Spirits were high at Hotel Hickman Chuckwagon BBQ Friday during the grand opening of the popular eating spot’s expansion next door in the space that once housed Dexter Flowers.
The Dexter Flowers space will now provide “barrel top” seating for up to 15 folks in an enclosed and temperature-controlled area covered in decor and merchandise that evokes the sort of character and atmosphere that Hotel Hickman and owner Scott Thomas & crew exude the moment someone walks in the door for the first time to see what all the fuss is about.
“We’ve had about a gazillion people in here today,” Thomas said while seated at the picnic tables set up between his new space and the historic Dexter Post Office building that the city of Dexter rents to Thomas, which is where Hotel Hickman got its start.
Thomas’ little barbecue business is the most successful one that’s been in the Dexter Post Office building in nearly 20 years at least.
While folks certainly came out starting at 11 a.m. for the free pulled pork, there’s more to people’s love and support of Hotel Hickman than free (delicious) grub. Year-over-year the plucky little food joint with big personality, a mean smoker, and a crew of passionate folks dressed up in 19th century period cowboy get-ups has exponentially increased its customer-base by enthusiastic word-of-mouth.
That growth has pushed the limits of the small Dexter Post Office building, which is why Thomas approached Dexter Flowers owner Theresa Bell about setting up some picnic tables. Bell agreed. The tables went up under an awning and the two local business-owners built a good relationship.
Thomas approached Bell when she let on that she was hanging up her bouquets for something else.
“When she said she was retiring, I asked her who owns the building, and she said that her parents did,” Thomas recalled. “So I said, when you retire, I need to talk to your parents.”
The thought of a new owner coming in and telling Thomas to take a hike with his picnic tables was too great a risk to his growing business, which had a broader appeal and more room to grow now that everyone who patronized the Hotel didn’t need to hoof it back to an office or their home to tear open their takeout containers and dig in.
Thomas led the refurbishment effort on the Dexter Flowers space, often with his own bare hands, getting the work necessary done in an impressive 90 days.
He acquired the space on January 1 of this year and was done in time for today’s April 1 grand opening — clearly Hotel Hickman’s owner doesn’t fool around, even on April Fool’s Day.
“We gutted it,” Thomas said with a big grin. “We redid the bathrooms, put in a new ceiling and floor, painted everything and did a complete wiring and plumbing update.”
Thomas’ wife Theresa will be largely in charge of the new space, while hubby is a picnic table’s length away dishing out the goods one spoonful at a time.
“I’m going to be focused on selling products like t-shirts and barbecue sauce,” Theresa said. “We’ve sold a ton of stuff today.”
Amidst the interview, the husband-wife duo briefly went back and forth about adding another barrel to sit at in the new space, before responding to passers-by congratulating them on becoming the next local business success story in Dexter.
“That’s just what we do,” Thomas beamed back in response. “Thank you.”