And yes, there are apartments.
I have a small charcoal grill I have never used.
To me, it has seemed woefully sufficient to my needs: small, inexpensive (I actually got it for free from a friend), willing to be rained on, a good place for a spare key in a pinch.
That’s why I had relatively standard expectations visiting the new nearly 300,000 square foot Rec Tec Grills building in Columbia County. A rose is a rose and was always a rose, but is a grill ever much more than a grill?
After visiting Rec Tec Grill’s new facility on Thursday, I might be swayed by their unique brand of grilling as lifestyle and business as part of a very large, grilling-enthusiast family.
At the very least, I am beginning to understand that when we talk about REC TEC Grills, we are talking about something more than a grill, even a perfect grill, one that you can control with an app on your phone and cook just about anything to perfection.
In a relatively short amount of time, REC TEC Grills has moved well beyond their origin story, the classic rags-to-riches tale that began in 2009 when co-founder Ray Carnes, stymied by the recession, called longtime close friend Ron Cundy with yet another idea: let’s make the perfect grill.
They started their passion project in their garages before moving to a smaller facility divided among six warehouses.
They sold fewer than eighty grills their first year. Standing in their new 200,000 square-foot warehouse, Ashley Brown, the Customer Service Manager at REC TEC, tells me, “there have been days like in this past June we sold 200 in a day. So the growth is just insane.”
Despite their obvious international success, so much of Rec Tec’s appeal is predicated on the way they continue to operate as a local, family-oriented business.
Several of the people on the staff (which has grown from about nine to ninety people in four years) attended middle school with Carnes. When they interview a person for a position, Brown looks for those qualities that will make them good a fit in the company’s passionate work hard, play hard environment.
“I think we can teach just about anybody to do the job, I just want to see that you’re going to fit in and be part of the team.”Ashley Brown
In fact, the company culture is so positive that he can think of just one person who has willingly left a position at REC TEC, and he did so to finish college out of town.
Much of the company’s success is also due to Carnes himself, who by every account is the same ebullient, larger-than-life, down-to-earth guy he has always been, since before he was a door-to-door vacuum salesman and used car salesman, and even as he has “become kind of a local celebrity to people,” says Brown.
He will still give his cellphone number to every person who buys a REC TEC Grill and has been known to take calls from potential customers from his swimming pool at home. When I see him in the warehouse, both times he is walking with customers. One, named Kathy, was introduced to me in the showroom when I first arrived. She is a loyal customer who drove an hour with her husband to see the new place.
With the new building they aspire to be the mecca of grilling, large enough to consolidate what has become an enthusiastic lifestyle brand in addition to a grill business (soon to include coolers in addition to their line of grill condiments and Durty Gurl Cocktail Mixers, a company they acquired in 2016).
Along with the new warehouse, they now have space for their own shipping facility, a media department, two hotel-like executive suites (for any of the in-house chefs who are grilling overnight), a call center, a showroom, retail space, two outdoor kitchens, an indoor kitchen that doubles as production set for their Facebook Live and YouTube videos, a classroom for the people who join REC TEC Academy to learn how to grill from the finest barbecue masters, a gym, two locker rooms, and a fully-operational bar.
Chef Greg Mueller, Director of Culinary Innovation and one of the in-house chefs, is excited about the way the building will facilitate their continued hands-on approach to business.
“You validate it,” he says. “Not only is it a great product. Not only is it great customer service. It works. We get out in the community and do it and we’ll go to events and even competitive events and people are floored that we’re doing it.
And then having this environment here where we have an intimate space where we can interact? That’s huge. We bring people here to teach them how to make world-class barbecue, brisket, and chicken. No other company does it like that.”
That same hand-on approach is evident when I visited just four days after they moved into the new building. They are preparing for their ribbon-cutting on Friday, February 14 and their Grand Opening, a REC TEC FEST on Saturday, February 15, where they expect around 2,500 people to join them for live music, inflatables, sales on “scratch and dent” or used grills, and of course food, including two 220 pound whole hogs, sixty racks of ribs, and about 2,500 hot dogs.
Three years ago, they had about 1,000 people drive from as far as Canada, many of whom camped out in front of REC TEC in anticipation of the event.
Soon after I entered the new REC TEC building, which brought to mind the likes of an Apple or Google headquarters, Chef Jody Flanagan introduced himself to me, saying “Welcome to our humble abode.” “Not humble, but awesome,” I replied almost too quickly. As I walked around, I realized I wasn’t quite right about that. For all of the pomp, show, and obvious success, there is something humbling about being here.
The outside banners had yet to be hung, the outdoor kitchens were unfinished, and the massive fiberglass bull, a three-dimensional facsimile of their trademark logo is still being painted.
They apologize for the mess, but for a company four days into moving and just two weeks from a Grand Opening, there is no obvious mess, just palpable excitement for the future.
Amanda Collins, the brand manager and graphic designer for Durty Gurl Cocktail Mixers, who showed me around the building, ends our tour of REC TEC, the unfinished passion-project by making a round of margaritas at the bar, where Carnes and a customer join us.
REC TEC Grills
2019 Winner of Metro’s Best Outdoor Kitchen
Retail store now open 6 days a week
Monday 10 AM – 7 PM
Tuesday – Friday 9 AM – 7 PM
Saturday 9 AM – 3 PM
4301 Evans to Locks Rd, Evans, GA 30809