By Andy Warrener
The Laker/Lutz News Correspondent
When the name Whaley’s is brought to Lutz, it becomes synonymous with flavor.
The Whaley family first opened a produce stand in South Tampa in 1932. It was called Whaley’s Market, and it evolved into a produce/meat market and gourmet store.
In 2002, grandson and current owner Todd Whaley started cooking barbecue for the South Tampa store, but the family lost their lease on the location in 2008.
It turned out to be a plus for those in North Hillsborough and Pasco counties.
Todd opened the Whaley’s BBQ trailer in Lutz on US 41, just south of Sunset Lane.
He started selling five barbecue pork sandwiches for ten dollars. It’s still the same price today, only now Whaley’s has expanded to include ribs, half chickens and brisket.
Whaley’s also added another location in Odessa, just south of The Villages Shopping Center on Gunn Highway. Whaley’s also sets up on Van Dyke Road west of Lake Carlton Arms, but only on weekends.
Todd said he believes in building a barbecue culture in Lutz.
“We’re a consistent exposure for kids to have barbecue,” Todd said. “They develop a taste for it. When they get to being 16, they can eat quite a lot.”
Todd said three things go into the savory barbecue deliciousness: smoke; dry rub; sauce. All three things are as homegrown as the business itself.
The smoke comes from oak wood only, and Todd doesn’t even have to buy it. he has a relationship with a handful of local tree-trimming companies that just drop it off.
“Saves them having to get rid of it; saves me having to buy it,” Todd said.
A customer can quite literally taste the oak in Whaley’s barbecue ribs.
“I won’t eat ribs anywhere else,” said current employee Annette Sizemore.
The dry rub is a closely-guarded family recipe.
“It’s nothing you can’t buy at the grocery store,” Todd said.
The sauce was not homegrown at first.
The Whaleys originally bought their sauce from a company in South Dakota. However, Todd found that supply problems arose, especially during the winter months when barbecuing shuts down so far north.
To solve the problem, Todd’s mother, Jean, took three weeks to come up with a replacement sauce recipe. What emerged was Whaley’s Blazing BBQ Sauce.
The creation is such a big hit, the Whaleys store it in 50-gallon drums. Todd claims they go through 60 gallons of the sauce every week, and it’s now sold in 24-ounce bottles at any of the locations. You can bring your old bottle back to the stand and refill it.
Todd also claims that he’s had customers come in saying they smelled his barbecue from as far away as Sunset Lane, 500 yards to north of the Lutz location.
Husband and wife Jimmy Bennett and Sizemore have been working for Todd for more than a year. The couple used to run a produce stand right next to Whaley’s, but Jimmy said, “That wasn’t cutting it.”
Jimmy started off splitting wood before moving to cooking and operating the stands with Annette.
“In this last year, he’s (Todd) taught us how to cook ribs, pork butts, all of it,” Bennett said. “He’s a good businessman.”
The votes of confidence don’t just come from employees, either.
“Good sandwiches, good prices,” said Dan Leihgeber. “It’s just good stuff.”
The pulled pork cooks all night long, according to Todd.
“The ribs go on in the morning and are done by the afternoon,” Todd said.
Todd has been a member of the Lutz community since 1970. He works for the Hillsborough County school system providing security. Along with the stands, he also does catering for events on weekends.
Leave a Reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.