VAUXHALL, NJ – A Vauxhall restaurant owner has been named the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) New Jersey 2020 Small Business Person of the Year.

Christopher Finnick, CEO and owner of Mama’s Southern Style BBQ2, received the award from the SBA, which honors and recognizes the achievements of small business owners across the country.

Fourteen years ago, Finnick jumped from behind the wheel of driving a delivery truck for Staples to get behind the grill of his uncle’s southern style barbeque takeout restaurant.  Despite taking over the successful Vauxhall-based takeout barbecue restaurant and having the benefit of his uncle mentoring him for a year, Finnick said that he had to learn everything on the fly and adapt to the pressures of meeting his customers’ demands. 

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Over time, according to an SBA press release, Finnick would master the kitchen and learn the day-to-day operations of running a successful takeout restaurant.  After a decade of operating out of 750 square foot space, he realized if he were ever going to grow his business, he would have to get assistance.  In 2018, with a business plan in hand, Finnick secured both an SBA loans, allowing him to purchase new equipment and move into a 2,200 square foot facility.

The added space also increased the restaurant’s capacity, allowing Finnick to offer catering and to continue to serve up his signature southern style barbecue dishes of chicken, ribs, pulled pork, fried shrimp and catfish.  In just a short time, Mama’s Southern Style BBQ 2, LLC increased its annual sales by 61% and the number of employees by 66%.

The COVID-19 virus initially presented some challenges for Finnick and Mama’s Southern Style BBQ2.  “In the beginning of the pandemic, we were struggling,” said Finnick. “However, with the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan from the SBA, we were able to retain our 10 employees.   We put a lot of safety measures in place, including plexiglass across our pick-up counter and a sliding barnyard door in front of the grill to ensure that our food preparation area is safe, as well.  Because we are primarily a takeout barbecue restaurant, we saw our sales increase by 40%.”

“This is a story about having passion, tenacity and vision,” said SBA New Jersey District Director Al Titone.  “Chris Finnick possesses these necessary characteristics that all small business owners need to achieve a certain level of success.  This is what the American dream is all about.  SBA is proud of the role we have in fostering business growth across the country and here in New Jersey.  We honor entrepreneurs like Chris Finnick whose achievements over the past year stand out and have faced the challenges that COVID-19 has presented to them and their ability to pivot, retool, recover, and triumph in light of the pandemic.” 

Finnick continues to serve up a menu that includes barbecue chicken, ribs, pulled pork, fried shrimp and fried catfish that come with an assortment of sides that include collard greens, string beans, cabbage, baked mac & cheese, french fries, coleslaw and potato salad, as well as its signature cornbread and desserts.  According to Finnick, the rubs and sauces for the barbecue are family recipes that come from North Carolina and have a vinegar-base.   Meats stay on the barbecue pit for six to seven hours at a time.

Today, Mama’s Southern Style BBQ 2 employs 10 people with an eye toward increasing that total down the road.  In the meantime, Finnick has enjoyed numerous visits from members of the New York Jets and New York Giants Football Teams and New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy.

“I have to let the news of  being named SBA’s New Jersey 2020 Small Business Person of the Year to sink in,” said Finnick, “It is an honor for me to be standing here today as the recipient of this prestigious award. I thank my family, all my employees, the Kean University SBDC, Regional Business Assistance Corporation, SBA and our loyal customer-base, who believed in me and helped me achieve this level of success.” 

“We have a great team here at Mama’s Southern Style BBQ 2.  My vision is to continue to build on our success and to eventually expand to a nice sit-down restaurant and possibly franchising the takeout concept down the road," he added.