|In – Focus
Marion & Linda Simmons Jr.
Buffalo Couple Spices Things Up
as First Blacks To Locally Produce
and Market Barbeque Sauce!
By Paul Chimera
Marion and Linda Simons’. Have bottled their dream.
For years, Marion — a corrections officer at the Wende’
Correctional facility in Alden would serve up the most succulent
ribs, slathered in ‘a’ secret sauce he had quite a knack for creating.
The couple became understandably popular in their east-side
neighborhood. "People brought different dishes ‘and would drop
by and ask us to grill it for them,". Marion recalls.
His self-styled concoction — employing liquid smoke and a riot, of
other special ingredients — became a barbeque sauce that was
truly magnetic: it attracted connoisseurs of great smoked
barbeque flavor like kids to cotton candy.
Grilling has long been Marion’s hobby, he tells me. 1t was a way to
put aside the day’s ‘routine. And like some hobbies, it became, well,
not quite an obsession— but certainly a passion. In fact, when the
store from which he used to buy a certain seasoning ran out of it,
he tracked down the distributor in Ohio.
Marion’s special sauce was not to be denied. More important;’ his
growing legend of fans weren’t going to be left without the
tantalizing condiment that.’" Linda describes simply as "sweet-
spicy." The couple began carving out a niche for themselves,
serving up ribs and sauce for years at various church: fund raisers.
- tent set-up — a church kitchen operation at the corner of Best and
said their sauce was superior to those being, offered by long-
established’ area restaurants.
"This was a vision"
Marion was onto something with his creative juices quite literally
flowmg. And Linda’s spiritual and moral support was surely a key
ingredient in the formula that is now leading to a growmg success.
"God’s the head of our lives’ declares Marion from the Victorian
style living room’ of their home. "This was a vision, Linda said "the
Lord told me were gong to do this.
- She recalls being approached by an Amway representative, who
was going to call back soon in the hopes of recruiting the couple as
distributors. But Linda knew what her response was going to be
when the fellow called again" sorry, but we’ve got other plans.
Those plans, she confidently announced to the caller, were that she
and her husband were going to established their own business.
- "Over night I had this dream." Linda remembers, and the
dream is now, becoming the couple’s new reality. "it’s bottled
love," she effusively describes the chocolate-brown-colored Bubble’
s Q Sauce, whose name derives from Marion’s nickname-. — Bubble
— pinned on him by a grand uncle when he was just a baby.
"It’s straight from the heart."- And with their heart very much
into taking a nearly 25-year passion and turning it into," a
business that would allow . broader marketing of their sauce d’
resistance, theSimmons invested some of their savings into
bringing Bubble’s Q Sauce to market. Linda came up with the
bottle’s label design — the product of prayer, in which she literally
sought divine guidance — and hatched the idea of "Q"for barbeque,
and the belief that her. Husband’s picture inside the Q would be
just what the chef ordered. "Isn’t that a handsome picture of him?"
she proudly inquires of a visitor.
"We had family offer thousands of dollars years ago for us to be
able to. Do this, but we said no" Marion shares. "We didn’t want to
owe anyone. We saved our money." And he also protected his
secret recipe, which I got a chance to sample at the conclusion of
our interview. In a word: devastatingly delicious! Ok, that’s two
words I couldn’t help myself. Others agree, and sometimes their
enthusiasm is downright, humorous. Marion recalls the time a
fellow corrections officer, Drayton Wienckowski was grilling in his
yard at the same time a neighbor was. The two men debated back
and forth as to who had the superior barbeque sauce, each
insisting he did. When they went to fetch them, it turned out they
both had the same: Marion’s taste sensation in a bottle!
These days the. neighborhood hobby that drew a small army, of
followers is marching to the beat of potentially big business —
though they’re starting small, slow and local. The Simmons. have
teamed up with Pellicano . Food Manufacturing’ Co. of Buffalo,
which produces Bubble’s. Q Sauce for distribution by Marion and
We don’t want to forget the independents"
Loading up their red SUV, they make deliveries to such stores as
the Broadway Market, Camillo’s Sloan. Super Market, Niagara
County Produce; Hoelscher’s Meats, Premier Gourmet and Gianna’
s Market Place. More locations are coming, soon, they promise.
On’ July 1, they did a demo at Budwey’s in the Town, of
Tonawanda, letting customers sample finger-licking spare ribs
bathed’ in Bubble’s Q Sauce. One taste and I’m thinking most
customers were ready to stock up.
"Our goal is to get into Wal-Mart and the larger stores,", Marion
foresees. "But right, now we’re dealing with the independent .
stores,’ adds Linda. ‘We don’t want to forget the independents.
Before we get ‘to the top, we want to stay at the bottom with
That feet-on-the-ground. approach to business and the .way they
live their lives oozes from our conversation like rich, sweet Bubble’
s Q Sauce dribbling over the edge of a. thick-cut sirloin. "Church is
number one for us," they emphasize. They attend Word of Life
Ministries in Niagara Falls.
Back- when Linda had worked as activities ‘director at a nursing
home, she would often predict that One day Marion would simply
have to bottle his delicious creation and sell his ribs. "She said God
gave me the vision," Marion acknowledges.
And Linda gives ultimate credit to where it’s due, declaring,
"Anything that comes from God is already blessed. So it’s already
good and can’t fail."
Indeed, success is flying off the shelves. Bubble’s Q Sauce only hit
the local market On May, 26, and they were virtually out of their
first Order within the first month: 225 cases, ‘2,700 bottles. They
retail for about $3 a ‘i9-z. bottle.’
Bubble’s Grilling Secret
Ok Marion "Bubble" Simmons Jr shares his secret .for
superb taste in grilling. ribs, chicken, etc. Do not put your
barbeque’ sauce on’ the meat while it’s grilling. Only- after
you’ve grilled it to your liking should you place it in a pan,
slather it with sauce, then place it covered in your oven, on
low, for 45 minutes to an hour.
Ultimately, the couple — married 31. years — would love to take
Bubble’s Q Sauce nationwide. In a small way, that’s already
happening. One of their three Sons lives in Hawaii and is
promoting "the Q" at local stores, while another in South Carolina
is wearing a similar promotional hat. A third son resides locally in
Grand Island (the boys are Shannon, Brian, and DeMario). And the
parent company of a leading Western New York grocery chain is
considering stocking the sweetly spiced sauce, as well.
For now, though. they’re working the local landscape, starting
slow and moving gradually toward their bigger vision. Linda
recalls the time she was picking up an order of ribs at Sloan
Market when she was standing next to a gentleman who had
picked up a competitors barbeque sauce, then picked up Bubble’s
Q Sauce. "I told him that’s an excellent sauce!" she relates, "He put
the competitor’s bottle down. Then I told him, ‘I know it’s excellent
— because he’s my husband!" as she pointed to Marion’s picture on
"We’ll never change"Marion says he has no plans to leave his full-
time job at Wende, so he fits in distribution runs around that
commitment. He fully expects to get his pension.
On the other hand, he acknowledges with a telling smile, "I may
quit sooner than I planned, though!" It’s a testament to the
optimism he and his wife bring to the business that was bubbling
up for years, and is now gaining commercial recognition.
And while it may one day change the couple’s financial fortunes,
their focus remains resolutely on family. On his bottle labels,
Marion notes: "I dedicate this in loving memory of my dad, Pastor
Marion C. Simmons Sr. and my mom, Effie." Says Linda: "We’re
grateful, and we owe this to God. We’ll never change. We’ll still be
Linda and Bubble. We’re paving the way for our sons and
grandchildren. This is their future."
Marion (Bubbles) Simmons Jr.