Why one of Huntsville’s best barbecue restaurants has closed permanently

Their lease was up in June, and it was selection time. After 4 years in South Huntsville, ChuckWagon BBQ co-operator Stephen Holley elected to shut that spot. Their very last day open was July 2. ChuckWagon’s flagship Madison restaurant stays open.

Holley chalks up the SoHu closure to “the COVID hangover.” He states, “I don’t know how else to put it. We’ve witnessed a pretty big lessen in visitors, and a large amount of persons are teleworking now. That variety of transformed the dynamics of that place for us, with lunches getting a minimal slower than they employed to be. And hire goes up each and every 12 months. We resolved to call it quits and reduce our overhead.”

The latest economic inflation producing quite a few men and women to tighten their domestic budgets was also a factor. “The first issue everyone cuts out is food items and entertainment,” Holley states.


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Staffing was also “a huge challenge,” according to Holley, as it has with quite a few dining establishments these times. “We’ve experienced two or 3 actually excellent ones that really went all the way by it with us. But as much as finding new folks that had been any form of high quality, we just could not locate them.”

Holley is not exactly guaranteed why finding and retaining high quality staff members is these a dilemma in the provider marketplace now. But he has a pair theories. 1, he thinks some dining establishments that slash employees during the pandemic “handled it completely wrong and most likely destroyed our credibility a minor bit as a restaurant field.” And two, there are quite a few additional employment choices now in a increasing metropolis like Huntsville, which is now Alabama’s most populous. “There are just so quite a few employment transferring into the location that are better-paying work,” Holley suggests.

Pre-pandemic ChuckWagon Southside used about a team of all over 10. The final 12 months, that number was down to just 3. Holley claims Southside workers were being offered a two-7 days recognize just before saying the impending closure on the restaurant’s Facebook web page.

Workforce had been given the alternative to operate at the Madison spot, according to Holley. But that drive, about 35 minutes from the Southside locale, was just far too lengthy for them they reported. Primarily with gasoline selling prices what they’ve been currently.

He states the Southside workforce have all located other work opportunities or, in the scenario of some youthful employees, observed internships. “Everybody’s taken treatment of,” he says. Considering that closing, ChuckWagon has also provided hours to those who wished to enable breakdown the machines and get the restaurant completely ready to transfer out of its Southside space, which was in the Redstone Ridge strip mall, handle 11700 Memorial Pkwy. S.W., driving a Chick-fil-A.

ChuckWagon BBQ

ChuckWagon BBQ’s Southwest mac and cheese. (Matt Wake/[email protected])

ChuckWagon closing is a blow to neighborhood barbecue fans. It was easily 1 of the city’s best barbecue joints. The Texas-model brisket, pork ribs, sausage and pulled hen had been aces. The sides, especially the smoky Southwest mac-and-cheese and confetti-colored vinegar slaw, have been rad also. ChuckWagon’s closing leaves Boarhog’s Barbecue as the clear numero-uno for Huntsville ’cue now.

My household routinely received takeout from ChuckWagon Southside. My sweet great mom in certain was a big enthusiast. She was crestfallen following I instructed her they were being closing. She made positive to go by their last day open to get some pulled pork, hen and fixings for our July 4 relatives get-collectively.

ChuckWagon’s closure is a main bummer for South Huntsville’s dining scene. When that doing the job course element of the city is house to a number of mom-and-pop gems, all those are vastly fewer than what’s readily available downtown, the clinical district or West Huntsville. Fireplace & Spice Tex-Mex Smokehouse and Blue Plate Diner, a pair other SoHu standouts, have also been pandemic-period casualties.

Holley and wife Kat Holley, who managed ChuckWagon Southside, are previously missing their previous regulars, he states. “During all those 4 decades or so we produced buddies that we’re nevertheless gonna generate over there to see and converse to. We’re drastically going to overlook our buyer base. They have been fantastic. We experienced a number of as a result of the pandemic they would just display up and be like, ‘Hey, we’re gonna assist you guys as a result of this matter.’ They ended up entirely accountable for our survival.”

The interior of ChuckWagon Southside involved a cowboy motif. ChuckWagon’s first Madison Boulevard place took that vibe all the way. Founder, co-owner and Holley’s dad Mike Holley would work on the line, slicing up pulled pork, ribs, chicken and sausage to buy in entrance of buyers. Wearing a cowboy hat and brandishing a massive knife, the patriarch evoked a Marlboro Man who smoked meat instead of cigs.

Wagon wheel chandeliers and saddle lamps have been also concerned at that charmingly rustic locale. Very first timers in require of a landmark could search for the huge-white letters “BBQ” on the restaurant’s crimson roof, plainly visible on tactic from Wall Triana Freeway soon immediately after exiting I-565.

ChuckWagon BBQ

ChuckWagon BBQ proprietor Mike Holley. (Matt Wake/[email protected])

ChuckWagon opened in Madison in early 2008. A couple decades previously, Mike Holley, a West Texas indigenous who beforehand worked in oil fields as a petroleum engineer, to start with introduced his cafe in Athens, Alabama.

ChuckWagon closed their Madison Boulevard location in January 2019, thanks to a disagreement in between ChuckWagon and the operator they leased the creating from, above which celebration must fork out for a litany of repairs which include roof leak, local climate command concerns, and floor damage brought about by a tree root rising beneath.

Amid early COVID-period troubles, it took them about 18 months to open their new Madison site, at 8048 Hwy. 72. Which is about a 14-minute generate from the former area. This much more not too long ago made, brick-building was formerly house to a pizzeria.

Even though Mike Holley does not get the job done the line as a lot as he utilised to, he’s nonetheless retaining occupied. He’s guiding the start of a before long-to-open ChuckWagon in Rogersville near the Elk River.

And Huntsville barbecue fans can take solace in the actuality Stephen Holley says ChuckWagon is eyeing an additional Huntsville spot. Anything “more central,” Stephen states. Till then, he stresses the Madison flagship, “isn’t heading anyplace. And I know it’s a travel, but arrive see us.”

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