top of page
Image by Shapelined

Strong leaders, strong business, strong communities

Updated: Apr 4

Gary Parker | BBQ2U - Giving back is a philosophy

Welcome to the Archetype Learning Solutions Strong Leaders, Strong Business, Strong Communities series.  This series of blogs highlights community businesses demonstrating leadership through their actions.  Our definition of leadership is “a healthy influence-based relationship that is active, non-coercive, and reciprocal.”  It’s clear that Gary Parker of BBQ2U has been incredibly influential and active in the support of the community through his philosophy of fellowship, evidenced by his 2023 distinction as “Citizen of the year” Gig Harbor Chamber of Commerce. 


My chat with Gary revealed his love of helping others in support of a stronger community.  I love Gary’s message: Giving is good for you and your business.

There is so much more to say about Gary’s quietly-noisy leadership.  Join in to learn more about this incredible dedication to community as I interview Gary Parker of BBQ2U and learn why America was not built on salad…


Meet your pit-master: Gary Parker, Texas born and raised on BBQ.  Through my conversation with this quiet man with a lot of presence, I learned that the history of BBQ is really the story of America.


Giving back is a philosophy


Business information: BBQ2U | 4814 Point Fosdick Dr. NW, Gig Harbor, WA 98335   be sure to check out the BBQ2U website, Gary’s philosophy and contributions to the community are evident there! 

America wasn’t built on salad:

Sitting down with Gary, I learned a lot about BBQ.  Not how to season it, or smoke it, but how BBQ built America, and how it influenced his philanthropy.  My interview with Gary was pleasantly different than my previous ones.  He shared his love of history and BBQ in a fascinating story of how BBQ made America.

For the wagon trains leaving the East coast or even the mid-west, there were no stores, no restaurants, only occasionally they would run into a developing town, but even then, there was little if any infrastructure.  What emerged was a great amount of communal hunting and fishing, grassroots community, and meals around the fire. 

Gary explained how through the American expansion, traversing swamps, desserts, and mountains BBQ was always at the center of that journey.   Consider the wagon trains heading across the plains.  Large contingents of families working together in community.  Most of the meals were community based, with pioneering men and women using their skills and sense of community to support each other in their long journey. 

Prior to the American expansion however, BBQ was actually discovered in the 1600s on the Virgin Islands.  Islanders would create in-ground ovens where they would slow roast a pig.  Later, BBQ became a way of life in the south, with an animal on the spit becoming the Sunday meal.  The generational BBQ families with a history of learning to think outside of the box, is what drives so much of Gary’s desire to give back. 


“We no longer have a fellowship mentality, we have a give and get mentality,

which is the opposite of community.”


All in all, BBQ is about creating community, taking care of one-another through fellowship, and ultimately helped to create the American Grit.


Community and giving back is a philosophy:

Early in the conversation, it became clear that Gary didn’t have a program of giving, he had a philosophy of giving. 


“My biggest product is the team itself,

“I have ten young guys who will emulate me and my ability to give back.”

This philosophy Gary has been a meaningful and important mentor to many of his team members, knowing that a critical part of strong community means having committed team members.  Working for Gary means working within a structure.  The structure that many young boys have not in their homes.  Many of Gary’s team members have been near homelessness, abandoned by parents, and have traversed a variety of incidents that our youth should never face.  Gary embraces them all, providing life lessons that they did not get in the home.  Many of his employees have gone from near homelessness to college grads through his patience, guidance, mentoring, and structure. 


“Environment and culture are very important to me, you can tell a place that doesn’t care about their employees.  There’s a gray feeling that comes over you when you walk into one of those institutions.”


With the exception of the corrugated metal tiles that line the roof and walls, there’s nothing gray about the BBQ2U restaurant, its vibrant, with the friendly noise of a happy team.  Gary’s team produces 200 to 300 pounds of BBQ a day, and there is a constant stream of customers.  The only unhappy moments at BBQ2U occur when customers learn that a particular product has sold out for the day.  The team members are friendly, they communicate well with each other, they treat the customers with respect, it’s obvious that they’re well cared for! 

Gary and crew only prepare so much food per day, about 200 - 300 pounds! Eager customers, with their cravings set on a particular item, produce a lot of sad sighs learning that their favorite was gone for the day!

Because Gary is such a presence in the community, team members get quite a bit of attention within the community as well.  Their BBQ2U shirts are widely recognized, which always draws attention and conversation.  Those metal tiles: they represent the frequently used materials to create the outdoor BBQ pits of the south! 


“Adversity is opportunity” -Gary Parker

So much of Gary’s work is based on the idea that adversity shouldn’t be feared, it should be embraced, its full of opportunities.   Not surprising then, Gary embraced the adversity brought the Covid-19 shutdowns in WA State.  Taking advantage of the fact that as a restaurant BBQ2U could remain open, he used the space at BBQ2U to create community, or a marketplace, for other businesses, helping them get through their own adversity.  His generosity and sense of community goes well beyond this event. 


Gary is a huge supporter of the community high schools providing them with a weeklong occasion to fundraise.  A group has the exclusive opportunity to advertise, schedule parties in the store, to get parents, businesses ..etc to come in purchase food and drop their receipt in the jar.  At the end of the week, Gary adds up the receipts and gives the organization 10%. This is a much better opportunity than the typical one-day events that are so common. 

His practice of philanthropy doesn’t end with the schools, however.  He is also a significant supporter of the senior population of Gig Harbor, the restaurant area within BBQ2U taking the place of a senior community center: 

  • Tuesdays, Gig Harbor senior citizens can be found populating the restaurant for weekly BINGO

  • Once per month, Gary rents 100 seats at the Gig Harbor theatre for Gig Harbor senior citizens, and books Santa for family photographers and senior living facilities

  • Supports numerous events throughout the community from National Night out, to ensuring that 4th grade students get recorders. 

You can see the community gratitude, the thank you notes embellish most of the walls in BBQ2U:

Gary also provides significant support to other businesses:

  • An official partner with the Tacoma Rescue Mission, taking 50 – 60 pounds of meat and each week along with 10 gallons of chili! 

  • Partners with Java and Clay, a local pottery painting business, for a Valentines event,

  • Supports local authors with a book corner and signing parties, yup, that’s me as the featured author of the week!

  • Hosts a local artist for painting parties each month.

The list goes on, needless to say, Gary is a busy man and is all about having a great time through support, community, giving back, and fantastic BBQ!   Where is your opportunity?



Thank you for being part of the conversation with Will. And thank you Will and Megan Goodfellow for making a difference through your actions – demonstrating that leadership is not about a title, its about what we do!  Together, we can make a difference through our collective actions. Leadership is not a position, its about how we interact with others, engage through positivity, and embrace compassion and empathy. 


Spread the word!  I am looking forward to bringing more great business owners who are demonstrating leadership and promoting stronger communities. If you’re interested in sharing your story or know of someone else who is doing great things in the community, please let us know!  We’d love to share more stories, proving that leadership is an action, not a position or a title.  #everybodyleads  #re-envisionleading  #wecandobetter!  You can send your ideas directly to me

26 views0 comments


bottom of page