Longtime regulars of 60-year-old Guy's Meat Market had plenty of stories to tell while waiting in line for smoked sausage, barbecue chicken, cuts of meat and the store's signature "BBQ hambergers" on Tuesday morning. Late last week, the shop announced via Facebook that after 60 years in business, it will be closing for good on July 3.
Guy's has been around since 1938, when Brad "Guy" Dickens first opened the original incarnation on Almeda. It then moved to Scott (and Southmore) in 1946, and to its soon-to-be-shuttered home on Old Spanish Trail in 1958, turning out 200 smoked hamburgers a day.
"I moved across the street from the shop on Scott in 1948," said an old-timer at the register. "It was the first place I ever cashed a check."
"I just can't believe it," said another, giving a hug to Steve Free, a partner of Guy Dickens's son Brad, who now pretty much runs the spot.
Free, who started working for Guy's back in 1970, told the Houston Press it was time for the family-and-friends-run establishment to close up so he could retire. Brad Dickens already did so about five years ago.
The land surrounding the market has already been up for sale for more than a year, Free said, and there is finally an investor who's interested — it will not become another meat market or restaurant. The shop's myriad butcher blocks and equipment will be sold at auction.
"Most people are coming in and are concerned about where they're going to get their barbecue," Free said. "I don't know what to tell them."
This is the sort of place I'd suggest everyone get to before it shutters. In a city like Houston, where new developments and restaurant "concepts" are a dime a dozen, this is a standout that speaks to an older time, the type of spot that has carved out a niche for itself with numerous regulars and without an air of ostentation in sight, from the glass case of collector's bottles of Coke and beers to rusty old cleavers, dusty with time.
It's the type of place I wish I saw more of in Houston, and something that a younger generation of restaurateurs and operators might learn a thing or two from — how about some character instead of just, like, "branding"?
The fact that you can find shelves with everything from Kleenex to canned corn, with white bread and the occasional rogue computer chair floating around an aisle, if you could even call it an aisle, warms the heart. It's good for the soul. Spots like this are disappearing and you should probably be concerned about that.
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Many of the regulars were stockpiling the shop's seasoning, Guy's Dry Rub, though it's still going to be available for purchase online.
If you have a chance to get there for lunch, you should. Former Houston Press food editor Robb Walsh selected the barbecue-style burger as one his top 100 dishes back in 2010. Truly it will be a big loss for burger fans — the patties are smoked, and are best when slathered in both mayonnaise and barbecue sauce. It is pretty dang dreamy and worth a trip before next week's shutter. I was also taken with the smoked sausage, with its touch of heat and snappy casing. The potato salad is pretty much perfection and borders on the tangy, mustardy side. I could eat it all day. In fact, I brought a full lunch plate back to the office and did.