Barbecue, bees and nutrition are what define three small local businesses with different backgrounds that share a very common problem, the pandemic.
Sundown Smokehouse, owned by Mark Renaud and Jessica Schuchardt, is a barbecue restaurant on North Dixie Freeway in New Smyrna Beach. Beast Coast Nutrition, owned by Jonathan Peres and based in New Smyrna Beach, provides custom-designed healthy meals. Marlin’s Bees Products and South of the Mouth Café, owned by Marlin and Donna Athearn of New Smyrna Beach, offers concession service and specialty catering in addition to honey and other products.
These businesses have seen their ventures curtailed by closures and self isolation ordered due to the coronavirus outbreak, but the Athearns are trying to help.
Ms. Athearns said they are selling Marlin’s Bees Products to local restaurants at a discount to help them use more local honey products in their recipes. By using more of the local flavors of the bees’ honey, the restaurants can enhance what they offer customers in taste and natural benefits of local pollen and nectar sources. It helps the restaurants and it helps the Athearns.
“I hope eventually, as their business picks up and their recipes take off, they will buy more honey,” she said.
As Mr. Renaud prepared the Sundown Smokehouse for customers one morning, he took a few minutes to talk about the struggles they have encountered.
“First there was Hurricane Dorian, then the pandemic,” he says. “But we got the doors open, and the locals have supported us really well.”
They opened the business in August after moving here from St. Louis. Mr. Renaud, who grew up in Sanford, said he has been in the barbecue business since 1996. He was pit master for three restaurants in St. Louis. He earned Grand Champion in the Fair Saint Louis Barbeque Contest and put the trophy on display at his restaurant in New Smyrna Beach when he decided it was time to come back to Florida. He specializes in ribs, brisket, pulled pork, chicken and turkey, along with sides, cornbread and muffins made fresh daily.
During the pandemic closure they offer free delivery, curbside service and takeout. Now they are open at 50% capacity, and he’s experimenting with the Athearns’ honey in his peach glaze and sweet sauces.
Ms. Athearn started coming in as a customer and soon they were all friends, Mr. Renaud said. Together they decided to incorporate honey into the sauces.
Ms. Athearn, a long-time New Smyrna Beach resident and businesswoman, makes friends easily. The pandemic soon had her working with another business, Beast Coast Nutrition, on incorporating honey into their healthy products.
She said the owner, Mr. Peres, knows the nutritional value of honey and uses it in many of the products he offers his customers. Two of Beast Coast Nutrition’s businesses are at LA Fitness in Port Orange and in Orange City. Both gyms were closed during the pandemic, leaving only the New Smyrna Beach location on Arnau Drive open for online orders, home delivery and grab-and-go meals.
Mr. Peres specializes in high-protein, healthy meals for a healthy lifestyle and for healthy athletes. He has a friend, retired NHL hockey player Adam Pineault, who said, “Since I began my athlete meal plan (with Beast Coast Nutrition) I have felt like I was playing in the NHL all over again.”
Mr. Peres said, “Our mission is to help the community get motivated and inspired to eat fresh, flavorful, nutrient-dense food.”
He added, “We support all small businesses. I have flyers from other small businesses at my shop. We love being part of the community.”
All these small businesses in New Smyrna Beach have worked to promote each other. The Athearns’ South of the Mouth catering service team has been offered to restaurants for outside events and personnel. She is redesigning her food displays so they can be offered by service personnel rather than self-serve. The one part of their businesses that still produces at a “pre-pandemic” rate is the honey, because “bees have not stopped producing,” she said.
“During the Covid-19 shutdown,” Mrs. Athearn said, “We found that we can still work with local businesses to bring a better offering to a commercial restaurant base and help our honey sales, too. Small businesses working together can benefit everyone’s customer base.”