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July 20, 2013

DODD: Placing their bets on barbecue, Charlestown community

NEW ALBANY — “If you can count your money, you don't have a billion dollars” — J Paul Getty

Tony Salamone drives to Charlestown and back to Indianapolis five days a week where his wife still works in marketing. His brother Drew has moved back in with his parents for the time being. Both have decided to risk their future on Charlestown with a business venture called Bare Shoulder BBQ.

Both of the Salamone brothers have worked in a form of the restaurant industry since the mid-80s. Tony started out working at Don Pablo’s locally before eventually relocating to the Indianapolis area. He moved up from server to training manager and along the way worked at a couple of Indy's high-end restaurants.

Drew has a degree in hotel/restaurant management from Purdue University and until very recently ran student union restaurants in West Lafayette.

The brothers are rolling the dice on their new family eatery at 318 Main Cross on the square in Charlestown. It’s only been open a little over three weeks.

The obvious question was why to start the venture in Charlestown. The discussion included their long-standing relationship to the community. Mom and dad have retired here. Both of the boys spent some of their formative years in Otisco. They see a potential market for something different as a dining taste locally. And as Tony says, “We thought we could bring good food at a good price.” Both say their prices are comparable to the other family barbecue restaurants in southern Indiana.

The Salamone brothers did discuss several possible business concepts. They decided on barbecue at least partly from some of their lives spent living in other places. Drew remembers, “Living in Texas, we found a love for barbecue. It's one food I really enjoy cooking.” Tony also wants to stress that 98 percent of all food is cooked from scratch and the meat is always smoked overnight. Drew reminded me as well that there are a few other items on the menu other than barbecue and there are $5 lunch specials that are subject to change such as meatloaf and hamburgers. However, due to the early success, “Taco Tuesday pulled pork tacos are here to stay.”

One of the goals for the businessmen is to become very involved in the community. With success they would like to sponsor youth teams and have already lent their name to a local fundraising coupon book. “We want to be family friendly. We plan on staying open late after football games.” The business currently offers a discount to all local police, fire, and acting serving members of the military.

As a resident of the Charlestown area it is a fair question to ask if the community can and will support new eateries. I have chosen in the past to spotlight a couple of other ventures that are no longer open. I choose to try and help small business owners because I know so many and understand how much love and work goes into such operations. For most small business entrepreneurs all of their assets can go into pursuing such an attempt with absolutely no guarantee of success and a high percentage of a possibility of failure.

 In the past few years numerous small businesses, especially dining establishments, have opened and closed in Charlestown after a very short time. Obviously the quality of food and service should always be a factor in the success of any profit-making venture.

I have heard many reasons why places like Indies and the twice attempted sandwich shops did not survive long term. Pizza Hut obviously had many competitors. KFC and Indies had a tough adversary in the very delicious, popular, and highly affordable Jay C fried chicken hot bar.

One fairly newly opened restaurant owner recently told the Salamone brothers that Charlestown does not support their business. However, longtime successful operations such as the Charlestown Pizza Company and The Copper Kettle disprove that general statement. If, in fact, Charlestown residents want to continue to improve their quality and quantity of choices, there must be patronage. I totally suspect that as River Ridge continues to attract new companies the area is certainly destined to grow exponentially. For that growth to continue in and around Charlestown there must be new businesses to satisfy increased population growth demands.

In the end no new business can keep their doors open without the register ringing up sales on a daily basis.

People like Drew and Tony Salamone have risked not only capital but will invest long hours of labor to make their new barbecue venture a success. The brothers have already leased some additional space next door to possibly in the long run entertain another food-themed restaurant; perhaps an Italian eatery. At this time they have secured a two-year lease. There are also plans to offer event catering.

As Tony stressed, “I want people to know we are from here.” He hopes the success will allow him and his wife to move closer, perhaps Columbus. Five days per week, his three-hour round trip is one based on his faith that shorter days and success will come.

Their grand opening will officially take place from 7 to 9 p.m. on Friday, July 26, and feature local Elvis impersonator Todd Bodenheimer. Bare Shoulder is open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to  8 p.m. They are on Facebook at facebook.com/bareshoulderbbq and have a website www.bareshoulderbbq.com. The phone number for carry out orders is 812-796-6014.

All they ask is to give them a try and offer feedback whether positive or constructively critical. They want to know what Charlestown expects and they hope to deliver. Or as their menu slogan suggests, simply drop in for some “swine dining.”

— Lindon Dodd is a freelance writer who can be reached at lindon.dodd@hotmail.com

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