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Sweets & Meats BBQ featured on PBS' 'Start Up' Sunday, Feb. 4

a man and woman in black shirts stand smiling in front of a black and red food truck
Anton Gaffney and Kristen Bailey are featured on PBS' Start Up series about small business owners Feb. 4 on Channels 48 and 16.

Mount Washington food truck operators and caterers Kristen Bailey and Anton Gaffney tell their success story to PBS series about entrepreneurs.

Even though Kristen Bailey had a job in banking, getting her Sweets & Meats BBQ business cooking wasn't easy.

"I got turned down 11 different times," says the Mount Washington native, who owns the BBQ food truck and catering business with her husband, Anton Gaffney.

They tell their story on national TV on Start Up, the PBS series in which host Gary Bredow has traveled America for 11 seasons interviewing enterprising small business owners. The half-hour episode, filmed last June, airs at 5 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 4, on WCET-TV (Channel 48) and Dayton's WPTD-TV (Channel 16).

Anton Gaffney and Kristen Bailey started their Sweets & Meats BBQ business in 2014.
Ross Van Pelt/RVP Photography
Sweets & Meats BBQ
Anton Gaffney and Kristen Bailey started their Sweets & Meats BBQ business in 2014.

It's the first national TV exposure for Sweets & Meats BBQ, which started 10 years ago as a weekend business under a tent in the Mount Washington Creamy Whip. They now own a food truck that has a custom BBQ trailer with a hog cooker and grill, and All Occasions Catering. They specialize in smoked meats, homemade sides and gourmet desserts.

"Start Up wasn't even planning on coming to Cincinnati, but were highly encouraged," says Billie Vega, office operations manager. "Start-Up TV made a special trip just for us."

Bailey met Gaffney while working at a Lowe's Home Improvement store in 2009. Gaffney, who grew up in Hackensack, N.J., learned about BBQ from his grandfather, Willie Joe, who was born and raised in Sylacauga, Ala,, Vega says.

Courtesy Sweets & Meats BBQ

The Start Up episode description tells their story this way:

“When Kristen Bailey surprised her husband Anton Gaffney with a smoker for his birthday, it changed the course of their lives.  They started Sweets & Meats, a BBQ food truck and catering business that serves award winning smoked meats, homemade sides and deserts, and are putting Cincinnati BBQ on the map.”

After the tent at Creamy Whip, the couple operated out of the Patriot Center of Cough Pike; Kirsten attended the MORTAR Entrepreneurship Academy in Walnut Hills; and secured a Kiva loan for a down payment on a custom-built BBQ food trailer they started using March 2, 2016. She was still working days at a bank while devoting nights and weekends to the business.

They opened a restaurant in a former Little Caesar's pizza store in 2017, and a year later, Bailey quit her day job to devote full-time to the food business. Her efforts were recognized as the U.S. Small Business Administration Ohio Business Person of the Year, SCORE Cincinnati Client of the Year and a member of the Cincinnati Business Courier's "Forty Under 40" class. They bought a second food truck in 2019; closed the restaurant in 2022; and launched All Occasions Catering last year, according to their website.

Their Start Up episode already has aired in other parts of the county, so the couple hosted a watch party at the Knox Joseph Distillery at OTR Stillhouse in Over-the-Rhine Dec. 20, 2023, in anticipation of the Cincinnati premiere, Vega says.

John Kiesewetter, who has covered television and media for more than 35 years, has been working for Cincinnati Public Radio and WVXU-FM since 2015.