Underdog BBQ, a Millcreek Township business that was started by the Discovery TV show “Undercover Billionaire”, is moving to a new location.
The restaurant, located since 2019 at 3040 West Lake Road, acquired the former Perkins restaurant at 2714 W. Eighth St.
The Perkins site has been closed since September 2019.
Rooted in TV
Underdog BBQ was born from the efforts of businessman Glenn Stearns, who arrived in Erie in 2019, a film crew in tow, with a cellphone, a battered van and 0 in his pocket.
As part of a reality TV show, his mission was to turn that $100 into a successful business by sharing what he had learned after years in business and relying on the help of people he had met in Erie.
In 2021, when Stearns returned to Erie to film “Undercover Billionaire: Comeback City”, Ashley Messenger, who was then general manager of Underdog BBQ, said that Stearns surprised her by offering to sell her the business for $100, the same amount he had in his pocket when he arrived in Erie.
Messenger, who accepted that offer from Stearns, said Underdog management considered moving to a larger building that could be customized for the restaurant’s needs. Messenger said she considered a number of other locations, including the former Hoss’s Steak & Sea House at 3302 W. 26th St.
That process was accelerated this summer when she was unable to come to an agreement with the owner of the West Lake Road location to extend her lease for another year.
Messenger, which agreed to pay $385,000 to buy the restaurant building from Arizona-based Storemaster Funding, said it had hoped to continue operating from the old location until renovations could be made. made to the Perkins building. The sale of the property is expected to be finalized on Wednesday.
“Honestly, it needs a lot of work. It needs a lot of love,” she said of the 4,700-square-foot building built in 1973. “It’s not turnkey. “
Messenger said she does not yet know which parts of the restaurant will need to be repaired. She knows that eventually a bar will have to be added.
“We need a new roof,” she said. “He was leaking even before they closed. We’re not quite sure what to do at this point, but he has very good bones.”
Messenger, which has about 20 staff, about half of them full-time, said the new, larger site will provide more space for catering and to oversee operations in preparation for a planned expansion into franchising.
Short term approach
Messenger, who plans to take out a loan to cover renovation costs, said the work could take up to a year.
However, it hopes to be open for outdoor dining within a week or two.
After:Millcreek Perkins closes
“We still need to get approval from our health department,” she said. For now, the needs of outdoor diners will be served by the Underdog BBQ food truck, which will serve an abbreviated menu.
This menu will focus on smoked meats with the possible addition of smoked baked potatoes, smoked macaroni and cheese and a few cold side dishes.
A graduate of Mercyhurst University’s culinary program, Messenger said she was thrilled to be a restaurant owner at the age of 30.
But there have been plenty of challenges along the way, she said.
“COVID certainly threw a few punches, but we mostly won,” she said. “It’s not easy. We had days when we weren’t making money.”
Messenger said she embraced what Stearns represented on the TV show and the idea of approaching business as an outsider.
“I feel like we all have the underdog (spirit) in us,” she said. “We’ve all endured our own struggles in ways other people might not understand. Someone in our life told us we weren’t good or told us we couldn’t do something. .”
Messenger said she was well aware that many businesses, not just restaurants, have failed since the pandemic began.
And while the purchase of the old Perkins building represents a high point for Underdog, Messenger said there are still many challenges ahead.
“(Success) is not linear,” she said. “It won’t always be up. There are a lot of ups and downs, but you’re always trying to get up.”
Jim Martin can be reached at [email protected].