Big Daddy Que
By Beth Volpert
It never ceases to amaze just how many dynamic and self-sufficient personalities have come from the South Gwinnett Alumni. “Big Daddy” Todd Lawson is no exception. Always one of the guys who might be called “big man on campus”, Todd’s presence is hard to miss. From appearances, “Big Daddy” might conjure up thoughts of a southern gothic character, but according to his three daughters, he is kind of a gentle giant. A gentle giant who makes some very tasty barbeque.
“It started out innocently enough,” says Todd. “I was making barbecue for family and friends here and there.” People started asking him to cater events and the requests began to outpace his capacity. Then, as life would have it, change came along.
After years in the corporate arena, Todd found that his job was headed for a “phasing out”. With a severance package to support his family and his wife, Moe, whose job was still in tact, Todd thought it seemed like a great time to head in another direction. One that would afford him more time with his family. Barbeque was the answer.
Todd bid corporate America goodbye and started doing the smaller events that his kitchen allowed. Before too long, it was time to seek another kitchen. As luck would have it, another SGHS alum would need a helping hand and offered Todd both the space he needed to expand to larger events and the benefit of working steadily. “Don Britt is a great guy and we are working together which benefits us both,” says Todd. In addition to his work at Summit Chase, Todd is catering and attending festivals and farmers’ markets. “Word of mouth has been great,” says Todd. “I have to credit Moe with pushing us on social media; it really works!”
Todd not only gives his wife credit when and where it is due, but also, his three lovely daughters. “They have been there for me to serve food and ring up customers without complaining,” says Todd. “We are so much closer now.” Before going into the barbeque business full time, Todd would often leave town on a Sunday night and not return home until late on Friday. “I would miss a lot of their events.” The girls, mom and dad all enjoy the change for the better even though it did take some getting used to. “Before, when Todd was traveling, I pretty much made decisions and would fill him in when he got home,” says Moe. “Now, we talk about things or he just handles the day-to-day things since he is home.”
Todd’s perspectives on parenting have deep roots. He spent four years as a police officer which showed him the sadder side of absent parenting. He vowed to be an involved parent and the family business has allowed him to make the changes to his work life and keep that vow.
As parents, Todd and Moe agree that keeping tabs on their girls, who they hang out with and where they go is exceptionally important. “We keep a pulse on what’s going on,” says Todd. “We might seem overly strict, but we like to know who they are hanging out with and get to know the parents.” Todd says his own dad was pretty strict, but there was not much communication between them; he expected good behavior. He has great memories of his dad being at his sports events and cheering him on. “My dad made me into the man I am today,” says Todd. “I am kind of nervous; my dad is coming down the Saturday before Father's Day to taste my BBQ for the first time.” If the rave reviews pouring forth from the Big Daddy’s Barbeque social media pages is any indication, Todd has nothing to worry about.
Todd working up some magic with his pork BBQ sandwiches
When working at the Grayson Farmers’ Market one chilly afternoon, Todd was observed answering a question from his middle daughter, Kaitlyn, in a manner and tone that was as lovingly level as any Big Daddy can muster. He answered her question with, “Yes, baby,” as he kept right on chopping the tender smoked BBQ with giant gloved hands. Moe says that he talks to all of “his girls” that way. “He is always encouraging them in everything that they do,” says Moe.
Todd took a huge leap of faith last year when he left behind corporate America for Americana. This year, Moe is being faced with the same decision. “Making this a true family business is going to take the girls training me a little bit,” says Moe. “I am taking a leap of faith; but if God’s not in this, then I don’t know what we are doing.”
The girls weighed in on their dad with some truly loving and kind things to say. Seventeen-year-old Tori thinks that the best part about dad being around more is that they all hang out together more. “He’s home when we get home from school,” says Tori. “He comes to all of our sporting events and is a big supporter of us all.” Kaitlyn, 14, says that her dad is indeed a huge presence both literally and figuratively. “I love having him around more often,” says Kaitlyn. “It is a privilege to help him in doing what he loves.” Courtney is twelve and says that her dad has always found a way to be there for all of them. “He has always been able to meet our needs, no matter what,” says Courtney. “He is a big guy with a big presence.”
Family and friends enjoying the day at Grayson's Farmers' Market.
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