Max McGarity, the founder of Smoked On High BBQ in the Brewery District, got his start in the restaurant business at a young age. In high school, Max worked at a full-service BBQ restaurant where he slowly worked his way from dishwasher to pitmaster. At the tender age of 20 – while still asking his mother to do his laundry – Max launched his BBQ company, Buckeye Back Ribs. He traveled all across the state of Ohio, slinging smoked meats out of his branded Buckeye Back Ribs food truck.

Max in the kitchen at Smoked on High in the Brewery District

In 2011, as a result of extensive catering demands, Max sought to meet those needs and rebranded Buckeye Back Ribs into Smoked On High BBQ. Originally a catering concept, Smoked on High BBQ opened the door for Max’s true dream – to open a brick and mortar restaurant of his own. His dreams were realized in 2017 when he converted a Victorian house in the Brewery District into what we know today as Smoked On High BBQ.

We recently sat down with Max to discuss his passion for great food, and the risks he encountered when starting his own business.

First, tell us about your food and what customers can expect from Smoked on High?

All of our proteins are locally sourced from the best suppliers around. We smoke all our meats in-house each day, making fresh, delicious BBQ that is never frozen. Our primary focus, or style, resembles that of Central Texas BBQ, but we do like to put our own spin on those classic BBQ staples.

What was it like starting your own business and what risks were you most afraid of?

Max slicing a tender smoked brisket

For me, before I even started my business I was practicing and perfecting my recipes and smoking style. It is almost like an athlete training in the off-season, I was practicing day in and day out until I was blue in the face. I worked extremely hard researching and understanding the restaurant business, my competition and the art of BBQ. Pun incoming, I didn’t want to leave anything on the table!

That being said when it came time to finally launch my business, I was terrified. Knowing this was my dream, I dropped out of college and put everything I had into this business. Failure simply was not an option, because I had no backup plan. I knew things would get hard, but that’s life. So, I just told myself I had to go through the whole process – take the good and the bad, but I was never going to stop slinging BBQ!

What advice would you give someone who wants to start their own business?

Have resiliency and a strong work ethic. A strong work ethic can get you extremely far in life. Also, always be willing and looking for opportunities to learn, check your ego at the door!

What would you tell a business owner looking to expand to additional locations?

Do not make a move towards expansion without some serious thought. You need to ask yourself the right questions, run the numbers and then make a decision based on that. Don’t look to expand just because it sounds attractive. Do your homework first.

You’ve been a great partner for other small businesses including Kolache Republic, why is supporting other small businesses important to you?

For me, it just comes down to being a part of the community. It is not easy to go at it alone – as many small businesses do – so why not help out your neighbor. Plus, being involved with other small businesses just makes things more fun! It opens up so many doors to potential collaborations and partnerships. There is strength in numbers, if we can help each other out and grow our businesses together, why not?

What is your favorite kolache?

I’d say the chorizo and egg! I can’t get enough of those damn things. One morning after opening up the restaurant I went across the street and ate three of those bad boys. It was amazing!

Kolache Republic’s Chorizo Kolache made with locally sourced chorizo

Does your mom still do your laundry?

No comment! LoL