Riding the Storms Out
GULF SHORES, Ala. (WBRC) - We’ve all heard stories about bad things happening to good people. This is one of those. It’s also the story of a North Alabama Boy who married a Gulf Shores Girl which leads us to a place called Hog Wild Beach and Bar-B-Q.
“This all kind of started back in 2011,” remembers T.J. “I met my wife in Tuscaloosa, and I spent some time there in college, and that’s really where my passion and love for bar-b-q started.”
His wife Caitlin had left her home on the Gulf Coast for college at Alabama. “Went to Gulf Shores High School, graduated here. We went through Hurricane Ivan. We lived in Orange Beach at the time, and we evacuated, and we came back, and our house was heavily damaged.”
Caitlin’s Ivan encounter would not be her last extreme weather experience. “Went to college. Met my husband T.J. and I brought him back down here after the tornado and we’ve been here ever since.”
“We were actually in the tornado, the EF-4 tornado that came through Tuscaloosa.,” says T.J. “We took a direct hit there in Forest Lake and it completely changed our lives. Around 2013 we had gone back home to Birmingham to visit my family and my dad mentioned there was a restaurant for sale in Gulf Shores, and we said, ‘Hog Wild?’, and he said, ‘That’s it.’ We ended up buying the restaurant. We put everything we had into it.”
Then came Sally.
Of course, Caitlin had seen hurricanes before, “When Hurricane Sally, when it was going to affect our restaurant, I told my husband it’s nothing big. It’s fine. We got it, but it was really, really scary for me.”
The storm still produces strong emotions for T.J. “To see a restaurant that we had poured our souls into be four foot underwater, and everything just completely destroyed. I wanted to give up, but my wife said, ‘No. No, we’re not. We’ve come too far.’”
So, says Caitlin, the couple went to work, “We literally gutted everything in here. T.J. did most of the work himself.”
Now two hurricane seasons later, surf’s up at Hog Wild where bar-b-q meets the beach. “I got to be a part of the local thing here and that’s surfing,” explains T.J.
Caitlin describes their barbecue, “We’re Southern Bar-B-Q with a beachy twist. We do incorporate shrimp into our menu.”
T.J. knows people come to the Alabama Gulf Coast from everywhere. “Everyone who walks through that door. I’m from St. Louis, or I’m from Memphis or I’m from Mississippi. They’re always going to tell you, ‘My bar-b-q’s better,’ until they try ours. Everything we’ve done has made us who we are. Yes, bad things do happen, but greater things come from that.”
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