Dubuque couple remembers loved one with barbecue business

Through the love of barbecue, a couple has honored a loved one with their new business.

Michael and Abby Lawrence, of Dubuque, first introduced Lawrence Brothers’ Barbeque to the Dubuque Farmers Market on June 5.

“We wanted to start small and start with the farmers market,” Michael said. “Being part of the market has definitely been the most enjoyable part.”

The business name was chosen as a tribute to Michael’s brother, John, who unexpectedly died in 2015 from a brain aneurysm at 30 years old.

“We had a fantastic relationship,” Michael said. “But I was definitely the annoying, tagalong, younger brother when we were growing up.”

Michael and Abby have enjoyed eating barbecue for as long as they can remember, a love they shared with John. The three of them would go on road trips to barbecue food events.

They had a strong bond and even considered moving in together before John decided to attend seminary school. After John died, Michael and Abby found out that Michael was the main financial beneficiary.

The money sat in the bank for years as the couple said they were unsure of what to do with it. In 2018, Michael learned how to cook barbecue and started wondering if they could sell it.

To establish and fund the business, Michael and Abby chose to use some of John’s money.

“I think it’s pretty cool to see someone take such a sudden, terrible thing and use good memories to make something they both loved,” said Robert O’Mara, their neighbor and a frequent customer.

The couple rented a local commercial kitchen to prepare the food. They bought an estimated 800-pound barbecue smoker from Peoria Cookers in Illinois.

“It’s built like a tank,” Michael said about the smoker.

He is in charge of the barbecue and spends about 10 to 12 hours at the kitchen to smoke the meat before the farmers market.

Abby prepares the homemade tea and lemonade. She also had a big role in obtaining the food establishment license as she works with food safety as the administrative coordinator for Verena Street Coffee Co.

Michael is a media producer for Loras College Productions. The couple agreed that they are dedicated to the barbecue business but not ready to quit their full-time jobs.

“We want to get good at this before we expand like crazy,” Abby said.

She added that customers have asked to book them for private events but the business — and smoker — is not big enough to handle that. They will assess at the end of the year what is next for Lawrence Brothers’ Barbeque.

“They have an easygoing, friendly (farmers market) stand,” O’Mara said. “They are very welcoming.”