Ribmasters Has Become An East Texas Dining Staple
By CASEY MURPHY
Since David Spivey started selling his smoked ribs out of a shack in Teaselville seven years ago, he has grown Ribmasters to three locations throughout East Texas.
Spivey, 39, of Noonday, was a paint contractor for eight years before shifting gears and trying his hand at opening a barbecue joint.
"I wouldn't have it any other way," he said of owning a business.
|IF YOU GO|
Whitehouse: 803 A U.S. Highway 110 North; 903-839-0530
Murchison: 9502 FM 773; 903-469-3001
Bullard: 312 N. Houston St.; 903-894-5016
Catering Services: 903-521-0820
Restaurant Hours: 11 a.m. to 8:30 Monday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday (Whitehouse location closes at 8 p.m. Saturday), all closed Sunday.
He grew up in Longview and practiced cooking ribs for years for family and friends and was often told he had missed his calling. So he started cooking for customers out of a 20-by-20-foot shack in Teaselville in 2005. He soon was doing so much volume he had to expand, he said, so he opened the first Ribmasters restaurant in Whitehouse.
Since then, Spivey has grown the business to opening a second restaurant in Murchison in March 2011 and opening a Bullard location a year later. And Spivey is not done expanding.
"We got big plans," he said while sitting in the Bullard restaurant Tuesday. Several people have approached him about opening franchise locations, but he is waiting to find the right person to open more Ribmasters.
"You can't get ribs like us anywhere else," Spivey said, adding that they ship their food all over the country.
Spivey said each of his restaurants has a loyal customer base, and people visit his Whitehouse eatery from Henderson, Longview and Kilgore. Customers drive from Jacksonville, Frankston, Alto, Rusk and Lake Palestine to the Bullard location. His Murchison restaurant draws people from Canton, Athens and Gun Barrel City.
Spivey said they can sell 150 slabs of ribs a day, and the barbecue pit never shuts off except for when it's given a good cleaning on Sundays.
Ribs served at lunch come off the pit around 10:45 a.m. each day, and ribs eaten at dinner are cooked that afternoon, said Spivey's business partner, Dina Hollowell. Brisket is slow-cooked all night long. She said they often cook at capacity and still sell out.
After being a stay-at-home mother for 10 years, raising four children with her husband Charles, Mrs. Hollowell, 40, decided it was time to do something different. She has known Spivey nearly all of her life and decided to go into business with him. She is a partner with Spivey in the Murchison restaurant and splits her time running the Bullard and Whitehouse locations.
"I jumped into it feet first," she said of the business.
Ribmasters also does catering for any size event, with its biggest being 500 people, and has gone to Carthage, Fairfield, Kilgore, Minden, Hawkins and New London.
Mrs. Hollowell, of Brownsboro, said their pork ribs are sticky, sweet and a little spicy and come with homemade potato salad and baked beans - all made from scratch every day.
It took Spivey more than a year to perfect the rub for his ribs, and he also came up with the two barbecue sauces he sells for ribs and beef.
He said Ribmasters is all about his rib recipe and portions.
"You don't leave here hungry," Spivey said. "If you do, it's your own fault."
Spivey said they offer "the biggest baked potatoes you've ever seen and fixed how you want." They also marinate and smoke their turkeys.
The David Special, which Spivey started out of his first shack in Teaselville, consists of sausage and beef, finely chopped with onions, jalapeos and cheese on a hamburger bun.
Ribmasters in Bullard sells hamburgers made with hand-pressed patties on sourdough buns and fried foods, such as homemade fries, corn nuggets, okra and pickles. The Bullard location also offers smoked sausage, fried and served with sauteed onions and peppers.
Unique menu items include the redneck Frito pie, which is filled with Fritos, baked beans, brisket, cheese, onions and jalapeos. Redneck fries are French fries loaded with brisket and other toppings.
Ribmasters also serves up deserts, such as peanut butter chocolate silk, chocolate or lemon meringue, coconut and pecan pies, and peach or blackberry cobblers.
Ribmasters offers all-you-can-eat specials Fridays and Saturdays, and kids eat free on certain nights at the different restaurants, Spivey said.
Mrs. Hollowell said she knows how to cook and can help out in the kitchen if needed, but she spends her time consumed with the business end of things and taking care of customers. She said she starts her workdays in Whitehouse and ends them in Bullard.
"We want people to look forward to coming in," she said of their customer service. "I look forward to meeting new customers."