WILLIAMSBURG — Matt Sileno, the owner of Matchsticks BBQ Co., filed the paperwork for its brick and mortar location three weeks before the pandemic shutdown. Now, on Jan. 6, 2022, nearly two years later, the restaurant has officially opened its doors.
“It still really hasn’t hit me, to be honest, but I’m just proud that through all the adversity, myself and the team, we were able to persevere,” said Sileno in an interview with WYDaily. “We hit a lot of roadblocks. As you can imagine, opening a small business is very difficult these days but we persevered and we’re open. It’s surreal for sure. It seems like it’s been a long time coming.”
An enterprise that originally started off as a mobile smokehouse on wheels has made a name for itself. The company built a following by serving locals its barbecue and smoked meats. However, it also gained recognition for Matchsticks’ charitable work in the community. Last year, the Greater Williamsburg Chamber of Commerce recognized Matchsticks BBQ Co. as the 2021 Health Promoter of the Year for providing kids with cooked meals during the pandemic shutdown.
Sileno says that the original food truck that the company started with will still be used for catering, weddings, and other events, but that he is going to park the food truck for a couple of months just so that he can get used to running the business out of the brick-and-mortar location.
The business operates, “Thursday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.,” said Sileno. “During the football season, we’ll stay open until the end of the games.”
Meats are smoked in a giant custom-made smoker cooker scrapped from an oil tank. Sileno and his company nicknamed the contraption, “Large Marge,” and it sits prominently on the Matchsticks BBQ Co. property. It’s actively used to smoke the restaurant’s meats.
“The barrel that you see here, I dug it out of the ground in a place in southern Maryland. Then we fabricated, me and my buddy, he’s a welder at the shipyard,” said Sileno. “We bought the metal from Metalworks in Richmond and Hampton and fabricated all this stuff. First cooker I ever built and first cooker he ever built, and thank the sweet Lord it turned out to be a great one.”
This is Matchsticks BBQ Co.’s first restaurant. Through the company’s work in the community, Sileno and his staff have seen firsthand the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. As the entrepreneur reflects on the journey that it took all of them to get to this point, he says that he’s grateful to be in the position he’s in and that he’s very proud of his team.
“It’s important to pivot when things change. You’ve got to adapt and evolve. I think the pandemic sucked for everybody. With the staffing issues, and having to close, and only being open 50% capacity, but you just have to find a solution and just keep going,” said Sileno. “If it doesn’t work, you just have to try something else. I think that’s the only reason why I’m still standing. You just don’t give up and you just keep pushing no matter what happens.”
Locals can follow the Matchsticks BBQ Co. Facebook page for more updates.