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Kevin Russell heads up the staff of Sugarfire Smokehouse, which opened Sunday at 1730 E. Republic Road, Ste. A. He's pictured above in October.
SBJ file photo
Kevin Russell heads up the staff of Sugarfire Smokehouse, which opened Sunday at 1730 E. Republic Road, Ste. A. He's pictured above in October.

Barbecue chain makes Springfield debut

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A St. Louis-based barbecue chain is now operating in Springfield with yesterday’s launch of Sugarfire Smokehouse.

General Manager Kevin Russell said dozens of people were lined up outside the restaurant in advance of its 11 a.m. Sunday opening. The eatery is located at 1730 E. Republic Road, Ste. A, in the Southgate Center.

“It went really well,” he said of opening day. “We had probably 40-50 waiting in line outside. They were there about as early as 10:30 a.m.”

Russell said the Springfield restaurant marks the 15th location for the chain nationally, and its eighth in Missouri. Charlie Downs and Mike Johnson started the Sugarfire concept in 2012. The franchisees are a pair of married couples in St. Louis – David and Erin Whitman, and David and Stacey Burke – who are all first-time restaurant owners.

The menu features ribs, brisket, pulled pork, sausage, turkey, salmon and burgers, along with salads and daily specials. Menu specials will be posted every morning via Facebook and Instagram, Russell said, adding the burnt ends special sold out opening day.

It wasn’t the only product to sell out, he noted, as the restaurant’s supply of ribs also was exhausted.

“If we sell out of just ribs and brisket, we won’t close the store,” Russell said of the 40-employee restaurant. “We’d have to sell out of three or more meats to do that.”

Seating capacity is around 100 at the 4,300-square-foot restaurant, for which Cade Rogers of HC Rogers Construction served as general contractor. The franchisees declined to disclose startup costs, but acknowledged expenses included a $50,000 franchise fee, as well as 5% royalties, according to past Springfield Business Journal reporting. They also signed a five-year lease with Wilhoit Properties for an undisclosed rate.

Sugarfire joins Springfield Diner LLC as the only other restaurant operating in Southgate Center. Diner owner Omer Onder previously told SBJ he welcomes the new barbecue eatery as friendly competition that will drive more traffic to the shopping center.

Springfield Diner has been undergoing a rebranding project with Longitude LLC and plans to change its name to Klasik Diner upon completion.

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