Restaurateur to Open Pot Smoker BBQ in Aiken
A go-to spot for local barbecue fans will open in Aiken soon.
A new franchise of The Pot Smoker, a North Augusta barbecue joint, is set to open on Silver Bluff Road in the former Buckwheat’s Bar-B-Que, which closed in December.
Two weeks ago, Philip Pye, who opened the restaurant’s first franchise in Columbia, SC last spring, and his mother Kathy Pye finalized a deal with the owners of Buckwheat’s Bar-B-Que to open a second franchise of The Pot Smoker in the Buckwheat’s building at 651 Silver Bluff Rd. The Pye’s are leasing the building from Buckwheat’s owner Dewayne Jones and have also taken over the restaurant’s catering business.
Philip said he aims to open the restaurant in 4-6 weeks and has no doubt that the constant flow of traffic on the busy thoroughfare will draw plenty of hungry Aikenites.
“I learned a lot about barbecue by doing this,” Philip said. “It’s an art form to me.”
Philip is no stranger to the restaurant business. His father, Andy Pye, has owned and managed dozens of restaurants over the years. Philip followed a similar path and has done everything from managing multiple Firehouse Subs franchises to launching his own tapas concept in Columbia.
But for Philip, something was always different about the North Augusta barbecue joint that Bobby Boggs and his family had opened in a mobile unit in 2013. The Boggs’ would camp out at a shopping center on Saturdays and sell as much barbecue as they could. After consistently selling 500 pounds of meat in three hours every weekend, the family decided to upgrade to a restaurant.
In November of 2016, Andy came by The Pot Smoker with Philip, who was looking for new ideas. One taste was all it took.
“I was like, ‘This is it,'” Philip said. “‘This is what I want to do.'”
Philip asked Boggs if he would consider franchising the restaurant, and Boggs said yes. He just wanted to be assured that Philip would value the culinary experience that he and his family had created in North Augusta and would do the same thing in the new restaurant. Boggs wasn’t disappointed. He’s received strong reviews of the Columbia restaurant.
“He does everything exactly how we do it in North Augusta,” Boggs said.
Philip will now do the same thing in Aiken. Prior to launching the Columbia restaurant, Philip spent 3-4 months shadowing a pit master at Boggs’ barbecue joint, where he learned every step of the process of smoking meat, from holding the meat correctly to using the exact temperatures for an optimal slow cook.
But Philip also has his own plans to improve the new Aiken restaurant, including building a patio in front of the restaurant that spans the entire length of the building and can accommodate 50-60 people.
“People in today’s society are so stressed,” Boggs said. “They’re here for an experience, not just to eat.”
Boggs’ philosophy is that the restaurant experience doesn’t begin with the first bite; it starts at the door. When Boggs is behind the counter at his family’s North Augusta restaurant and sees someone new walk in, he yells “One shot!” Customers, who are often caught off guard by the notion of immediately taking shots of alcohol upon entry are then presented with a small cup containing their first bite of Pot Smoker barbecue. Boggs first started handing out samples of his product at Kroger after years of compliments from friends. He hasn’t stopped just because he owns a restaurant now.
“I’ll stop at every table,” Boggs said. “There’s an interaction between us and the customer that happens multiple times throughout that experience.”
Philip isn’t planning on the Aiken location being any different when it opens. He’ll split his time between Aiken and his restaurants in Columbia, and Boggs plans to drop by on occasion.
“(Columbia’s restaurant) is a mirror of us,” Boggs said. “This will be another mirror.”