Devin Barbee needed a change after 26 years of building engines for top NASCAR teams.
"You get in a position where you need a new challenge," he said.
Barbee settled on something he thought would be a little less hectic.
"I've never worked harder in my life," he told me last week at the meat store he opened last spring in the old Faggart's Hardware on U.S. 29 in Concord.
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The Stock Market consumes 12 to 14 hours a day, but Barbee said he will never trade his store for the time it's brought him with his family.
Barbee, who will turn 46 on Jan. 31, grew up on Buford Street, just three blocks from the venture he opened between Poplar Tent Road and N.C. 73.
Where he was once always on the road, Barbee now sees his mom, Louise Barbee, every day. He has more time with his son, Wesley, 18, a senior at Jay M. Robinson High School, and daughter, Elizabeth, 13, who attends Harris Road Middle.
"The only thing they saw of me was work, not 'Daddy gets to our ballgames,'" Barbee said, referring to when he was in motorsports.
Barbee didn't know at first what new line of work to pursue, until he thought back to his family's long ties to the land:
How his grandmother Grace Smith Gray, grew roses, tomatoes, cucumbers and corn outside her home at Buford and Winecoff streets.
How his uncle Hugh Barbee had a dairy farm on Barr Road, where Devin would get on a tractor in his teens to cultivate soybeans.
So he asked himself how could he apply those family roots to something Concord needed?
He remembered the old Dover's Supermarket on Cabarrus Avenue, the Food Center on Poplar Tent Road, the long-gone Table Supply in Kannapolis.
That's what Concord needs, he thought: a home-grown meat market with fresh-cut steaks, competitive prices and personal service. His two meat cutters have a combined 31 years in the trade.
"As a meat market, all of Cabarrus County went to Dover's Supermarket," Barbee said. "There's not a day goes by that people don't come in and say, 'You remind me of Dover's Supermarket.' Concord's been needing this."
Besides, "everyone needs to eat," his sister, Angie Rowden, said when the pair sat down to brainstorm what his new venture would be.
He did lots of research before opening the market, which sells beef, pork, chicken and fish and hard-to-find items recommended by customers, such as the Lupo's and Salamida State Fair marinades from New York. Among the store's biggest hits are its "bundles" of beef, pork, chicken and fish, which he said can last a family several weeks.
He also drove to Fayetteville, where he sat on the back of a pickup with the owner of longtime meat store Kinlaw's Supermarket.
"If you take care of the people, people will take care of you," owner Bobby Kinlaw told him.
Barbee hadn't considered such a venture in his younger days, when he followed his uncle Ray Fox Jr. into motorsports. Fox's father had owned and built all of NASCAR legend Junior Johnson's race cars.
Ray Fox Jr. went into engine building and took his nephew "under his wing," Barbee said. He died of a heart attack at age 47.
Barbee, a 1982 graduate of Northwest Cabarrus High School, began working full time in motorsports in 1985. He worked for Benfield Racing when legend Johnny Rutherford, and later Morgan Shepherd, were the drivers.
He worked for team owner and legendary engine builder Robert Yates, changed tires on Davey Allison's pit crew, built engines for team owner Jack Roush and worked for Hendrick Motorsports for 12 years. He was the engine tuner for driver Terry Labonte.
But he was always on the road. "I never got to see my family," he said.
Sure, Barbee said, he misses racing. He always watches the Sunday NASCAR race on TV; it's the only day his store is closed.
He builds engines for Late Model division cars in his shop outside his home. "It's work that I can go to and I can focus on it," he said. "It's like therapy to go back and work on that."
And there's no way he can forget about racing when he steps inside his store. When he refurbished the former hardware store, he made sure to include black-and-white flooring - to resemble a checkered flag.