H&R Block Profiles in Black entrepreneurship: Grilling up a new business
Photos by Kenney Ellison
Arthur Walston has two passions: baseball and sausage. His background is in professional baseball. He played for the Kansas City Giants, and then did a loop with the majors, trying out for different teams as a pitcher including the Montreal Expos and the Kansas City Royals. He’s now also a vice president for the Kansas City Kansas Baseball Association and Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities and likes to help children learn about the sport. Walston says being an athlete kept him out of a trouble growing up and he tries to pass those lessons along through the program. “I just try to teach them to be the best person they can be.”
Along with a career as a professional athlete, Walston has been grilling his homemade sausages for 40 years, “I just love sausage.” It all started informally, grilling for friends and family at cookouts. “It’s a God-sent product. I thank him for the idea, and the will and the wisdom.” He’s proud of his product and the namesake of his business, Arthur’s Hometown Sausage, after spending years refining it before landing on a 95-percent fat free, all beef recipe. In fact, he calls himself the Other Arthur, rival to another famous Kansas City barbeque business Arthur Bryant’s.
While Walston credits his faith for the push to create his own business, it was a joint venture with and for his children. “I had the product and they had the knowledge,” says Walston. Walston has three sons: Elijah, Arthur III, and Claude; and two daughters: Monica and Marla. The business is co-owned by both Arthurs, Elijah, and Marla. In fact, Walston’s ultimate goal is to retire within the year and leave a growing business in his children’s capable hands.
Beyond the sausage, Arthur’s Hometown Sausage offers a variety of smoked meats including turkeys, briskets, and ribs, and even occasionally wild game. They currently distribute locally, and often do catering and events with a newly wrapped food truck. Before the pandemic, they were even beginning to ship product but that stopped due to increased complexities during COVID-19. Walston says they took a bit of a pause in sales during the pandemic.
Walston turned to the Urban League of Greater Kansas City and H&R Block program for Black-owned businesses, for financial planning help, advice in keeping down expenses, and marketing support. In the future, he wants to have a couple food trucks as well as brick-and-mortar locations in both Missouri and Kansas, hoping ultimately to have a chain of locations. His children helped expand into social media and pushed forward the idea of a food truck.
For Walston, it’s all about being able to pass something off to his children and see them succeed.
“We’ve got a product that nobody else in the world can make but us, and it’s Kansas City’s own.”
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