Even before Hardy’s BBQ founders Roxie and Corries Hardy met as adults, it seems that Corries was present in Roxie’s life while she was growing up in North Carolina.
“My husband used to come to visit my hometown when I was little and I didn’t even know it,” said Roxie Hardy, who met Corries, a Florida native, when she was visiting a cousin in Atlanta. “He would always come to the church my grandparents came to. We weren’t aware that he always was in my life — I just didn’t know it.”
Now the memory of Corries, an award-winning pitmaster, lives on in the couple’s food truck, which returned in March to the Montgomery Farm Women’s Cooperative Market in Bethesda after a hiatus. Hardy, who lives in Prince George’s County, had closed the operation after Corries died at 49 by electrocution in June 2021 while working underneath the food truck.
After his death, Hardy also closed the couple’s takeaway shop that they ran in Bowie for four years.
“I closed down my brick and mortar in Bowie because it was just too many memories going into that building each day,” she said this week.
The couple started Hardy’s BBQ as a part-time gig nearly 20 years ago and in 2012 quit their full-time jobs – Corries had worked for the Montgomery County government and Roxie for Children’s National Hospital in Washington, D.C. – to run the business.
These days, Hardy runs the food truck with the help of the couple’s three sons, Xavier, 30, and 18-year-old twins Jonathan and Joshua; her mother, Gracie Randall; and brother Rickie Randall. The food truck operates at the farm women’s market on Wisconsin Avenue and Hardy’s BBQ also offers catering.
The food truck is usually at the market on Fridays and Saturdays but its schedule can fluctuate depending on the business’s catering schedule, according to Hardy. Patrons can stay up to date on the truck’s location and hours through its Instagram account @hardys_bbq.
Although the business has had familial help, Hardy said it doesn’t have the same feel as working with her husband as they prepared and sold their smoked meats and poultry.
“It was me and my husband as a team to cook the food and … me and my husband knew how it worked,” she said. “It was like if I knew to do the right, he knew to do the left. So now it leads me to train everyone to do what he did. Even though my sons know exactly how to cook the food like my husband because he trained them, too, I still have to reinforce ‘did you remember?’ With my husband I didn’t have to say ‘did you remember?’ because he knew. We were like the glue with each other.”
Still, Corries’ “very warm and gentle” persona lives on in the food truck and the way she runs the business, Hardy said.
“We didn’t just serve food but we also made friends,” she said. “(Customers) always come back to us because of our personality.”
Since the food truck reopened in March, the community has turned out to support the family, Hardy said.
“We had a great outcome, we had a large support of people that came out to support us … after being away since the tragedy that happened,” she said. “It was great to see all the people see us again because we didn’t return back to the site since my husband passed away in June.”
Earlier this month, Joshua left for his freshman year at Boston College, where he will play football just as his dad did while attending college at the University of Miami. Jonathan will attend Eastern University in Philadelphia beginning next week.
With Joshua and Jonathan away at college, Hardy said she’ll be needing more help running the food truck, which usually closes for a few months in the winter. She said the date of the closure is dependent on the weather.
“I am looking for people just for a short period of time until the winter is over and that’s my struggle, to find people to help me,” she said. “I was just looking for college students, maybe, that are probably looking for a job after their classes.”
Hardy said she is also in the process of opening a commercial kitchen in Kensington. With the new location comes new plans: Hardy wants to sell Hardy’s BBQ merchandise online including shirts and some of Corries’ sauces, such as his popular Spicy Mozell Sauce, inspired by his grandmother Mozell Johnson.
Hardy also plans to offer cooking classes and possibly expanding the menu to include jackfruit barbecue sandwiches.
“I hope to be able to not make the food exactly like my husband, but still almost like it — that we can still feed the community and … you have a place to come out and get great barbecue,” she said. “I would love to have food trucks in more than just Bethesda. I would like to have [a truck] in different areas where people can have just lunch and something fast … to eat.”