered the news through a locked door: Felix was being stationed at Ellsworth Air Force Base.
“My captain expected me to be upset, but honestly I loved the people of the Midwest.” While getting the same friendliness he found in North Dakota, Irving was even more excited to discover everything there was to do in the Black Hills. “I can hike, go shooting or just enjoy a great drive, I love it here!” And he has no plans of leaving.
Long-term, Felix hopes to grow Beard-BQ to a full manufacturing facility in Rapid City. More than anything, he has a heart for hiring Veterans. “People don’t realize that when you leave the military it’s like losing your family,” he reflects. “I want to bring that back.” Whether it’s regular staff barbecues or adventures in the Hills, he believes that while there’s work to be done, it’s not worth doing if you aren’t having fun.
Or as they say in Louisiana: laissez les bon temps rouler ("Lay-say le bon tom roo-lay")…"let the good times roll!”
Revolutionize your next meal. Find Beard-BQ at these Rapid City stores:
Pool & Spa Center, Black Hills Fireplace, Staple and Spice, Someone’s in the Kitchen, Dakota Seafood, Time Square Liquor.