This article appears in the December issue of 400 Life Magazine
Don’t worry — this is not another story about COVID.
But the tale of Socks’ Love BBQ does include pandemic-related news that tastes so good, I guarantee, you can stomach it.
Whether you’re a regular to the lunchtime line at its inconspicuous little storefront off of Highway 20 or you’re wondering what the heck the name even means, it’s a feel good story about a big community hug and the power of helping others that can’t help but inspire anyone to want to be a part of the zeitgeist.
Here’s what happened: Socks’ Love owner Steven Hartsock (attention novices: this is where the Sock comes from) was checking his social media one day when he saw a message about a crisis happening at a restaurant up the road. Lake Burrito — a community staple in Cumming — had finally reopened after taking months off, only to now be enduring incredible restaurant hardships in the face of a pandemic. It wasn’t looking good for them.
“When they came back, it was like opening a brand new restaurant again,” says Hartsock. “Nobody really knew they were back and they were really struggling. They’ve been around a lot longer than I have — and talk about real chefs, Paris is the real deal. I just felt this urge to help them, so I posted a video on our social media page, and told people that if they ate here, spent money here, whatever, I would donate all of the profits to Lake Burrito.”
For Socks’ Love that meant stocking the smoker on Thursday night with everything they had, calling in the entire team and gearing up for making an already busy Friday something even bigger. What happened was even bigger than that.
“It happened so quick,” says Hartsock. “It was really cool to see. We sold out at 12:30 — and I mean sold out of everything. It was the craziest thing. There was a line out into the parking lot. People were picnicking outside.”
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But there’s more. Customers donated cash, neighboring restaurant Tam’s Tupelo brought over a check from their restaurant and Socks’ Love cut a check for more than they’d ever made. Hartsock closed early and drove up 400 to hand Lake Burrito the donations, personally. When he got there, he realized the story didn’t end with him.
“When I got up there, I saw they had a line out the door, too. They were already starting to turn people away,” says Hartsock. “They told me that when they turned on the computer that morning, tickets had just started printing like crazy from online orders; and they sold out of lunch and dinner by 2 p.m. that day.”
Neither of these guys realized what the potential of this call-to-action was, especially when Kelly Clarkson called. The producers had heard what happened and filmed a Live! episode on October 15 from the Socks’ Love shop where they got to tell their story to a national crowd. In fact, the fruits of Clarkson’s on-air plugs showed Paris and company at Lake Burrito stuffing mailers to send to new fans all over the country.
“For me, I think it showed a lot of people that it’s pretty much free to help,” says Hartsock. “What I encouraged people to do was that if you haven’t talked to someone in awhile, pick up the phone, see how they’re doing.
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“If a struggling restaurant needs some help, just go on Facebook and write about it. I’m in my own little bubble, but I know that it encouraged a lot of people because to date there are more than 40,000 views on that Facebook post. The Kelly Clarkson post has more than 100,000 views. I can’t help but think that with that much connectivity and engagement that it didn’t make an impact on the local community.”
Making an impact in the community is Hartsock’s biggest goal in owning a local business.
“Anyone that gets to know us and experience this as a whole — all of us, as a team, we’re more than just what a normal person would identify us as,” he says. “I want to be an ambassador to the community. I want to be a good place for people to come and get filled with positive energy all around — not just with the food. I’m a Christian. I love Jesus. I’m not some weird guru. I just want to be a good leader to my team and to my community. I can’t just be a chef or a business owner. I’m all of it.”
Socks' Love BBQ is at 1050 Buford Hwy., Sute 104, Cumming, GA 30041. Visit sockslovebrands.com for more information.