Gresham couple realizes dream with Dickey's
by: Jim Clark Teena Cameron has opened Dickey’s Barbecue Pit in downtown Gresham along with her family, including her son, Mike Cameron, in the background.

At Dickey's Barbecue Pit in downtown Gresham, rustling up good old-fashioned Texas grub comes complete with a side of free soft-serve ice cream and a big pickle.

'That's a Dickey's trademark,' said Teena Cameron, owner of the new eatery on northeast Third Street. 'But Dickey's is also all about family. We greet everyone who comes through the door and welcome them into our big happy family.'

Once home to Central Café and Crossbank Saloon, the cozy space no longer resonates to the sounds of pool cues and coffee cups. Corrugated tin walls, antique signs and dark wood floors lend a rustic Western look, but the smoky smell of hickory is as welcoming as a picnic table laden with baked beans and southern comfort foods.

Texas barbecue has found a home in Gresham.

Owning a restaurant had been a longtime aspiration of Gresham residents Cameron and husband, Mike. They wanted a family owned and operated business they could pass onto to their sons, Dwayne Fotta, 33, Mike Cameron, 24, and 15-year-old Anthony Cameron. The concept for an Italian restaurant, featuring their grandmother's recipe for homemade ravioli, had simmered for years.

But saddling up to barbecue was Mike's idea.

'I was living in Idaho and working at a Dickey's there,' he said. 'On days that it rained, the place was slammed. I called home in June and said barbecue was the way to go because as much as it rains in Oregon, I figured we would be busy all the time.'

Mike and Dwayne began investigating franchise opportunities with Dickey's and Monday, Nov. 14, the Western-themed restaurant became the first Dickey's location to open in Oregon. It's also the family-operated business Teena and Mike envisioned, with Mike and Dwayne sharing general manager duties for the day and evening shifts, respectively. Son Anthony helps out after school.

Southern tradition

Dickey's Barbecue Pit is the largest and longest running family owned barbecue chain in the United States. Originating in Dallas, Texas, in 1941, the restaurants maintain a decades-old tradition of adherence to founding father Travis Dickey's legacy of hickory-smoked meats.

'Everything is smoked,' Mike said. 'The meat is never touched by a flame. The traditional Southern way is to smoke everything. We only use hickory in the smoker, and we buy our wood from a supplier in Portland.'

Aligning with area businesses is a win/win, Dwayne said, especially at a time when the economy isn't always welcoming to an upstart venture. The building needed little in the way of remodeling prior to opening, but what work the family didn't do on their own, they contracted out to local businesses.

'We contacted the (Gresham Area Chamber of Commerce) and asked them about local contractors,' Dwayne said. 'It's kind of a Dickey's way. If you utilize local businesses, it helps get your name out there and helps the local economy.'

Tapping local resources has really helped launch the business, Dwayne said, citing that it's sometimes hard to find a vacant seat during lunchtime. Even web-footed Oregonians, it appears, appreciate a good barbecue sandwich.

'We have people who came in from McMinnville,' Dwayne said. 'They've been in twice, and we've only been open two weeks. We've already got loyal customers! We've made a long-term commitment to Dickey's, so we're going to be here for a while.'

Barbecue joint

What: Dickey's Barbecue Pit

Where: 124 N.E. Third St., Gresham

What: Texas barbecue and home-style side dishes; free soft-serve ice cream and dill pickles with every dine-in or take-out order.

Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Grand Opening: Thursday and Friday, Dec. 1-2, featuring $1 sandwiches from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Call: 503-328-8795

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