Scott Rohrman of 42 Real Estate Development, come on down. You are the winner of the Pecan Lodge Relocation Sweepstakes.
Late yesterday, Pecan Lodge owners Diane and Justin Fourton signed a lease for a soon-to-be restaurant space on[UPDATE: 2702] Main Street in Deep Ellum. The decision to move from the spot they’ve occupied in Shed 2 of the Dallas Farmers Market was not an easy one for the couple. The Fourtons’ lives changed when City Hall sold the Dallas Farmers Market to DF Market Holdings last spring. Once they, and the other businesses in Shed 2, learned the specifics of the plans for the extensive overhaul of the Dallas Farmers Market, they were disappointed that the City of Dallas did not protect them from losing their initial investment in their spaces.
Last June, the Fourtons hinted that they may not renew their agreement with the new owners of the Dallas Farmers Market. They were flooded with calls from area landlords and cities. On June 20, Pecan Lodge tweeted: “Rec’d calls from mayors of 3 different cities offering us incentives. None were from City of Dallas.”
For five months, the Fourtons debated whether they should stay in their location or move. They spent many hours in meetings with DF Market Holdings and also searched for stand-alone locations that would allow them to expand their kitchen and seating space. Yesterday, they ended their search and picked a larger space in Deep Ellum. “I’m just happy we’re moving forward,” Diane says. “We wanted our own spot and at the end of the day, this is best for our plans for the future.”
The Fourtons backed into the restaurant business. Before they became the king and queen of Dallas barbecue, they were both top performers at Accenture, an international management consulting company. They both loved to cook and hosted large dinner parties. It wasn’t long before they started doing small catering jobs for their friends. Diane worked from home after the birth of their son, Henry, in July 2008, but Justin was still traveling for Accenture. In 2009, they invested in Lurlene, their first mobile barbecue pit, and booked larger catering jobs.
When the market tanked, they considered opening a small catering business to supplement their income and perhaps using it as an exit strategy from Accenture. A year later, they quit their jobs and invested their life savings in the 1,500-square-foot space in the Dallas Farmers Market. They opened Pecan Lodge Catering in March 2010 and offered an extensive Southern food menu that included fried chicken, shrimp and grits, and barbecue.
Their rapid rise to culinary fame is remarkable. In less than three years, they captured the stomachs of barbecue fans across the nation and have appeared on “best” lists in countless publications. Fans have waited in line for hours for a plate of barbecue.
I’ve been covering restaurants in Dallas for 17 years, and I’ve never witnessed such a phenomenal success story. Several months ago, I began researching a feature on the Fourtons, and, during my time with them, I’ve witnessed their struggle to make the right decision. They are upstanding people who are perplexed by their situation. Becoming a world-class barbecue joint was never in their business plan. It will be fun to watch them take over a space and operate like restaurateurs instead of caterers with a dream and the courage to take a risk.