By Jessica Borders
Times West Virginian
Residents who have been anxiously awaiting the opening of Dickey’s Barbecue Pit don’t have to wait any longer.
This new restaurant officially got up and running at the Middletown Mall last week. On Jan. 22, the business welcomed about 60 family members and friends for lunch and held a VIP event for about 300 community members and local leaders that evening.
Then Dickey’s Barbecue Pit opened its doors to the public the following day and celebrated its grand opening through Jan. 25.
Michael Pena owns the store, and his mother Bonnita Pena is the owner/operator. Dickey’s Barbecue Pit is a franchise based out of Dallas, Texas.
The restaurant serves eight Texas-style barbecue meats, including brisket, pulled pork, ribs, turkey, chicken, ham, Polish sausage and spicy cheddar sausage. The meats are slow smoked on site with hickory wood every day, Bonnita said.
Dickey’s Barbecue Pit offers 11 sides, with cole slaw, potato salad, macaroni and cheese, and baked potato casserole as some of the most popular options. Customers can also order giant baked potatoes and salads.
In addition, people can get their meals to go, and the restaurant makes boxed lunch deliveries within a 10-mile radius. Residents may see the yellow Dickey’s Barbecue Pit van driving around town.
Catering is also available for anywhere from 10 to 600 guests.
“Since he was in second grade, he’s set himself a couple of really high goals,” Bonnita said of her son Michael. “He is very ambitious.”
She said Michael’s three main goals have been to own an airplane and become a pilot, have a chain of restaurants, and retire by the age of 35. By the time he was 22 years old, he had earned his pilot license and bought an airplane with a partner.
Bonnita and her husband Joe, who is originally from Texas, always told their son that if he saved enough money for half of the cost of a restaurant, they would pay the other portion. When Michael, now 25, was ready to open his first store, that deal worked out as promised.
Michael, who is in the pipeline construction industry, ate at Dickey’s Barbecue Pit regularly during the five years that he worked in Texas. He then got transfered back home to West Virginia.
“He did a lot of research,” Bonnita said. “He checked on like seven different franchises before he finally decided that he really missed the barbecue. There’s not a lot of barbecue around this area.”
So Michael decided to open a Dickey’s Barbecue Pit franchise. Last November, he moved to Oklahoma for his job. Bonnita is handling the operations of the restaurant and traveled to Dallas for three weeks of training.
She said they looked at a couple different possibilities in the area for the business’ location, but chose Marion County to be closer to home. She is a native of Mannington, where she continues to live today.
Her daughter Alyssa, who will graduate from Fairmont State University in May with a degree in mechanical and safety engineering, will also help her out at the restaurant.
The construction of Dickey’s Barbecue Pit in Fairmont was a long process, requiring about 11 months of serious renovations. That space at the Middletown Mall previously housed an nTelos store.
A lot of people have been talking about the restaurant and expressed their excitement, Bonnita said. Once training for the 22 employees began, people started stopping by regularly to find out when the restaurant was opening.
Bonnita created a Facebook page for the store this summer, and when she recently posted a pic about the official opening date, the number of “Likes” went from 238 to more than 1,000 in just a few days.
She said family members have chipped in a lot with the restaurant efforts, from construction aspects to keeping the space clean during the pre-opening events.
“If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t have been able to probably do it,” Bonnita said.
Michael plans to open a total of five Dickey’s Barbecue Pit stores within four years. He is trying to work out the details for restaurants in Uniontown, Pa., and St. Clairsville, Ohio, and is also looking into Morgantown as a possible location in the future.
Dickey’s Barbecue Pit in Fairmont is open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week. For more information, call 304-366-6636.
Email Jessica Borders at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @JBordersTWV.