SAPULPA, Okla — After just over four decades in business, a beloved BBQ restaurant in Sapulpa has officially closed it's doors.
Willie Gilbert Ortiz and Roberta Ortiz say the final few days of their restaurant were some of the busiest and craziest.
They told 2 News on Friday, May 27th they sold about 800 lbs of meat.
Josie Seely was an employee with Hickory House BBQ for thirteen years, her last year working in the restaurant was in 1999.
Seely said, “I hate to see them go because I’m used to coming up here and visiting with them".
Willie Gilbert and Roberta moved to Sapulpa from Amarillo, TX with a hamburger franchise.
Gilbert said they used to get BBQ in town but the restaurant they frequented wasn't open often.
Then one day the owner of the BBQ restaurant came into his burger place to eat, and the rest is history.
“I asked him hey when are you going to open back up so I can get me some barbecue? He said oh I don’t know, you want to buy it? I said sure and it kind of went from there", Willie Gilbert said.
Gilbert said in the beginning they had no idea what they were doing, but over the years he has grown into a pitmaster.
The owners have been planning to retire for many years, but their plans kept getting pushed off until now.
“It’s kind of like trying to jump off a train. You know at first we thought when our son graduated college we would go ahead and retire, well that came and went. So finally we just thought we will jump off and see what happens", Willie Gilbert said.
Their son Geoff Ortiz said this is a bitter-sweet moment since the restaurant was his home away from home.
“Basically living behind the cash register while my mom worked and from there I just kind of kept working my way up and became a dishwasher and then started the buffet and next thing I know I was a cooking", Geoff said.
The nostalgia hit Geoff and many others during this last week of business.
“It may seem a little cheap but I even brought my prom dates here and this is where our prom dinner was and my mom would set up a little fancy table and put a table cloth over it and rose and try to make it nice and fancy and special for us", Geoff said.
For Roberta, her favorite memories are the customers.
“Seeing the repeat of their business and then you develop a friendship and then I mean it just extends from there they become part of your family", Roberta said.
“We’ve enjoyed the business and we’ve enjoyed our customers and I’m glad we went out on a positive note rather than just fade out into the oblivion so everybody was great", Willie Gilbert said.
Now they plan to rest, enjoy time with the family, and get to go on some adventures they've missed out on being restaurant owners.
While the restaurant may be closed, they are considering bottling their sauces and packaging their rubs so their customers can still enjoy a piece of Hickory House BBQ.
They have had some serious inquiries to buy the building, but only time will tell what it will be next.
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