The opening of The BBQ Ranch last year marked a personal milestone for owner Mike Fisher. Three years ago, a family tragedy nearly ended his lifelong dream of building a barbecue eatery on his family’s ranch outside Loop 820, near Silver Creek Road, in Fort Worth. His youngest daughter was nearly killed in a car accident, and helping her through recovery took every free minute and much of Fisher’s life savings.
Fisher said his daughter has recovered beyond anyone’s hopes, but the ordeal left him without a financial cushion for his enterprise. And he understands the risks of starting a business. His father opened the King of the Pit BBQ in Burleson many years ago.
“The first year, 50 percent of restaurants don’t make it,” Fisher said. “The second year, you’re still in rough water.”
Now The BBQ Ranch is in danger. A two-year bridge construction project will temporarily close the only routes to his restaurant. Starting next month, two bridges along one road will be rebuilt, and parts of Silver Creek Road will be repaved. Fisher said the project could cut his profits in half or put him out of business altogether.
Many local residents, though, are thrilled that the long-overdue project is finally under way.
Fisher had never heard of the project until a few months ago, when he saw city engineers drilling near Silver Creek Road. When the engineers told him the bridges were going to be replaced, he started calling around city hall, trying to find out more about the project. It wasn’t until city officials held a meeting on July 29 that he and several hundred other area residents learned the details.
Michelle Hopper, who lives near The BBQ Ranch, said that residents are concerned about Fisher’s ranch but even more worried that the construction might delay emergency crews by as much as 25 minutes.
Andy Anderson, Fort Worth’s assistant director of transportation and public works department, said the city looked at the idea of leaving a lane open on each bridge, but that it wasn’t possible without greatly increasing the cost and the time needed for the project.
He said city officials are aware of Fisher’s concerns, but the city has “no means by which to provide direct assistance to small businesses that may be impacted by the project.”
Cecil Keller, homeowner’s association president for nearby Wolf Creek, said he sympathizes with Fisher’s plight but believes the project is badly needed. The area around Silver Creek Road is booming, he said, and the roads are in disrepair.
“There are a lot of people who need this construction,” he said. “The roads aren’t very safe right now.”
Road closings will begin next month, and Fisher is busy pursuing corporate catering gigs and trying to figure out how to keep paying his nine workers.
The BBQ Ranch sits on a peaceful, sprawling five-acre piece of land where several generations of Fishers have lived. Beautiful evergreens and loose gravel landscaping surround the small dining area. On a typical day, children playing lawn games give the place the feel more of a family picnic than a commercial business. Inside, parents watch their kids play from long rows of picnic tables. And there’s no shortage of comfort food on the menu. Along with a vast array of slow-smoked meats, The BBQ Ranch serves crowd favorites like Ranch Rattlers (a hefty bacon-wrapped jalapeño stuffed with shreds of juicy brisket and cream cheese) and brisket tacos (buttered flour tortillas filled with sautéed white onions, chopped jalapeños, stewed tomatoes, and tender chunks of hickory-smoked brisket coated in a fiery chipotle sauce).
As Fisher looked out across his open-air restaurant recently, he paused to reflect.
“The most heartfelt thing about this place is that is was built with a lot of love,” he said. “There’s a lot of me and my family in here. When I see kids playing [outside] instead of playing video games or getting into trouble I know I did something right.”