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R.J. Perry, left, and Martin Lawrence  operate Lawrence & Perry BBQ, which has expanded to include a food truck.

Longtime friends and Warren County natives Martin Lawrence and R.J. Perry joined forces in 2016 to establish Lawrence & Perry BBQ event vending and catering. On Saturday, the duo celebrated the continuing expansion of their business with the grand opening of a food truck.

Lawrence and Perry became friends when they were in kindergarten at Mariam Boyd Elementary School in Warrenton. Both became interested in cooking as children. Lawrence learned from his parents, and Perry learned from his grandmother.

“We were the only two in elementary school our age who were able to cook,” Perry said.

As they grew up, both Lawrence and Perry discovered how much they loved cooking on the grill, and they would grill for family, friends and classmates.

Lawrence moved to Rocky Mount in high school, but the two friends continued to grill together through high school and college.

College brought a new audience for the young grill masters’ talents. Lawrence headed to North Carolina A& T State University in Greensboro, while Perry attended North Carolina Central University in Durham.

As the two grilled for family events and friends, their menu began to expand. They were specializing in chicken, hot dogs and hamburgers, and added smoked pork and ribs.

Perry said that he and Lawrence had always talked about starting a business together. The idea began to develop in earnest as they completed their business degrees. They sought advice from their families and researched the market for barbecue restaurants.

After graduation, Lawrence found inspiration from a mentor in the Maryland/Washington, D.C. area who owned a food truck. At the time, more culinary entrepreneurs were turning away from opening brick and mortar restaurants in favor of food trucks.

The idea seemed like a good one to Lawrence and Perry, but the friends began with a small scale catering and event vending business. They worked events, including Warren County Relay For Life, weddings and corporate activities,  both separately and together.

Today, Lawrence lives in Louisburg, and Perry lives in Wake Forest. Both hold regular jobs, but they continue their love of grilling through Lawrence & Perry BBQ. The business also includes Scratch Made Confections, operated by Perry’s wife, Morgan. Lawrence’s wife, Cherrelle Lawrence, also assists with the family venture.

Lawrence and Perry have operated the food truck for about a month and recently have worked at events in Winston-Salem, Greensboro, Roxboro, Durham and Raleigh in North Carolina, and as far away as Washington, D.C. However, Saturday’s food truck grand opening brought them back to their home county as they set up shop in the parking lot of the former Hotel Norlina.

Customers lined up for the official opening at 10 a.m., and the line continued to be busy until around 5 p.m. Perry estimates that more than 350 food items were sold.

The business offers catering and vending for events of all sizes, including reunions, weddings, fundraisers, parties cookouts and larger corporate functions.

Lawrence & Perry BBQ offers a meat menu that includes barbecued and fried chicken, fried fish, burgers, hot dogs, BBQ, rosemary chicken, and smoked turkey and ham. Premium items include salmon, smoked barbecued ribs and whole hog.

The regular side dish menu includes baked beans, boiled potatoes, cabbage, cole slaw, french fries, rolls, green beans, grilled corn on the cob, hush puppies and pasta salad. Premium sides include asparagus, baked macaroni and cheese, long grain and wild rice, and potato salad.

Scratch Made Confections offers a dessert menu that includes chocolate, cinnamon roll, red velvet, strawberry shortcake, sweet potato and vanilla cupcakes with buttercream  and whipped icing, and cheesecakes.

Perry said that the food truck will be at a number of area festivals this year, and is booked at festivals every weekend in April except one.

For more information about Lawrence & Perry BBQ, call 919-729-2444 or visit the website lpquenc.com.