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Crew provides more than meat | Wally's World

I never met Gene Emry and knew absolutely nothing about the barbecue catering service he opened around 1955 behind Herald’s Restaurant and Lounge (currently, a strip mall). In fact, I didn’t even realize the business was there until the mid-1960s. In 1990, Gene sold his enterprise to Frank Mickelson and, in 2005, Frank sold to Gary Shaw, who operates the place today.

Encouraged to do so by the local citizenry, I sat down with Gary one day last week and asked what he was doing.   I was quite surprised. Rainier Catering and Barbeque serves hundreds upon hundreds of events and businesses all over western Washington and a few east of the mountains as well. He caters anniversaries, birthdays, weddings, high school reunions, church socials and even an occasional dog show. Among merchants and retailers, he does sales meetings, company banquets and festivities – for example, the barbecues he has for Gamblin Motors and the annual affairs for the Oberto Sausage Company in Kent. Then, of course, there are numerous governmental events like various programs at the local fieldhouse, blowouts for several fire departments and the Enumclaw Fourth of July pancake breakfast. Gary’s largest job was an all-day celebration for Oberto’s 80th birthday, where he served more than 700 people.

Wherever the job is located, Gary moves his portable barbecue drums to the site, brings an ample supply of ribs, hamburgers, chicken, salmon or other meats, and stokes up a fire using apple, wild cherry or alder wood depending, of course, on the flavor the customer desires. There are also traditional side dishes. He hires a staff that serves everything.

Gary is a good-looking, 71-year-old, quick-witted fellow with a sharp business eye for the bottom line. He was raised in Milwaukee, graduated from high school and immediately signed up for a four-year stretch in the Marines. (This experience taught him a very important lesson and he hasn’t volunteered for anything since.)   The rest of his “wayward” life has been quite broad and fascinating. He worked on the Alaska oil pipeline for five years, spent 10 years bartending in Lake Tahoe casinos, found time to obtain a bachelor’s degree in sociology, taught high school for a few years and then, somehow. found himself employed as a sales representative for Kent Floor Machines. It was in that capacity that he first came to Enumclaw in 1994. Thereafter, he spent several years cooking in the old Enumclaw hospital.

Throughout the course of this history, he never bothered to get married.

Over the years, he’s learned to appreciate and respect the flavors and effects of various alcoholic concoctions, including a fondness for Manhattans.   This must explain our instant connection on some strange, unconscious, existential level. Kindred spirits, so to speak.

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