A new business on wheels is making its way through Catonsville, and the first sense that activates may be your nose.
That's because when the vibrant red Wieland's Barbeque trailer is on the scene, brisket, pork or turkey is being cooked low and slow in a smoker, with a plume coming from the top.
When the trailer is set up at its storefront on Frederick Avenue, a traffic light that owner Mark Wieland found on Craigslist indicates the status of the meat.
The red light reads "LOW & SLOW," indicating the meat won't be ready for a while. When he turns the light to yellow — "SOON" — the meat is about an hour away from being served. When the light is green, the word "EAT" illuminates, and the crowd that waits outside the trailer's window gets fed.
Wieland, 53, who has spent the past 20 years as a hotel resort photographer, said he considered now the time to see if his 30-year hobby of smoking meats could become a money maker. He didn't want to look back someday, not give it a try and have any regrets.
He has been dabbling in barbecue ever since the day he got his first smoker as a gift.
When Wieland and his family hosted get-togethers each spring, people would tell him he ought to start selling his meat.
Now, with the start of his new business, he has his chance. The trailer opened April 1.
"If you're doing something you like, it's not so much work," he said. "I'm not going to lie – it's a lot of work, but it's fun."
Wieland bought a custom-made trailer in Georgia, which has a window from where he serves the food and the rotisserie smoker that he bought in Missouri, which turns the meat to prevent any hot spots from forming.
As of now, he has spent about $40,000 for the trailer and the graphics seen on it, the smoker and some marketing. Just a few months in, he said he's off to a quicker start than he expected
"I credit that to Catonsville being a small, supportive community," he said.
On Sundays, Wieland sets up shop by his storefront, the former home of Family Affair Produce, where he has set up tables for customers to eat indoors.
He'll buy 300 pounds of fresh brisket and pork the day before from J.W. Treuth & Sons, a wholesale butcher shop in Catonsville, and quickly put it on the smoker.
He smokes the meat with oak, which produces a mild smoke.
After 14 hours, the meat is ready to be sold, by the pound or on a sandwich. Sliced brisket is $20 per pound or $10 per sandwich. Pulled pork is $17 a pound or $9 a sandwich.
Wieland knows the brisket is done when a piece of meat can support itself by its own weight and just a little tug will separate it. The trick, he said, is to cook the meat to about 200 degrees. If he doesn't hit that mark, the meat won't be tender. If he goes beyond that temperature, the meat will fall apart.
"If you don't cook it properly, brisket is not a very pleasurable experience," he said.
Wieland occasionally will prepare turkey, though that only takes three hours in the smoker.
Wieland starts selling at noon and stops when he sells out. For the brisket, that's by 1:30 p.m. For the rest, that's by 3 p.m.
The meat is served with two homemade sauces — a Kansas City style red sauce that is sweeter and a spicier, vinegar-based North Carolina style sauce.
On most Tuesdays, Wieland cooks 45 racks of ribs to sell between 5 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. at his storefront, though it's recommended to pre-order online by visiting "Wieland's Barbeque" on Facebook. On Fridays, he cooks 200 pounds of pork to sell at the Frederick Road Fridays concert series in downtown Catonsville starting at 6 p.m. He keeps the public updated through the Facebook page and his website, xyzbbq.com.
Teal Cary, executive director of the Greater Catonsville Chamber of Commerce, which organizes Frederick Road Fridays, said Wieland's Barbeque has been welcomed.
With a lack of parking on Frederick Road, she thought it was smart of Wieland to secure a spot for people to come to him.
"I think it's unique and fun," she said. "It's kind of thinking outside the box. I think it's a great idea."
Many have asked Wieland how much barbecue he eats each week, now that he owns a business that sells it. To their surprise, the answer is less than people think.
"I think I eat less barbecue in Catonsville than anyone else," he said. "When I sell out of brisket, there's none left for me at the end of the day. The pork, when you've been smelling it for so long, you kind of just lose your appetite for it."