Smokin Brothers marks Chaffee opening
CHAFFEE, Mo. — Follow the smoke and the scent of barbecue pulled pork.
That’s all you had to do last week to find the Chaffee home of Smokin Brothers, a family-run company that manufactures and sells wood pellet grills -- along with sauces, seasonings and other barbecue accessories -- throughout much of the United States.
On Friday, the company hosted a ribbon cutting and tours (along with a barbecue lunch) to mark the “official” opening of its Chaffee operation in a 64,000-square-foot building on Chaffee’s Main Street, once home to a Thorngate clothing factory as well as several other warehousing and manufacturing businesses over the years.
Ryan Eftink — who founded Smokin Brothers along with his brother, Adam, and brother-in-law, Craig Crawford (hence the company name) — says the Chaffee facility has ample room for needed expansion.
“We’re experiencing awesome sales right now,” Ryan said. Smokin Brothers’ wood pellet grills, which are mostly intended for residential use, are currently available through a network of 350 dealers in 38 states. “And we’re gaining new dealers every day,” he said.
“Right now, we’re on a three-week delay on shipments,” Ryan said. “A lot of customers want to have our grill, which is a great problem. I’m not complaining!”
Smokin Brothers was established about 15 years ago when Ryan and Craig formed a barbecue competition team with help from Adam and Ryan and Adam’s father, David Eftink. “We began getting some wins under our belt and so we started selling our sauces, rubs and seasonings,” Ryan said. “Things kept evolving and we also got into barbecue accessories as well.”
In 2008, the competition team formalized itself as a business, becoming Smokin Brothers Inc. and by 2011, the company had expanded its product offerings to include natural wood pellets and grills. By then, Ryan was applying his engineering degree from Kansas State University to design a line of residential wood pellet grills, which the Smokin Brothers began making in the United States rather than outsourcing production to an overseas manufacturer.
“We initially worked with a partner in Kentucky to start with, but unfortunately that gentleman passed away,” Ryan said. “So we brought everything back to Missouri.”
Until recently, the company’s grills were made in Jackson, but the move to Chaffee gave the Smokin Brothers room to expand and add new production technology, such as a 35-ton fiber-optic laser cutting unit, which was too large for the company’s Jackson location.
The laser cutter, Ryan said, gives Smokin Brothers more control over the production process.
“We used to pay someone to cut our parts for us, and when we did the math, it just made more sense for us to do it ourselves and control our own destiny,” he said. “In the past, when I wanted to have an accessory made, we had to have 100 of them cut and if 100 were wrong, then there were 100 for the scrap bin.”
The laser unit can “cut a grill out” of sheets of steel in less than seven minutes, significantly reducing production time for each grill, which is helping the Smokin Brothers keep up with an order backlog.
The Smokin Brothers’ line of grills is engineered to evenly distribute heat throughout the grilling container -- from left to right and from top to bottom.
“That’s the one thing that really helps out more than anything else, because when you’re barbecuing, you want less temperature fluctuation,” Ryan explained.
“And then there’s the structure of our grills,” he said, noting the Smokin Brothers grills incorporate solid welded frames and heavier-duty castors than the ones typically found on many other barbecue grills, 95% of which are foreign made, Ryan estimated.
“I always tell people, ‘You don’t need a passport to see our factory,’” he said.
As of now, the Smokin Brothers has 18 employees, but with increased production on the horizon, Ryan said “we’re looking to hire some more.”
The company has an office and retail outlet at Double D Supply Co. (so named for Adam and Ryan’s parents, David and Doris Eftink) at 1923 N. Kingshighway in Cape Girardeau. Eventually, Ryan said, the office will move to the Chaffee location, but the showroom will remain in Cape Girardeau.
The barbecue business, Ryan said, is not something he planned on for a career.
“My original plan was to start and grow my own engineering firm, but my passion is cooking,” he said. “All my friends are engineers now. They laugh and tell me, ‘You were one of the go getters in our class and now you’re selling barbecue grills,’ and I say, ‘Yeah, but I’m having fun.’”