The first day Darryl Fields started selling barbecue to the public eight years ago, he only sold two chicken sandwiches.
He and his family ended up eating a case of ribs.
But he kept coming back every week, and little by little it became known that Fields was selling surprisingly good, tender barbecue.
He built a loyal following – one rib, one drumstick at a time – through word of mouth.
“It’s real food the way she used to taste,” Fields, 60, says as she tosses chicken quarters and slices of ribs on a giant stove in the parking lot of the Ward Temple AME Church in 520 Martin Luther King Drive W.
But as good as the barbecue is, his career path and accomplishments can top him. Fields has also the oldest black-owned used car dealership in Manatee County.
After first earning money as a child by picking fruit to earn extra money and helping find jobs for the family car repair business, he now hopes to inspire others to realize the American dream.
Become a pro with the barbecue
Smokin’ D’s old-school barbecue sets up at 11 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays and stays open until Fields runs out.
If you are nearby, you may not need GPS. Just follow the smoke.
What is his secret? Years of cooking experience. With nine children, he had to cook, he said.
Friends and relatives who enjoyed his barbecue encouraged him to turn pro, certain that his barbecue would be a success.
With this encouragement and the help of his older brother, Paul Fields Jr., who made Smokin’ D’s oversized cooker, Darryl got into the food business.
“I could never afford to buy a cooker like that,” says Fields.
Ross Peterson was one of her first customers on a recent Friday and ordered thighs for $5.
“I had to turn my truck around because I smelled smoke,” Peterson said.
Randy Johnson stopped next and also ordered chicken.
“I discovered them and I’m not going anywhere else,” Johnson said.
Fields has a friendly, relaxed style, joking with his customers about the quality of Smokin’ Ds ribs: “Man, if you try these, your mouth won’t know what to do with.”
There are plenty of choices: a four rib sandwich for $12, a rib dinner with two sides for $18, a half chicken for $10, a chicken dinner with two sides for $15, and a whole slice for $30.
Garratt Brannic bought food from Smokin’ D’s twice that day. On his first stop, he bought some chicken quarters, then came back for a slice of ribs.
“They are good people. I’ve known him all my life,” Brannic said. “Once they’ve tasted his barbecue, it’s over.”
“We try to take care of each other”
Fields was born in 1961 in Manatee Veterans Hospital, the predecessor of Manatee Memorial Hospital, attended Bayshore High School and Southeast High School and earned its GED.
Her family, who originally worked as sharecroppers in South Carolina, found they could make a better living in Bradenton.
His father, Paul Fields Sr., got his first job in Bradenton at the Montgomery Ward department store, located near present-day Cortez Road and West 14th Street.
Paul Sr. then started an upholstery business in his backyard. A friend who owned a body shop taught him how to paint cars.
“Although he was illiterate, anything he could learn he could capitalize on,” Darryl said. And capitalize he did by eventually owning an auto body business.
Ever since he was a little boy, Darryl worked in the family business, and when he was a bit older he would boost business by visiting used car parks and pointing out paint and body defects. in the paint that could be fixed, and helping the dealer get a better price.
As a child, when he needed extra money, he would hop on a farm bus and harvest oranges and tomatoes for 30 cents a pound.
Twenty-five years ago he opened Darryl Fields Used Cars with just two cars. Today, it is the oldest black-owned used car dealership in Manatee County.
A car dealership seemed like the best career choice for Fields, as cars were what he knew best. He also knew his customers and who would be a good customer, no matter what their credit report or personal finances might indicate.
“We help a lot of people who have been deprived of their rights,” he said. “There are 5,000 people in this town that I know and we are trying to look out for each other.”
“You pretty much sell cars during income tax season and then the rest of the year, not so much. I would do odds and ends the rest of the year,” Fields said.
Fields recently renamed the business at 1116 First St. E., Bradenton, Fields Auto Sales LLC because he wants to involve his family more.
He has an undeniable flair for business and a work ethic to match.
Albert Cumming Jr., owner of Cummings Mini-Mart, 720 Martin Luther King Ave. E., says he has known Fields all his life.
“His dad had the body shop and my dad had the store and the gas station. Darryl Fields is a hard worker. That’s all we’ve done is work,” Cummings said.
make it a success
Asked about his secret to success, Fields names a long list of mentors and others who have inspired and helped him.
“I stand on the shoulder of giants,” he said.
Among these giants are his father, Paul Sr., his brother Paul Jr., Albert Cummings Sr., Albert Cummings Jr. and Dave McCarter, who carried out demolition work.
“These are men who got out of nothing. They couldn’t even vote until 1965,” Fields said.
Fields is also grateful to his sisters, Jeanette Williams and Kathy Yarn, who constantly encouraged him to “do things I didn’t think I could do. If I fall, if I wobble, they’re there,” he said.
What Fields didn’t mention was his own work ethic, drive and business acumen.
But others recognize these qualities and seek his advice.
“I stop what I’m doing, and what I tell them is, we need people like you — we need people who want to do something, who have courage,” Fields said.
“I tell them that if you want to do something, you have to want it enough. I ask them what do you want to do? What do you need? If you want to start a pressure cleaning business, I tell them to get you a pressure washer. I tell them to get business cards and leave them in places that look like they need a pressure cleaning,” he said.
Undoubtedly, starting a business is a challenge and it takes a lot of work.
” I like challenges. There are a lot of things you can do, you just need to see what people want. It’s called supply and demand,” Fields said.
In October, the Manasota Black Chamber of Commerce and the Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance co-sponsored a forum at the State College of Florida to help grow and build more black businesses.
One of the guest speakers, Veronica Valdez, Vice President of Enterprise Florida, spoke about the importance of small businesses in America, the role they play in job creation and generational wealth creation in families.
She also noted that of the more than 30 million small businesses in the United States, only about two million are black-owned. Small businesses are essential to realizing the American Dream, she said.
To that end, Darryl Fields, Paul Fields Sr. and Albert Cummings Sr. and Albert Cummings Jr. are black business pioneers in Manatee County.
At this point in his life, Darryl Fields stays busy with his business, but he also wants to watch his grandchildren play and make others happy, doing for them what they can’t do for themselves.
“Things are much better than before and getting better every day. We are working towards this credo defined in the founding of the nation,” he said.
Despite tragedies and setbacks like the recent racially motivated shooting at a Buffalo supermarket, Fields says there are more good people than bad.
“You weren’t born mean and obnoxious. This stuff is learned. There is only one race, the human race,” he said. “When it comes to their children, people are not so different from each other. We work for a better world. I never expected to see a black president before Barack Obama, and it completely changed my outlook.
“Life is a struggle, but it just makes it better when you succeed. If you set a goal and achieve it, your appreciation is way greater than if someone gave it to you.