Rockford Ace holds Grillin’ Extravaganza


All the way from Kansas City, BBQ expert Rob Russell explaining the finer points of BBQ grilling and smoking. Photo by STACY NIEDZWIECKI,

On a recent Monday evening, “Ace was the place” to be. Pete Kruer, of Rockford Ace Hardware, was hosting his first ever “BBQ Boot Camp” and everyone who had signed on for the evening was in hog heaven!

Kruer had secured the services of Rob Russell, a real Kansas City BBQ expert, who conducts BBQ seminars around the country for Ace of Hearts BBQ Specialties of Kansas City, MO. With 15 years of championship competitive BBQ experience, 20 years of catering and restaurant experience, Russell has a great way of bringing real BBQ to backyard hobbyists as well as professionals and competition cookers.

Also on hand that evening was “Barbecue” Bob Nurmikko, host of Cumulus Broadcasting’s “The Grillin’ Guys” radio show heard across Michigan and locally in Grand Rapids on WJRW 1340 AM. “Barbecue” Bob acted as host and sidekick while, at times, interjecting humor by poking a little fun at the expense of his good friend Russell.

(L to R) “Barbeque” Bob Nurmikko checks the doneness of a slab of ribs closely watched by Canonsburg’s Grist Mill butcher, Gordy Aulbach. Photo by STACY NIEDZWIECKI,

The 40 participants of the sold-out evening were treated to three solid hours of BBQ grilling education in the beautiful Meijer Garden like setting of Ace’s Ray Kunst Gardens outdoor garden department.

It didn’t matter how much you thought you already knew about BBQ grilling, what we learned that evening took us all to the next level. We were treated to expert tutorials covering different grill fuels – including varieties of charcoal (lump preferred), grilling techniques, smoking, creating marinades, brining, using seasonings and rubs, and the preparation of ribs and chicken.

The “ACE” of hosts for the BBQ Boot Camp, the charming and delightful Pete Kruer with Katie, one of his right-hand ladies. Photo by STACY NIEDZWIECKI,

Russell also discussed and demonstrated in great depth food handling safety, as well as cooking and smoking temperatures to strive for. In short, the man was a veritable fount of backyard barbequing information. With “BBQ on the brain” Russell was definitely present to help us all become better cooks!

Gordy Aulbach, the butcher from Cannonsburg’s Grist Mill, was also on hand to answer any and all questions about meat cuts and selection. Kruer had arranged for the Grist Mill to supply slabs of baby back pork ribs and yes, even beef ribs along with plump grilling chickens.


During the grilling class we were afforded the opportunity to taste test everything that had been pre-prepared prior to the start of the BBQ Boot Camp. Over a bed of premium lump charcoal enough BBQ, and then some, had been grilled and smoked to perfection to feed the entire crew. Everything, for the most part, had been prepared on a single state-of-the-art trailer model of The Good One line of smoker/grills. We were also afforded the opportunity to sample taste the complete line of Three Little Pigs Championship seasonings and rubs along with their traditional gourmet barbecue sauces. Actually, the entire evening was more a “feast” rather than a taste test. A feast for the mind, the eye, and one’s belly!

Time to chow down, the line forms on the right. Photo by STACY NIEDZWIECKI,

We say feast because mid-way through the class we took a recess to chow down on perfectly prepared seasoned and smoked ribs (both pork and beef), chicken wings and legs, whole deboned cut-up chickens, along with baked beans, potato salad, and chips with a variety of Ace’s salsa offerings. In fact, all of the seasonings, marinades, and rubs can be found right at Ace’s in-house grilling department.

“Barbeque” Bob, one of the “Grillin’ Guys” from a radio show of the same name, displays a perfectly seasoned slab of ribs. Photo by STACY NIEDZWIECKI,

This evening, the first of many soon-to-be announced backyard grillin’ classes was an evening of “expert” instruction, a grand meal, and a load of good-natured camaraderie and fun, fun, fun for all involved. An ever-smiling Pete Kruer was “roasted” throughout the evening by the Grilling Experts from Kansas City for Ace’s unbelievably low pricing, especially on premium lump charcoal!

The Rockford Ace Hardware’s “Mitt BBQ” department arguably offers the area’s largest line of smoker/grills fueled either by electricity, gas, pellets, or charcoal. From top-of-the-line Weber Genesis and The Good One Grills to egg-style ceramic Kamado Joe and many more, Ace has a smoker/grill for every level of out-of-doors cooking enthusiast. Also to be found is the largest selection of rubs and sauces in West Michigan.

The Rockford Ace is THE place!

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The Squire has been Rockford’s free weekly newspaper since 1871. Our loyal readership includes over fifteen thousand homes in the Rockford area, including the affluent Lakes area of Lake Bella Vista, Bostwick Lake and Silver Lake; Belmont, Blythefield, as well as Algoma, Courtland, Cannon and Plainfield Townships. The Squire is distributed through the U.S. Post Office every Thursday. We also deliver to in-town businesses and homes with paper carriers and news stands in our grocery stores and over thirty local shops.