Mike and Elena Russell didn’t let a poor showing in their first barbecue competition keep them from opening their own restaurant, Dakota BBQ, in Custer on May 20.
It was in the late summer of 2009 when the Russells started Dakota BBQ as a competitive barbecue team in Dell Rapids, entering their first competition the following year.
They towed their home-built trailer and smoker on the nine-hour trip to North Platte, Neb., only to be smoked by the competition, finishing 47th out of 53 teams.
“I was hoping for luck,” said Mike. “I did my research and knew the rules, but I didn’t know what the heck I was doing.”
That humbling experience only served to light the wood-smoke fire for them. They continued to hone their barbecue craft on a weekend-warrior basis as they chased other jobs.
In 2010, they moved to Colorado, where Mike eventually got a job in Greeley managing a barbecue joint called Peace Pit BBQ. He later worked for another mobile oven called Element’s Wood Fired Oven until mid-2015.
Moving to Custer and armed with 18 top-ten finishes in 15 competitions since that dismal start, they’ve now opened a take-out restaurant, also named Dakota BBQ, at 437 Mount Rushmore Road.
Their style is what they call a Midwest barbecue, a combination of Texas beef-brisket, salt-and-pepper seasoning (with two extra ingredients added) and a take on Memphis-style ribs with a dry spice rub and sweet sauce.
“We like it sweet and also a little bit spicy with a little tang in there,” Mike said. “It’s kind of a mesh of all the great barbecue regions out there.”
“It’s not Southern-style barbecue by any means,” Elena said. “But people are really liking it and that’s good.”
Days of operation are now limited to Thursdays and Friday for dinner, and Saturday and Sunday for lunch.
They open at 5 p.m. on Thursday and Friday and serve until they are sold out. Saturday and Sunday they open at 11 a.m. and again serve until sold out. There is table seating for about 20, but their business is mostly take-out. They hope to expand days and hours as business dictates.
Only staying open until that day’s meat is gone helps guarantee a fresh serving, Mike said.
“I’d rather have a bad review because they weren’t able to make it in for the barbecue, than get a bad review because they made it in late and ate crappy barbecue,” Mike said.
Dakota BBQ’s grand opening is set for June 16.
Maverik stores coming
Maverik Adventure’s First Stop convenience stores are indeed coming to the Black Hills, just not in the order first announced.
The first Maverik store in the local area was to be built on Junction Avenue in Sturgis where the old Star-Lite Motel was located.
But that project has been put on hold while two other Maverik locations are completed in Rapid City, according to spokesman Aaron Simpson of the Utah-based company.
The two Rapid City locations are at the corner of East North Street and Lacrosse Street, where construction is well underway.
A second Maverik is to be built at Haines Avenue and Lindbergh Street.
“We’re going to see how those two (stores) do, make sure the operation’s running smoothly and we’ll expand from there,” Simpson said.
The plan initially would have been to build first in Sturgis, then in another small town on the other side of Rapid City, he said.
“When we went into Denver, we started in Castle Rock and Fort Morgan, which are way far apart, then went in from there,” Simpson explained.
“We wanted to start in the larger city and work our way out,” he said. “We’re taking a more disciplined approach.”
The East North Street store should be open in the next five months, with the Haines Avenue store coming on line soon after that, Simpson said.
Simpson offered no timetable for construction of the Sturgis location.
“We still own the property,” he said. “We’re going to hang on to it for a while.”
Free tax seminar
Everything you’ve ever wanted to know about the taxes that small businesses deal with will be covered at a two-hour Sales and Use Tax seminar on Wednesday, June 21, in Spearfish.
The South Dakota Center for Enterprise Opportunity at Black Hills State University is hosting the free event, which starts at 9 a.m. at the Joy Center at BHSU.
Paula K’nigge from the South Dakota Department of Revenue will guide attendees through the maze of sales and use tax topics including, who needs a tax license, how and when to apply for a tax license, exemptions from sales and use taxes, exempt entities, use tax, municipal taxes, purchases for resale, how to file sales tax returns by paper and electronically, municipal gross receipts tax, and tourism tax.
K’nigge will also cover other issues and answer questions.
Registration deadline for the workshop is June 20. For more information or to register, call 605-642-6435 or visit BHSU.edu/SDCEO.