A new restaurant slated for a March opening in a Johnson City shopping center aims to bring a Texas twang to the local dining landscape.
Franchise owner James Neighbors will soon open the first Tri-Cities location — and Tennessee’s second — of Dallas-based Dickey’s Barbecue Pit in the Kroger shopping center off State of Franklin Road on the city’s southwest side.
Demolition is already under way in the 3,200-square-foot former Chinese buffet restaurant, and builders should be able to take over next week, Neighbors said.
Neighbors and his wife moved to Blountville last year from the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex after falling in love with the area during a visit to their son, who attends Virginia Intermont College.
“Dallas-Fort Worth is very crowded,” he said Tuesday. “Here, there’s a clean, natural environment for us, so we decided to move up here, live for a few years and enjoy it.”
But then Neighbors, an IT professional, decided to jump into the world of restaurant franchise ownership to build a retirement nest egg.
After sizing up the Tri-Cities’ dining options, he noticed a lacking of true Texas-style barbecue.
“We noticed there were a lot of restaurants in the area, some family-owned, some with good food, some were average and some were not quite so good,” he said. “We’re used to a different style barbecue where we come from, and we were familiar with Dickey’s, so we thought we could bring that style into the area.”
The first Dickey’s was established in Dallas in 1941, the namesake of businessman Travis Dickey, with a limited menu by today’s standards.
The menu now includes beef brisket, pulled pork, ham, polish sausage, turkey breast and chicken and 11 sides. Every location smokes its meats onsite fresh every day, Neighbors said.
Through the years, the chain has grown to 300 locations in 43 states, setting off widespread growth in 1994 with its advent of selling franchising rights.
After the first local eatery opens, Neighbors said he intends to establish three to five more locations in the next five years.
He said he’s eyeing north Johnson City, Piney Flats, the new destination shopping developments along Interstate 81, Erwin, Jonesborough and Greeneville before a possible move toward Knoxville, depending on the local reception.
Currently the only Dickey’s in Tennessee is in Clarksville, with Asheville, N.C., hosting the closest location.