‘Sauce that even the meat asks for by name’: John-Johns BBQ

Sports

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Portland State University alum, John Charles, made his mark as the Viking’s quarterback. Now, he’s tackling coaching and building a barbecue sauce business he launched during the pandemic.

You meet John Charles once and you feel like you’ve known him forever. He’s the kind of guy you’d like to invite over for Thanksgiving dinner.

Charles has made a pretty good career by helping others as both a coach and a mentor. Now, the former All-American at Portland State has an appetite for something entirely new.

It’s hard to believe, but it has already been 30 years since John Charles was the “King of the Portland State Campus”.

Charles was a Division II All-American quarterback for the Vik’s and despite playing only two seasons on the Park Blocks, Charles still threw for a remarkable 58 touchdowns.

“It was a testiment to the entire program that we all had a chance. I was just fortunate enough to be at the right place at the right time,” Charles said.

For the last 13 years, Charles has been teaching proper quarterback techniques to high schoolers throughout Oregon and Southwest Washington.

But now, Charles is tackling his second love.

Charles has never been one to back down from a challenge. And so it went, a devoted lover of barbecue, he figured– it’s time to give it a shot.

“Last year, just before COVID hit, I pulled out my recipe book and said ‘I’m gonna figure this out’,” Charles said.

John-John’s BBQ sauce is currently in nine stores in Prineville– where Charles now resides. More or less, it’s been his testing ground.

“I was giving the sauce out to people in town, they were like ‘where’d you get this?’ Okay, I’m on to something,” Charles said.

By word of mouth, the demand took off. John Charles— now an entrepreneur.

“Someone said, ‘stay small so you can keep it all’ I want to but it’s been expanding,” Charles explained.

Charles has been blessed to have a couple of mentors help him out, using a commercial kitchen to get his sauce just right.

“Right now I’m able to manage it because it’s a lot of local processes. But when it gets to that point, I want a Wendy’s to come by and say, ‘I want that sauce’ or a McDonald’s. Until then, they’ll have to fight me for it,” Charles said.

Charles isn’t somebody to bet against.

“It’s John-John’s Barbecue Sauce — sauce that even the meat asks for by name,” Charles said.

In 1993, Charles was named as one of five winners for the Jefferson Award that recognizes outstanding public service for the youth in the Portland community. He also still has the letter with the KOIN 6 letterhead.

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