After an injury put him out of a 16-year career with the Texas Lottery, Shankle decided to try selling dessert items, including ice cream and funnel cakes, out of a shop he opened in 2012 on South Austin Avenue.
But soon after opening, Shankle said the need for more consistent business motivated a change in focus. His religious faith also played a role.
“God kept on speaking to me about cooking and about barbecue, and I’m in prayer, talking to him, and I’m saying, ‘Well, you know, I don’t even know how to cook,’” he said.
Although today he uses more advanced equipment, Shankle said he taught himself the trade through trial and error, initially using a barbecue smoker he bought on sale for $249 at an H-E-B store.
Attracting business to a barbecue restaurant located on the far south end of Georgetown can be a challenge, but Shankle said his customer base has grown since he opened.
Offering a broad variety of menu items has been key, Shankle said.
Barbecue options at Hello Sweetie include brisket, pulled pork, ribs and sausage. The restaurant offers 10 side dishes, including collard greens, yams, and red beans and rice.
“I think that’s the driving force, in a sense,” he said. “I still want that home feeling, so I give [customers] a home-cooked meal. And if I had a bigger place, I’d probably add a lot more [to the menu].”
Shankle said he plans to boost the catering side of Hello Sweetie in 2018.
“Catering is our goal this year,” he said. “I have never ventured out that far with that stuff, but I know that’s what’s going to take me to that next level, because I can only get so many people in here [at the restaurant]. The catering is something I can do and take to them.”