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Brian Lumsden builds barbecue rub business

Staff Writer | October 25, 2020 1:00 AM

OTHELLO — Brian Lumsden said that when he unlocked the door of the facility where he mixes his barbecue rubs, he wasn’t sure he’d ever need all that space. But B’s Rubs has grown. A lot. “Now we’re out of space,” he said.

Lumsden had been making spice rubs for a long time, looking for the proper accompaniment for pork, beef, chicken and fish. Cooking has always been a pastime. “As a kid I was in the kitchen all the time,” he said. His experiments in barbecue started when he was in college.

He came up with a mix of garlic, chipotle, sugar and smoked salt that he liked, and when he gave it away as gifts, other people liked it too. Some even offered to buy it.

But he never thought of selling it, he said, until his wife Tamar came up with a suggestion. “She said, ‘Why don’t you try to sell them at the Othello Christmas bazaar?’” he said.

So Lumsden bought some small deli containers and labels. “I had 100, and I was hoping to sell 10 of them,” he said. He sold out in a couple of hours.

Lumsden is a history and civics teacher at Othello High School and the OHS golf coach. The spice rub business has to fit around his day jobs. But Lumsden is used to juggling multiple careers. “Most of my life I’ve had a business of some kind,” he said.

Lumsden started with two options, the garlic-chipotle-smoked salt-sugar mix called the Original Smoked Rub, and the Spiced Apple Rub. Now he’s up to 10, all low-sodium, gluten free and MSG free. He also sells a kit with the instructions and spices necessary for people to cure small batches of their own bacon.

A rub has a specific job to do.”A rub is a collection of seasonings that are put together by intention that pairs well with different meat and vegetables,” Lumsden said. It can be salty or spicy, sweet or savory, or any combination thereof.

The development process starts with the end goal. The Big Squeeze rub, for instance, was developed when customers asked him for a lemon pepper mix. “I wanted mine to be tart and hot,” he said, so he added some chili peppers for that extra kick.

The Batch No. 9 started as a thank-you gift for a neighbor who took Lumsden salmon fishing. The neighbor’s dietary preferences sent Lumsden in search of a sugar-free rub for salmon, which resulted in a mix of garlic, onion and pepper.

The Jamaican Jerk, like its name implies, was designed to be spicy and citrusy. The Big Time Barbecue was developed with the feedback of competition barbecue teams. “I like to say you’ve got all your reds in there,” he said; it’s a mix, among other things, of paprika, cayenne, garlic, onion and sugar.

Hooked on Seafood is the newest addition. ”Citrus, honey, onion and dill,” Lumsden said.

Originally B’s Rubs was a family affair, with Lumsden, his wife, his daughter Devyn and his parents doing most of the work. “My mom would be labeling, and Dad would be mixing spices up,” he said of the early days in the kitchen. The business grew to the point where it almost became too much and a lot less fun. Lumsden set up his production facility in a former restaurant kitchen owned by a friend, and hired some outside help.

He credited the support of his neighbors for some of B’s Rubs success. “Honestly, the town of Othello and the people that I know there helped us grow,” he said. “I would say it’s community-built, for sure.”

There was the occasion when he and his wife were faced with the task of labeling 10,000 bags by hand. His wife’s solution was a “labeling party,” inviting neighbors and friends over to help out, with Lumsden cooking prime rib and crab legs for the crew. The job was done in a couple of hours, he said.

Most B’s Rubs customers come through sporting goods shows, he said, and he was concerned when the COVID-19 outbreak forced cancellation of most shows. He was afraid he might have to suspend operation. But orders have stayed strong, and the online business is approaching Christmas season levels, he said.

While he has plenty of ideas – there’s that mix of maple and sriracha he’s been thinking about – Lumsden said he will probably stick with his current product line for the time being. The current business is just about big enough, he said.

Cheryl Schweizer can be reached via email at cschweizer@columbiabasinherald.com.


Cheryl Schweizer/The Sun Tribune

B's Rubs owner Brian Lumsden provides 10 different options for barbecue fans.