Lockhart Smokehouse is quite the staple in Historic Downtown Plano. The smell of its smoking brisket fills the early morning air, and people come from all over to enjoy delicious barbecue. This February the owners celebrated the four-year anniversary of their 15th Street location, but Lockhart Smokehouse has an even longer history than that.
When owners Jill and Jeff Bergus moved to Dallas in 2001, they were not even in the restaurant business. Jill was a television producer and Jeff owned a fashion company, but, like many others, the recession in 2008 forced them into some major career changes. When Walmart decided not to order from Jeff’s company anymore, Jill said they asked themselves, “What are we going to do next?’”
During this reconsideration of their future, Jill found something hopeful in her family’s past. She grew up in the city of Lockhart, which is known as the Barbecue Capital of Texas, and her family played a big part of establishing that reputation. As Jill put it, “[Lockhart] has three fantastic BBQ joints… and I’m related to all of them.”
With that history and reputation behind them, Jeff and Jill partnered with friends Beth and Tim McLaughlin to bring central Texas-style barbecue to DFW, and in 2011, they opened the first Lockhart Smokehouse in the Bishop Arts District of Dallas. In 2014 they opened in Plano, and later this year they will be opening a third location just outside Globe Life Park in Arlington alongside restaurants owned by Troy Aikman and Guy Fieri.
Even before their first restaurant opening, though, Jill and Jeff had deep connections to Downtown Plano. The couple would drive from Dallas to eat at Jörg’s Café Vienna. As their friendship with Jörg Fercher grew, he tried to convince them to bring Lockhart to Plano, suggesting that they move into a vacant space across the street. In 2014 that finally happened.
Downtown Plano attracted them in the same way that the Bishop Arts District did. “We love the neighborhood feel, and we love getting to know our neighbors,” Jill said. And even though the area was not as popular then as it has become in the last few years, she said, “Downtown has always had this really cool vibe to it.”
Within the most recent bit of revitalization in the last couple years, Jill and Jeff have used some of their experience from the Bishop Arts District to bring new things to Downtown Plano. For instance, the idea for a long-table event came from a similar event in Dallas. Jeff said, “It was a big success, and I was like, how do you bring a community together and bring all the restaurants to work together?” Thus, Night Out on 15th was born.
This passion for bringing the community together recently led Jeff to his position as the president of the Historic Downtown Plano Association. Last year he, along with Jörg and local photographer Ken Wesley, opened Ten20 Gallery on 15th Street. “We’d all get coffee, and say ‘You know, this is an arts district without an art gallery,’ so we just kind of put that together,” he said.
The three of them created a space where local artists and Collin College students could showcase work in a professional setting. Although Ten20 Gallery was temporary, they have plans to open another one soon, with hopes to continue promoting the Downtown Plano art scene.
Whether in Dallas, Arlington or Plano, Jeff and Jill continue to find new ways to create a community around what they do. They have played an integral part of making Downtown Plano what it is today, while serving up pretty nifty barbecue on the side.Lockhart Smokehouse Website >