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

Their lease was up in June, and it was final decision time. Right after 4 years in South Huntsville, ChuckWagon BBQ co-operator Stephen Holley elected to close that site. Their last working day open was July 2. ChuckWagon’s flagship Madison cafe continues to be open up.

Holley chalks up the SoHu closure to “the COVID hangover.” He says, “I really don’t know how else to put it. We’ve viewed a rather significant lessen in traffic, and a large amount of people today are teleworking now. That sort of changed the dynamics of that area for us, with lunches currently being a very little slower than they used to be. And hire goes up each and every yr. We resolved to get in touch with it quits and slash our overhead.”

The latest economic inflation resulting in many individuals to tighten their residence budgets was also a variable. “The initially point every person cuts out is food and amusement,” Holley suggests.


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Staffing was also “a huge situation,” according to Holley, as it has with numerous dining establishments these times. “We’ve had two or 3 definitely very good kinds that truly went all the way by it with us. But as considerably as finding new men and women that were any sort of good quality, we just could not discover them.”

Holley is not exactly sure why discovering and retaining high quality staff members is these types of a dilemma in the service sector now. But he has a couple theories. Just one, he thinks some restaurants that slice staff throughout the pandemic “handled it wrong and almost certainly weakened our trustworthiness a tiny little bit as a cafe industry.” And two, there are quite a few far more work possibilities now in a growing metropolis like Huntsville, which is now Alabama’s most populous. “There are just so numerous careers shifting into the place that are bigger-paying careers,” Holley suggests.

Pre-pandemic ChuckWagon Southside employed all-around a employees of around 10. The last yr, that amount was down to just three. Holley suggests Southside workers ended up specified a two-week observe right before announcing the impending closure on the restaurant’s Facebook web page.

Employees ended up offered the alternative to operate at the Madison place, according to Holley. But that travel, about 35 minutes from the Southside locale, was just way too extended for them they claimed. Specifically with gasoline selling prices what they’ve been these days.

He claims the Southside workforce have all observed other employment or, in the case of some youthful employees, found internships. “Everybody’s taken care of,” he suggests. Because closing, ChuckWagon has also provided several hours to all those who required to help breakdown the tools and get the cafe all set to go out of its Southside house, which was in the Redstone Ridge strip shopping mall, address 11700 Memorial Pkwy. S.W., guiding 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 very easily just one of the city’s best barbecue joints. The Texas-type brisket, pork ribs, sausage and pulled rooster ended up aces. The sides, especially the smoky Southwest mac-and-cheese and confetti-colored vinegar slaw, ended up rad too. ChuckWagon’s closing leaves Boarhog’s Barbecue as the clear numero-uno for Huntsville ’cue now.

My household commonly acquired takeout from ChuckWagon Southside. My sweet wonderful mother in particular was a massive admirer. She was crestfallen right after I instructed her they had been closing. She produced guaranteed to go by their past day open up to get some pulled pork, chicken and fixings for our July 4 relatives get-alongside one another.

ChuckWagon’s closure is a big bummer for South Huntsville’s eating scene. When that doing the job class portion of the metropolis is house to a number of mother-and-pop gems, people are vastly fewer than what’s obtainable downtown, the health care 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 spouse Kat Holley, who managed ChuckWagon Southside, are presently missing their previous regulars, he suggests. “During all those 4 a long time or so we created close friends that we’re even now gonna generate about there to see and communicate to. We’re tremendously likely to overlook our shopper base. They were being amazing. We experienced a number of by means of the pandemic they would just present up and be like, ‘Hey, we’re gonna support you fellas by means of this point.’ They ended up only accountable for our survival.”

The inside of ChuckWagon Southside included a cowboy motif. ChuckWagon’s initial Madison Boulevard location took that vibe all the way. Founder, co-operator and Holley’s dad Mike Holley would perform on the line, reducing up pulled pork, ribs, rooster and sausage to order in front of consumers. Putting on a cowboy hat and brandishing a substantial knife, the patriarch evoked a Marlboro Guy who smoked meat in its place of cigs.

Wagon wheel chandeliers and saddle lamps were being also associated at that charmingly rust
ic place. First timers in have to have of a landmark could search for the huge-white letters “BBQ” on the restaurant’s pink roof, plainly obvious on strategy from Wall Triana Freeway soon just after exiting I-565.

ChuckWagon BBQ

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

ChuckWagon opened in Madison in early 2008. A couple of many years before, Mike Holley, a West Texas indigenous who previously labored in oil fields as a petroleum engineer, initial launched his restaurant in Athens, Alabama.

ChuckWagon shut their Madison Boulevard place in January 2019, thanks to a disagreement in between ChuckWagon and the proprietor they leased the constructing from, in excess of which get together should really spend for a litany of repairs which includes roof leak, local climate control challenges, and flooring destruction prompted by a tree root expanding beneath.

Amid early COVID-era difficulties, it took them about 18 months to open up their new Madison site, at 8048 Hwy. 72. Which is about a 14-moment travel from the earlier spot. This far more lately produced, brick-creating was previously home to a pizzeria.

Although Mike Holley doesn’t get the job done the line as a lot as he utilised to, he’s nonetheless trying to keep occupied. He’s guiding the launch of a quickly-to-open up ChuckWagon in Rogersville in the vicinity of the Elk River.

And Huntsville barbecue admirers can choose solace in the simple fact Stephen Holley states ChuckWagon is eyeing one more Huntsville area. A little something “more central,” Stephen says. Until finally then, he stresses the Madison flagship, “isn’t heading anywhere. And I know it’s a generate, but appear see us.”

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