Writer: Maggie Berger
Bryan Bracewell ’98 knew from an early age where life would take him. Bryan’s family has owned and operated Southside Market & Barbeque in Elgin, Texas, since 1968 and he’s now proud to be the third-generation Bracewell to own the well-known business. Specializing in sausage, but offering delectable Texas barbecue, the market has been open since 1882.
Now owner and CEO of Southside Market & Barbeque, Bryan has done most, if not all, of the various jobs associated with owning the family business, starting as early as age 12. He and his wife, Rachel, purchased the market from his grandfather in 2010. They have since expanded to a second location in Bastrop, where they currently reside. In addition, they own a catering business, distribute Southside Market Elgin Sausage to many grocery stores across Texas and beyond, and ship sausage and barbecue nationwide from orders placed on their online store.
Bryan received his bachelor’s degree in food science & technology with an emphasis in meat science. He credits his education as a driving factor for his continued success.
Do you feel your education at Texas A&M helped you prepare for your career at Southside Market & Barbeque?
In retrospect, leaving home and the four walls of the family business to attend Texas A&M was the best thing I could have done for my professional development. Often small family businesses that have been around for a long time can get stale and set in their ways. A lot of times you’re told what to do simply because that’s the way it’s always been done. The Meat Science section at Texas A&M taught me the science behind the things we were doing, if we were doing them correctly and how to possibly improve.
I remember sitting in class asking myself exactly how I could apply this subject to life back home. It’s amazing how much of my entire curriculum applies directly to our success today. Now, freshman chemistry is a different story! The bottom line is that I came home with a much deeper understanding of a 100+ year old business than I had before attending Texas A&M, even though I’ve worked for the business since I was 12.
Implementing that knowledge and making some changes was tricky, but fortunately my grandfather told me early on that businesses either grew and improved or they died. There’s no such thing as staying the same – that equals the death of a business. Still, some things were harder sells than others.
I also took a political science class. Mainly I learned that sometimes it’s better to beg for forgiveness than to ask for permission. I’m a details guy and always kept the numbers in line to validate the change. My grandfather didn’t always like some of the changes but to his credit, he never argued with the numbers and never told me “no, just because!” I never sacrificed quality for efficiency. That was an unwritten rule that I keep to this day.
Over the years as we gained momentum, change came easier and I learned how to negotiate better. My grandfather passed away in 2012 and today I’m blessed with a strong business mainly due to the blood, sweat and tears that he and my dad put in for so many years. All three of us worked together for about 12 years and I’m thankful for that time.
What advice can you offer current animal science students who have an interest in meat science and barbecue?
My advice would be to appreciate and take full advantage of having access to one of the best and most respected meat science programs in the world. The more you put into it, the more you’ll get out of it. Life always works that way.
In my opinion, meat science will always be a great career path as the U.S. continues to focus on feeding the world. We have the safest and most reliable food supply in the world. There is still much progress to be made in understanding how to remain this way as our world continues to change. This fact definitely creates opportunities for all of us.
Texas barbecue is enjoying unprecedented worldwide fame right now and the meat science program at Texas A&M is leading the way in understanding the science behind the “art” of barbecue – and it does take both. There has been more knowledge gained and shared about barbecue in the past five years from TAMU than my grandfather was exposed to during his entire lifetime. The sharing of this knowledge has also created many opportunities for the folks in the barbecue industry to meet one another, share and even collaborate. That is really cool stuff, and the result is we are producing higher quality, more consistent barbecue now than we ever have over the past 133 years. We simply have a much deeper understanding of the science behind the art and that really helps to raise the bar on quality standards and results.