LONGMONT — Longtime Longmont barbecue haven Shorty’s Pit Bar-B-Q will rise from the ashes in October.
Craig Vaccaro and Doug van Riper of Third Avenue Grill on Main Street recently bought Shorty’s recipes, secrets and trademarks from Valley Nissan and Subaru, which in turn had bought Shorty’s from Doug and Glenda Neblett, who founded the local legend in 1977 and closed its doors in July after 26 years in business.
“When Shorty’s closed, we knew it wasn’t because the business wasn’t viable,” said van Riper. “That’s a great business, and it would do great in our location on Main Street.”
The partners contacted the Nebletts to ask permission to approach the dealership about buying Shorty’s and opening it back up in their location at Third Avenue and Main Street in the Dickens Opera House.
The Nebletts agreed.
“I think barbecue is a great niche to be in, and (the Nebletts) did it as well as anybody,” said van Riper. “I thought it would be a good spot for us.
“We felt Longmont can’t lose that. It’s a great fit for the Dickens building, which was built in 1881,” he said.
Bill Wilkinson, the band director at Silver Creek Middle/Senior High School and a loyal Shorty’s patron for more than 20 years, said the restaurant’s apparent rebirth is “the best news I’ve heard in a long time.”
“It was fun and great barbecue,” said Wilkinson, who took his family to Shorty’s once a week. “I’m glad they are going to reopen. What I like best about it is it is homegrown. It’s a ‘We know everybody there’ kind of place, and they know us. It’s not a chain restaurant. It’s a community kind of thing. That’s what we liked best. They knew our names and knew what we ordered. They were really family-friendly.”
The Third Avenue Grill has had barbecued ribs and chicken on its menu before but has never been a traditional barbecue restaurant, said van Riper.
Doug Neblett offered to help him and Vaccaro with the smoker so “we can feel confident we can do it justice,” said van Riper.
The new Shorty’s will keep some of Third Avenue Grill’s favorite menu items, like its salads, so the new restaurant will appeal to meat lovers and vegetarians alike, he said.
“We’ve got a lot of people that are really excited” about Shorty’s reopening, van Riper said. “People were missing Shorty’s. We’re going to do our best to bring it back. I think they were in business 26 years. We will try to continue the streak for them.”
The Third Avenue Grill will shut down for a few days in October to convert to Shorty’s, and the partners hope to open up again by Halloween, van Riper said.
Vaccaro and van Riper know they can’t recapture the full flavor of Shorty’s Old West atmosphere, but they say they will “make it a comfortable family dining atmosphere with a barbecue theme.”
The partners also are looking for former Shorty’s employees who may want to come back to work for them.
“We could certainly use their expertise and would be really happy to talk to them,” van Riper said.
The businessmen also see catering and delivery as good, viable options for the business.
“I think delivery is really a growing sector in the restaurant business, and not just traditional pizzas or Chinese,” he said. “Barbecue would translate good there.”
Vaccaro and van Riper have been in business as Third Avenue Grill for eight and a half years. They built their business up every year since 1996, but this year they encountered their “first bump in the road,” said van Riper, who attributed some of the drop in business to the smoking ban that took effect in January in Longmont.
The Third Avenue Grill’s smoking section was upstairs in the billiards room, and “it has been a struggle to keep people climbing stairs to go out and smoke,” he said.
Wilkinson said his whole family was sad when Shorty’s closed.
“The service was always good, and the food was tremendous,” he said.
His family will be back at Shorty’s every week when it reopens, Wilkinson promised.
“That place was packed all the time. If you went after 5 p.m., you had to wait an hour for a table,” he said. “As soon as people know it is open again, it will be crowded immediately.”
Paula Aven Gladych can be reached at 303-776-2244, Ext. 211, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.