GLADWIN – There is perhaps no food more synonymous with summer than barbecue. It’s fitting then that Pale Blue Barbecue Parlor will be opening it’s doors as summer reaches towards it’s height on June 29. The new restaurant is the brain-child of husband and wife team, Brandon and Becky Hodgins, owners of the catering business, Pale Blue Smoking Co. They decided to open the restaurant after their first year in the catering business was a success. Going forward they are planning on continuing with the catering business, and running the restaurant Wednesday-Saturday.
“Catering is really going to be the engine that drives the restaurant,” Becky said. The menu of the restaurant will continually change and will be based on what catering jobs they have that week. “We’re not going to have the same menu every week, or every day. Whatever we’re serving at a catering event will be what’s in the restaurant.”
This always changing menu is sure to bring an exciting variety to the restaurant, and give patrons a reason to keep coming back. “We want to be creative in our cooking, so we don’t want to marry ourselves to a set, specific menu every day. I could see getting bored with that. We’ll have our staples, but we want to be able to say, ‘this farm had this available, so for this week only we have a fun new menu item to try’,” Brandon said. This is in line with the company’s catering business which strives to use local ingredients.
“We’re trying to partner with our local farms, so we’re working with the Naked Acre to supply us with any of their fresh veggies they have. So some weeks they have spinach, some weeks they have spring mix. So our salads and sides will change as the growing season changes,” Becky said.
This focus on local, fresh and seasonal ingredients is part of what made Pale Blue Smoking Co. so successful in their first year of business. Their first event was June 2, 2018. Since then they have done hundreds of catering jobs, including nine weddings in the fall.
“Within the first six months we recognized we were going to need to grow into a place where people could come in and sit,” Brandon said. “We had people saying that they wish they could sit here and eat their food.”
In September they started to look around for a location. They found their location at 111 E. Cedar Ave. in downtown Gladwin, a 100-year-old building that was the former home of Blue Ribbon Bakery. They officially began renovations on January 1. “We ripped up four layers of tile and glue,” Becky said. The sweat
equity was worth it, because under all of that they were able to restore the original hardwood floors of the building. Inside they have decorated in a sparsely modern way, keeping everything clean and casual. The dining area features granite table tops, and two maple slab hightop bars, made by Brandon, affixed in the front windows. “We want it to feel like a really big pop-up shop,” Becky said. The restaurant features an open kitchen concept, with a back door for patrons to use that leads past the kitchen.
“None of it (their food) is going into a deep fryer, it’s all raw ingredients, and that’s not something we want to hide,” Brandon said.
The business model is “fast casual”, meaning that you will go up to the counter where all of the food will be stored and order in the two lines, one for hot dishes and one for cold dishes. After getting food, patrons will then pay at the register.
Through the experience of opening the barbecue parlor, the Hodgins have got to witness the community support that typifies Gladwin. “We’ve had a handful of people reach out to us and say, ‘hey, I want to make this for you if you could use it’...coat racks or a knife,” Brandon said.
“Just the amount of community support, and they don’t want anything for it, they just know what it’s like to open up a business and their super supportive,” Becky added.
Thanks to community support and the Hodgins’ hard work, the opening on June 29 is quickly approaching. Becky and Brandon are hopeful and excited, and seemingly the community is the same. “People are excited about something new and different,” Becky said.
“I think they’re starting to get to that point, they are ready for it,” Brandon said. Pale Blue Barbecue Parlor will have their Grand Opening celebration on June 29, from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. They will be serving their signature favorites – pulled-pork tacos, as well as brisket, ribs, chicken, and more. Local musician Zach Haines will be playing in the parking lot at 6 p.m. For more information see Pale Blue Smoking Co. on Facebook.