Since its humble beginnings as a roadside cart, Buz & Ned’s Real Barbecue has been as much a part of the local culture as a business can be.
Now owner Buz Grossberg is preparing to dish out even more.
In February, Grossberg, who has an established spot on the Boulevard, bought the Fuddruckers restaurant building at Parham and Broad for $1.2 million. This month he plans to start renovations on the building, making it the second Buz & Ned’s. The new digs will have some funky designs and a carnival-style shooting gallery.
We caught up with the pit master himself to talk about what he is planning for the new location, what happened to his rumored Winding Brook location and other tender vittles.
Below is an edited transcript.
Richmond BizSense: Whatever happened to your plans to locate in Winding Brook? I’m guessing that experience led you to look for something that was already built up.
Buz Grossberg: Winding Brook was a disaster. That went right down the crapper, and I lost $150,000. When you play that game with developers, before you buy, before you know that you can buy, you have to do a lot of due diligence. Site work, planning, legal work, this, that and the other. By the time you are done getting approval from the county, you have spent $150,000 and haven’t put the first shovel into the ground.
RBS: What attracted you to the Fuddruckers building?
BG: Many things. It was available for sale and large enough for us to do what we needed to do. We like the down-scale-ness of the neighborhood. Barbecue shouldn’t be in a strip center or a new building. We wanted an existing location, one that was older.
RBS: So what you are doing with the renovations?
BG: We are going to have a bar. We are trying to take an existing building built in 1985. To many people, that sounds old, but it’s not old enough for Buz. We’ve been scouring the country for salvaged items. So all the fixtures, tables, chairs, walls – we want to make the building look older than it is.
The 15-foot bar will have an emphasis on tequila and bourbon. And we’ll have a shooting gallery.
RBS: Like at the fair, where you try to shoot the duck targets?
BG: No, we are not going to have ducks. It’s going to be pigs.
RBS: That makes sense. Did you find financing to be a challenge in this environment?
BG: It was easier this time [versus Winding Brook] because the numbers were smaller. And it wasn’t an unknown project, which the other one was. All we had to go on there was what the developers told us. Parham Road – we already know the neighborhood and the situation, so there was no guesswork. Investors and banks don’t like guesswork.
RBS: What else can we expect at the second location?
BG: We are going to have a 500-foot-or-more retail space. We will sell everything from utensils to barbecue sauce to various smoking woods. We’ll have clothing and books, too, and various other impulse purchases with an edge. And we’ll have a reclaimed water tower on the roof.
RBS: What is the biggest challenge you face?
BG: How hard it is to pound into people how to replicate things and do it consistently, and when you have two locations, you’re adding a tripling and quadrupling of employees and all the problems that come with training. I can’t be in two places, but I will be going back and forth every day. I have some good people that are coming in with me, and the layout we did for the finished kitchen is so much more efficient than what we have now that it’s going to be easier to do what we do here over there.
RBS: I also heard you were on “Man vs. Food” recently. How did that go?
BG: That was incredible. The exposure will be the same or even more than when I battled Bobby Flay. It was unusual because at the same time we are filming for “Man vs. Food,” we were being filmed by a crew from ABC’s “Nightline,” which was doing a story on “Man vs. Food.” The “Man vs. Food” episode will air the week before July 4.
RBS: So when do you start work, and when will you open?
BG: We are now reviewing bids and we will probably start construction, at least the demolition part, before the end of the month. We are trying to open in July. We are having an auction for all the Fuddruckers memorabilia and equipment online at Motley’s Auction.
Al Harris covers the restaurant industry and commercial real estate for BizSense. He is also a former Buz & Ned’s employee.