Hickory Sticks BBQ: A Legacy in Fort Lauderdale Comes to an End

The enticing aroma of slow-cooked ribs and briskets, once wafting through the air, has been replaced with silence. Fort Lauderdale’s beloved Hickory Sticks BBQ, a Texas-style barbecue joint that had been serving locals for seven years, suddenly closed its doors over the Memorial Day weekend. As we bid farewell to this culinary institution, we reflect on the challenges faced by the restaurant and the impact it had on the community.

Changes and Struggles

Hickory Sticks BBQ experienced its fair share of struggles towards the end of its run. Josh Stonecypher, who managed the restaurant under a New Jersey-based catering firm for the past two years, acknowledged the difficulties they faced. Staffing issues and changes in the surrounding area contributed to the demise of this beloved establishment. Despite performing well during lunch hours, the restaurant encountered significant challenges after 3 p.m. “We did OK with lunch, but after 3 p.m. it was a real struggle,” Stonecypher admits. As a result, the decision was made to relocate the smoker trailer and food truck to their New Jersey corporate office, where they have already started booking catering jobs for the summer.

Signs of Closure

For those who frequented Hickory Sticks BBQ, it was heartbreaking to witness the signs of closure. Brown paper now covers the windows that once provided a glimpse into the vibrant atmosphere within. The iconic 17-foot Meadow Creek wood smoker, which stood proudly in the parking lot, has vanished. All that remains is a discarded menu board near the Dumpsters out back, reminding us of the moments we shared over hearty meals and laughter.

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A Challenging Landscape

The closure of Hickory Sticks BBQ is part of a larger trend of struggling barbecue restaurants in eastern Broward County. Last summer, beloved establishments like Blue Willy’s in Oakland Park, Red Cow, and Jack’s BBQ in Fort Lauderdale also closed their doors. While some vacancies remain, new ventures like Fat Boyz Barbecue have taken their place, breathing new life into the local culinary scene. This series of closures highlights the fickle nature of the restaurant business and the challenges that owners face in maintaining longevity.

A Taste of Success and Setbacks

Hickory Sticks BBQ experienced both success and setbacks throughout its existence. Earlier this year, it received positive recognition on the local PBS restaurant show, “Check Please, South Florida.” Guest reviewers praised the restaurant’s down-home interior and impeccably smoked meats. However, the celebration was short-lived. The day after the show’s March 4 airing, state inspectors cited the restaurant for multiple health and safety violations. Violations included improper storage of potato salad and the presence of bugs in the kitchen. These setbacks, coupled with declining service and quality, eventually led to concerns among patrons.

Overcoming Labor Market Challenges

Josh Stonecypher, speaking from his experience in the restaurant industry, explains that finding capable and dedicated employees in South Florida posed a significant challenge. Having worked as an assistant general manager for Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. in Times Square, he is no stranger to demanding labor markets. However, he notes that South Florida presents unique obstacles in this regard. This struggle to find reliable staff added to the mounting difficulties Hickory Sticks BBQ faced in its final days.

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The Next Chapter

While the Hickory Sticks BBQ website does not mention the fate of the Fort Lauderdale location, it does announce a new catering-only location in New Jersey. Florida state records indicate that the business address is now in Chester, N.J., under the ownership of Ken Torchia and Frank Maschio. Stonecypher himself continues to work for Maschio’s Food Services, a catering company that serves schools in New Jersey and Central Florida. Amidst the uncertainty surrounding the future of Hickory Sticks BBQ, one thing is clear: their legacy of community involvement and dedication to their craft will always be remembered.

An End and a Beginning

As we bid farewell to Hickory Sticks BBQ, we reflect on the impact it had on our lives and the memories it provided. This institution not only served mouthwatering barbecue but also actively participated in charitable events and food competitions. It was a place where friends and families gathered, where laughter echoed amid the smoky aroma. While the road ahead for Hickory Sticks BBQ remains uncertain, one can’t help but hope for a new chapter in the future. Perhaps, one day, the tantalizing scent of slow-cooked meats will once again fill the air of Fort Lauderdale, but until then, we cherish the memories created at this iconic BBQ joint.

Hickory Sticks BBQ

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