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Posted: May 26, 2010 12:00 a.m.

Supporter spotlight: Burnie's BBQ and Cotton Mill Cakes

Photo by Gabriel Khouli/

Proud owners: Burnie, Nina Mae and Richard Burnham keep Burnie's BBQ up and running.

Burnie's BBQ in Porterdale opened last August, but Owner Richard's Burnham's family has been barbecuing and baking in the southern mill town for more than 60 years.

Today, Burnie's serves pork and turkey sandwiches, Brunswick stew, BBQ nachos, wings, ribs, salads, hamburgers, hot and sausage dogs, chili and soup. The newest menu item will be a welcome addition as the hot Georgia summer approaches - ice cream.

Partner business Cotton Mill Cakes opened in 2004 and offers breads, Bundt cakes, cookies, pies, pickled items, preserves, relishes and barbecue sauces. Most items can be purchased in the store at any time, but the various Bundt cakes and some pies should be ordered ahead of time, either online, by phone or in person. Sweet potato, coconut and pecan pies are made fresh every day.

However, the family tradition of making these baked goods and barbecue sauces in Porterdale dates back to Burnham's grandmother Eva Mae Bowen, who along with her husband worked in the town's cotton mills. Like many women at the time, Bowen also spent many hours with friends and family in the kitchen baking cakes and pies and making preserves and relishes. She passed on the family's secrets to her daughter Nina Mae Burnham, who shares the products of those secrets through Cotton Mill Cakes.

Burnie's BBQ came along five years later because the barbecue sauces produced at Cotton Mill Cakes were so popular. The restaurant is named after the original barbecue master, Burnham's father, who goes by the nickname of Burnie. In addition to selling them at Cotton Mill Cakes, Burham said the family frequently goes to fairs, festivals and area contests.

"Our sauces were doing well and people would ask about if we had a restaurant, somewhere they could get some BBQ if the sauces were that good," Burnham said. "We had cooked barbecue years ago, down at the Porterdale ball field, when I was part of the scouts and for different church events. We cooked BBQ and Brunswick stew. The stew always did really well and we still had the recipe, and we said ‘That one worked over the years, let's try it.'"

The Burnham's continue to go to fairs and festivals, and in fact will be in Hot Springs, Ark., the rest of this week at a festival. Burnie's will reopen on Tuesday. The Burnham's also cater events on and off-site. The company can also make gift baskets to order and ship them to recipients.

Burhnam said besides the family recipes and products made entirely from scratch, the aspect that sets Burnie's apart is the family atmosphere.

"It's not some place you're going to come and not feel welcome. You're not going to leave hungry, that's for sure. My mom and aunt are always giving something away," he said. "When you come in you're treated like family, that's a big thing."

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