Where We’ve Been
Over the Years
- 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 way to work their way through college, Tom, Jimmy & two other employees offered a simple menu of Bar-B-Que sandwiches & side items.
West Walnut Street Firehall Purchase
Above: Tom & his father, Jack, the day the Walnut St. Firestation was purchased at auction
Later that year, after quickly outgrowing their first location, they purchased the Walnut Street Firestation at auction from The City of Johnson City
The drive though was relocated to the newly purchased Walnut Street Firehall and opened January 2, 1981 as Bucwood’s Firehouse Bar-B-Que. Later that year after the interior of the Firehall was remodeled, The Firehouse opened as a 130 seat quick-service restaurant for lunch & dinner 6 days a week
History of the West Walnut Street Firehall
Built in 1930, the Walnut Street Fire hall served Johnson City as Station No. 2 until 1976. It was located to service the rapidly growing southwestern area of the city. While industrial development was prevalent, the fire hall bordered the most prominent residential area of that era which today is known as the “tree streets”. The West Walnut Street Fire hall was home to many former Fire Chiefs and their families including Chief L.L. Geisler and Chief Ralph Hamley. Many of our customers often reminisce about visiting the fire hall in its heyday.
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
Firehouse Country Breakfast
- 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.
(Below: The first Firehouse Bar-B-Que Menu)
Expanding to Serve
- Fortunately, 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 and Jerry Jackson preparing Thanksgiving turkeys.
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
Change is Good
In 2004, The Firehouse began to change the way it does business. Since the beginning, the focus had been primarily about getting results. In 2004, while still focused on results, an intentional shift began that focused more on people.
That focus on people, on our team and building relationships with our team remains one of the most important parts of what we do every day as an organization.
- In 2012, Tom’s oldest son, Justin, joined the business full time. Since 2012, Tom & Justin have been working together to “Make a Difference that Matters” in the hospitality industry