Adding spice to life
It is not everyone who can say they had the world's largest data center in their back yard growing up, and then move to an area where they now have the second largest data center in their "backyard."
That is the case for John Charles, who moved to Prineville in 2020 when the COVID pandemic had just locked down the community. Charles recently began marketing a product that he has been perfecting for the past 17 years. His business, John John's BBQ, is now available in several locations around Prineville, but it has been a long journey to get to this point.
Charles grew up in the Bay Area in East Palo Alto, California. His parents' home is still in the neighborhood he grew up in and now has the largest Facebook campus, Menlo Park, facing their back yard. As a youth, he and his classmates were recipients of the testing and beginning phases of Google and Facebook. Many of his childhood friends went to work for them at the ground level of its evolution.
He chose football and went to Portland State University in the 1990s, where he had the opportunity to play football and was student body president of the university. His talent and abilities led him to an opportunity to go the NFL in 1993 and train with the Atlanta Falcons.
He eventually went back to Portland, where he had attended school and lived there for approximately 16 years. He began a football academy for youth in Portland during his time in Portland, and he had youth from around the country who came to train with him. He came to learn of Prineville because Brett Edgerly, of Prineville, brought his son, Ethan Edgerly, to train with Charles.
"I want to thank him for giving me the opportunity to come here," he added of Edgerly's introduction to Prineville. "I got to see the life that people were living—fishing, hunting, hiking—everyone's healthy. It's perfect, so I moved here."
He has resumed some informal football training with youth on weekends. Charles has a third hat, in addition to his barbecue business and his occasional football trainings. He works for Economic Development for Central Oregon as an internship coordinator for Youth Career Connect in Redmond.
Upon settling into Prineville immediately after the COVID lockdown, Charles successfully marketed a new product during the down time, which he has named John John's BBQ. His barbeque sauce is available locally at F5 Smokehouse, Wagner's Market IGA, Sweet Willow & Company, and Prineville Produce.
"With this barbeque sauce, it was not a family-owned recipe, and it wasn't handed down or anything, it was something I created over 12 years ago. When I had it, I was giving it out to folks, and they forgot I gave it them—it wasn't that good," he commented of the evolution of his barbecue sauce.
Over time, he worked on getting the consistency and the measurements correct, but he never felt it was suitable. During the COVID lockdown, Charles was able to slow down and take his time to refine his product and get the taste and consistency just right.
Growing up, Charles noted that his neighborhood had a tradition of cooking and sharing food among themselves. One of the neighbors was making his own barbecue sauce, and he liked it so much he wanted to figure out how he made it.
"It was really, really good. I tried to figure out how he made it. I knew he started with ketchup as a base, and different things you start with. I got those together and I started adding my own touch to it, and it is where it is now," explained Charles.
Charles indicated that it took 17 years to get it where the sauce is now. He initially made it for his own family.
"It was something I was making for my own family, and of course they said they liked it, because it was me. But when you give it to people that do not know you and like it, that's when you know you are onto something."
"Because of the community, I want to give thanks to them," Charles added of the incredible support he has had from the Prineville community.
He went on to say, "They allowed me to let them taste it and try it and sample it—from kids to grandparents. Everybody; Black, white, Chinese."
Upon getting his product to the next level, he took it to Washington, California and Portland, in addition to Prineville.
"Everyone had really positive responses. I tried to find a way to bottle it," he said.
Charles noted that they tried a variety of bottles and ways to present his barbeque sauce, but some were clunky, including plastic squeeze bottles and mason jars. He found a bottling company from Seattle, Washington, that provides traditional bottles.
"Now it's consistent with everyone else with a good product inside."
Charles emphasized that he owes a great deal of gratitude to those businesses and individuals who have supported him in marketing his product successfully. He wanted to give a special thanks to John and Candace Frantz and Jess Carter at F5 Smokehouse; Terry and Deb Harper at Wagner's; Patrick and Becky Clark at Prineville Produce; Suzie Kristensen and her staff at COCC Campus—for the use of their kitchen; Somerli at Sweet Willow & Company; Isabelle Grove at Busy Izzy Granola; Linda Stephenson at L&S Gardens; and Andrew Cambouris and his staff at Contrast Design Works in the Bay Area.
"And most importantly, I want to thank all of the folks in this community that have purchased a bottle to show their support," concluded Charles.
John John's BBQ
Owner: John Charles
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