Ridge View BBQ, 5010 Fairlawn Ave., is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday. Closed Saturday and Sunday. Call 304-400-4650 or visit Ridge Viewbbq.com.INSTITUTE, W.Va. -- The four owners of newly opened Ridge View BBQ in Institute obviously enjoy cooking together. They tease each other while they prepare the smoked barbecue and ribs and burgers they've served at fairs and festivals for the past four years.
With the confidence born of their steadily growing catering business, two couples Jim and Wendy Smith and Nick and Nicki Gohlmann opened the restaurant in a newly renovated space across from West Virginia State University. Everyone except Nicki quit their day jobs to give the restaurant their full attention.
The food venture all started in 2007 when the Smiths and Gohlmanns were eating barbecue together at the Smiths' house. Wendy and Nicki are sisters. They sold their barbecue at the Pumpkin Festival in Milton and Bridge Day that fall, and had a good response form customers.
"We thought it was pretty good and decided to get a concession trailer and go to more festivals," Wendy said. "We decided to try it and it snowballed from that."
The business grew as they pulled the trailer to 25 to 30 festivals a year in West Virginia, Ohio, Virginia and Kentucky.
The catering business, which is called Good Stuff Good Times, took off after an initial gig for the basketball team at West Virginia State University.
"We started right here," Jim said. The restaurant stands in a strip of new businesses, just down from the long-lived Andy's Grill, and the famous hot bologna sandwiches served there. The menu includes a hot bologna sandwich in honor of the little restaurant that closed in 2006.
Nick left the Barboursville restaurant he managed in 2008 to handle the business full time. Jim left his job as produce manager at the Cross Lanes Kroger in 2009, and Wendy, who also worked at the Cross Lanes Kroger, joined the team in June.
They'll still hit the festival circuit in their brightly colored Ridge View BBQ trailer, but the foursome agreed it was time to make the leap to a full-time restaurant this summer.
"We considered every sandwich a job interview," Jim said of the concession business. "You never know who you're serving."