Once in a while you run across someone by accident, but was meant to be. While researching wood smokers I came across a small website about a guy in Arkansas that built custom smokers. They weren't the big shinny electric ones you put in a restaurant kitchen but more outside, sturdy and towable, which is what I was looking for. So I called Robert Post with Southwest Smoker to see what he had to offer. When you call Robert, you are going to get a lesson in civility, Southern charm and the ins and outs of ordering a custom smoker.
We asked Robert if he would take the time to give us a personal look into the guy who designs and builds some of the best and baddest smokers on the market today.
AA: Robert, thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to give us an inside look at your smokers and a personal look at yourself.
R: My pleasure, thanks for inviting me.
AA: Let's start out where you grew up.
R: I was born May-6-1948 in Sulphur Springs, Texas.
AA: Do you have any siblings.
R: Yes, I am the second oldest of eight siblings.
AA: How did you end up in Arkansas.
R: When I was 14, our family moved from Sulphur Springs to DeKalb Texas where I finished high school. I earned a track scholarship to Ouacaita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, Arkansas. I received my degree in May 1971. While there I met Julie, the love of my life.
AA: Do you have any children and grandchildren.
R: Julie and I have been married for 48 years. We have 3 wonderful children. DeDe, Rob III and Hardy. We are blessed with 6 very special grandchildren.
AA: When did you first get into welding and manufacturing.
R: I was first introduced to steel fabrication in my early teens at my Dad's backyard welding business. My Dad was a tool and die maker by trade and he had this backyard business for extra income for a growing family. I was a natural in the steel fabrication but decided not to pursue this career path until later in my life.
AA: When did you start building smokers and how long have you had Southwest Smoker.
R: I built my first smoker/grill in 1975. 20 years prior to starting Superior Welding Services Inc. Between 1975 and 1995, I did a lot of backyard cooking. I was constantly looking for a better way to consistently cook a better product. The result of all this was what we now call the Southwest Smoker.
AA: Give us the details of your smokers.
R: The South West Smoker is a reverse flow, indirect heat smoker. SWS Inc, introduced the South West Smoker to the world via www.southwestsmoker.com in 1996. Over the years we have made many different models and styles to satisfy the demands of our customers.
AA: Tell us about your process to design and build a custom smoker.
R: Whether they are standard or custom models, they all have to meet a certain criteria. They must be: Superior in performance, superior in design, superior in workmanship, superior in eye appeal, superior in durability and superior in longevity. When we take on a custom build, we make sure that SWS Inc., and the customer are on the same page. We want all involved pleased with no misunderstandings. We do not take on builds just for the money. Complete satisfaction for everyone is our goal.
AA: We wish more businesses had this philosophy now days.
AA: We know your son Rob is involved with SWS, give us some background on that.
R: Yes, my oldest son Rob III is one like myself. He is a natural in the steel fabrication business. After graduating from college, he wanted to keep working with me. At one time we had several employees in order to keep up with our work load. However in a relative short period of time, we realized that SWS quality was not foremost in the minds of our staff. Needless to say our decision to go to a father/Son operation was very easy. Quality should be foremost in the mind in anyone's business, no matter what it pertains to.
AA: Again, to bad more business plans are not like this.
AA: You and Rob build other things besides smokers and grills, tell us about those.
R: Originally SWS started as a general metal fabrication business. Early on it was asked of me; Robert, why don't you build smokers & grills? I had built my first smoker years before but did not believe I could sustain my business by solely making these products due to the high quality criteria we have to meet with all of our products. Latter I decided to gradually incorporate some smokers and grills into our work load. To my surprise, I found that there was a hole in the market place for high end smokers and grills. Therefore the SWS product line was going and growing. In a very short time mostly due to the internet 75% of our business was smokers and grills. Over the years Superior Welding Services Inc has built many different things, from Chandellers to structural steel for buildings and everything in between. Custom trailers for hauling and catering, tornado shelters and safe rooms. Farm implements and of course smokers and grills.
AA: You have a large client base, tell us a little about the success your line of smokers/grills have achieved.
R: Over the years, we have shipped our products throughout the world. We have enjoyed working with and meeting with many different people, from beginners to professionals. We understand not everyone can build or own one of our smokers, but we want everyone to understand that if they buy a South West Smoker, they will own a product that will perform and will last a very long time if they care for it properly.
AA: Well Arizona Appetite can verify this, we had you design and build us a custom smoker/grill and it is a workhorse and is as good as it was new 11 years ago and still going strong.
R: Well thank you very much, we are proud of our products.
AA: Do you have any advice for anyone getting into smoking and thinking about getting a smoker.
R: My advice to anyone who is wanting to grill or smoke is, do not get in a hurry. Start with a good cut of meat, prep it properly, then cook it the length of time needed to be done. It is best to have a smoker that will cook at a low, slow, even temperature. We have had customers come to pick up their smokers and want us to show them how to properly use their South West Smoker. Needless to say we stopped our work and had a one on one cooking class. These times were meaningful to us due to the fact that we developed a meaningful relationship with that customer.
AA: You did that for me. When I arrived at your place your had ribs going in your backyard smoker to show me how it all worked, and I was very grateful to get that instruction. We even exchanged some wood, I brought you some mesquite to try and you sent me home with some pecan. And the ribs were delicious.
AA: OK, lets get to some fun questions on some personal info about you. What is your favorite food.
R: I am a Texas boy that lives in Arkansas so I enjoy a good sirloin steak and baked potato whenever I can.
AA: Do you have a favorite restaurant.
R: Prior to COVID, Julie and I liked to frequent the Texas Roadhouse Steak House.
AA: Who does most of the cooking in your home.
R: When at home, Julie generally cooks the inside meals and I do the backyard events.
AA: Do you have any favorite food memories.
R: My favorite memories of cooking and eating was in east Texas at Thanksgiving. All the Posts would gather at my Grandparents home for the big event. On Thursday we ate our Thanksgiving meal at my grandparents, then on Friday migrated to my Aunt and Uncles down the road for fun with the cousins and a mulligan stew made from Thanksgiving leftovers. This tradition is still on-going at my house in North Little Rock Arkansas. In 2019, prior to COVID, all 7 of my siblings, their children and grand children, 50 plus, invaded us here at the farm, Post Oak Acres. What a busy and wonderful time we had.
AA: Who did the cooking in your home growing up.
R: While growing up my mother generally did the inside cooking and Daddy tended to the outside cooking. Really it was a team effort with all the mouths they had to feed. AA; What is your favorite thing to smoke. R; Being a Texas boy, I tend to lean toward brisket, but done right it is all good.
AA: Have you ever been to an event and seen one of your smokers/grills in action.
R: Over the years we have been privileged to be invited to participate in some high profile events where South West Smokers were being used. Beverly Enterprises in Fort Smith Arkansas, Grand opening new corporate headquarters, Toronto Taste Oliver & Bonacini Cafe-Grill in Toronto Canada and the 2006 Jack Daniels world championship BBQ cook-off sponsorship of team/ United Kingdom from London England in Lynchburg, Tennessee.
AA: We have a couple fun questions we like to ask everyone. If you could invite anyone living or not to a 8 person dinner party, who would you invite.
R: I would invite my wife, my three children, my pastor and his wife and Jesus.
AA: What would be your last meal.
R: My last meal would be a perfectly cooked medium rare sirloin steak with baked potato and fresh lettuce salad.
AA: Robert, thank you for being with Arizona Appetite and giving us the history of your smokers and some background on you. Do you have any favorite recipes you would like to share with our readers for them to try?
R: Sure, let me give you some.
You can find Robert's recipes in the recipe section of the site under Hot dishes, BBQ sauces and Beans.
We really enjoyed having Robert as our guest. Check back often to see who will show up next. If your in the market for a smoker/grill check out www.southwestsmoker.com or give Robert a call @ 501-945-7678, and tell Robert "Hi" from Arizona Appetite. You won't find a nicer gentleman and he will treat you right.