Where We've Been
The Firehouse was originally opened in 1980 by Tom Seaton and Jimmy Carter as Bucwood Bar-B-Que.
Located in the back storeroom of the "Buc Plaza" convenience market on the corner of ETSU's campus (where Roadrunner Market sits now), word spread quickly about the small operation. What began as a means to work their way through college, Tom, Jimmy & two other employees offered a simple menu of Bar-B-Que sandwiches & side items.
(Left: Bucwood Barbeque Drive-Thru Menu)
Later that year, after quickly outgrowing their first location, they purchased the Walnut Street Firestation at auction from The City of Johnson City.
(Right: Tom & his father, Jack, the day the Walnut St. Firestation was purchased at auction.)
The drive though was relocated to the newly purchased Walnut Street Firestation and opened January 2, 1981 as Bucwood’s Firehouse Bar-B-Que. Later that year after the interior of the Firestation was remodeled, The Firehouse opened as a 130 seat quick-service restaurant for lunch & dinner 6 days a week.
The first 5 years of operation were a struggle. Having no previous restaurant experience, Tom & Jimmy quickly learned that there was more to operating a restaurant than they could have imagined. In 1987 the decision was made to offer The Firehouse Country Breakfast, which breathed new life into the business and also necessitated being open 7 days a week in order to establish itself as a full-service family restaurant.
(Left: The first Firehouse Bar-B-Que Menu)
As a result from the success seen from the Country Breakfast, the need was realized for the first expansion of the restaurant.
(Above: The Firehouse, pre-expansion.)
The first need was to expand the kitchen. The catch was that the cost to increase the size of the kitchen was more than double their resources at the time and seemed very unlikely this was even a possibility. During a conversation one day in the restaurant with a man named Eddie Garland, Tom briefly mentioned and showed Eddie the general concept for the expansion. By the end of the conversation, a deal was struck and a blessing delivered on a handshake to do the job for significantly less than Tom had to spend. The kitchen addition & remodel were completed in a few short months by Eddie & his right hand man.
Tom grabs a quick lunch and checks out the progress of the remodeling.
Over the next few years, The Firehouse began to establish its reputation as one of the top restaurants in Johnson City. Jerry Jackson, one of the first Kitchen Managers, played an integral part in the growth and development of the restaurant while working tirelessly alongside of Tom in the earlier years.
(Left: Tom and Jerry Jackson preparing Thanksgiving turkeys.)
Due to the continued growth of the business, the need for another expansion was seen in 1992 with the addition of the “West Wing” and more lobby space at the front of the restaurant for a 1925 Seagraves Suburbanite Fire Engine that Tom had purchased in 1991.
(Above: Tom in front of the new catering and commissary building.)
(Above: Tom and Justin taking delivery of the 1925 Seagrave Suburbanite Firetruck from Hank Strickland. Hank, who was a Battalion Chief for the Hilton Head Fire Department in South Carolina, hauled the Firetruck he had personally restored all the way to The Firehouse from Hilton Head.)
The Firetruck was even featured in a photo for an article written by Southern Living about The Firehouse in 2004.
In 2004, The Firehouse began to change the way it does business. Where the focus for years had primarily been results driven, there began a shift towards being more relationships focused with the staff. That focus on people, on our staff and building relationships with our team remains one of our top priorities today along with pursuing excellence in everything we do here at The Firehouse.