South Sound businessman to barbecue for the world

BIRCH BAY - The old black-and-white photo hanging on a wall in Greg Murphy's store near the Canadian border might be easily overlooked if he didn't point it out.

The picture, hanging among dozens of other pieces of Olympics memorabilia, simply shows a section of the crowd at the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin. But a closer look shows that every person in the stands is standing with their right arm outstretched saluting Adolf Hitler.

In the two weeks after the picture was taken, American sprinter Jesse Owens won four gold medals in front of Hitler, who’d hoped the games would prove his white German athletes were superior to black athletes.

“As an African American this photo means a lot to me,” the 53-year-old Tacoma resident said. “I get goose bumps when I look at it.”

It’s history like this that led to Murphy falling in love with the Olympics as a kid while working in his parent’s barbecue restaurant, Murph’s Drive In, in Parkland in the 1960s and ’70s.

Now that the Winter Olympics are coming to nearby Vancouver Feb. 12-28, he plans to use the event to share his passion for the games while serving up sandwiches with his family’s secret barbecue sauce.

Murphy, owner of Tacoma’s Murph’s BBQ catering service, plans to throw a huge party at his temporary store, 2010 World Games Souvenirs and Museum, about five miles south of the Canadian border during the games.

Murphy opened the store in Birch Bay Square along Interstate 5 on Dec. 1. He sells Olympic souvenirs in the front room and in the back of the store he displays his Olympic memorabilia.

“What I want to do is show them the Olympics through my eyes,” said Murphy, who has attended most of the games since 1984.

When the games arrive, the action will really heat up. Murphy says he will bring in a circus tent where he will have live music, a beer garden and sell barbecue sandwiches and chicken. He’ll also offer tips for pin trading, his favorite Olympics activity.

“It will be the perfect place for people to stop for a break before and after they cross the border to watch the games,” Murphy said.

Murphy says the menu will be similar to what he offers each year at the Puyallup Fair. Pulled pork sandwiches, beef sandwiches and chicken all flavored with his family’s secret barbecue sauce.

“It’s kind of a Caribbean-style sauce,” Murphy said. “Tangy. You taste it in the back of your mouth.”

The recipe for the sauce was passed on to Murphy from his dad, Ralph, who died in 1982, four years before Murphy opened his catering service.

Ralph Murphy introduced the sauce at Murph’s Drive In on Pacific Avenue in Parkland in the 1960s and opened the barbecue stand at the fair in 1968.

If you swing by his Birch Bay store and talk with him for even a few minutes it’ll become clear pretty quickly his future will include many more trips to the Olympics.

“The Olympics are a great way to see the world and meet people,” Murphy said. “It’s not just a hobby, it’s a passion.”

Craig Hill: 253-597-8497