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The new beer in town JoBoy’s hopes to open at Rudy’s Hall by December A BBQ & A with brew pub owner Jeff Harless
STEPHEN SEEBER Record Express Staff
, Staff Writer
Rumors of new restaurants at 27-31 E. Main St. have come and gone over the last three years, and talk of JoBoy’s moving its barbecue and beer operation from Manheim to downtown Lititz has been a popular discussion at local coffee shops for several months.
The rumors ended July 22 when Jeff and Jo Harless, the husband and wife team behind JoBoy’s, signed a 10 year lease with Wes and Lisa Terry, owners of the historic Rudy’s Hall.
The Harlesses plan to open a restaurant, brewery and banquet room on the first and second floors of the borough’s largest commercial building. The first floor will house the restaurant and bar, and feature an intricate brewing system in one of the large Main Street windows. The second floor will be used to cater large events, and the owners are considering the construction of a stage for bands. In essence, JoBoy’s is moving from Manheim to Lititz. And while their tradition of authentic southern barbecue and craft beer will continue, the plan is to elevate the menu and atmosphere with the help of French-trained executive chef Dwayne Spencer, who has worked at Bent Creek, Haydn Zug’s, the Accomac Inn and Tangerine (a Stephen Starr restaurant in Philadelphia).
Last week, Lititz’s zoning hearing board cleared parking hurdles to the rear of the building, and construction on the kitchen and a small addition for a North Lane entrance will begin in September.
"When our construction is completed, the final result will be a high demand, highly visible restaurant, office and retail hub centralized just one block off the main square," said Lisa Terry shortly after the zoning meeting.
She explained that JoBoy’s will utilize the first floor, over 5,000 square feet, for restaurant space. The second floor will be used by JoBoy’s as an event hall, just like the original Rudy’s Hall, built in 1900. This floor also provides over 5,000 square feet and will provide the community with a new destination for banquets, meetings and receptions. The third floor has been earmarked for premiere office space, providing an additional 5,000 square feet. The two remaining basement spaces will be used for basement boutiques, offices or small eateries. Each provides 1,000 square feet and are accessible by steps right off of East Main Street.
The Record Express sat down with Jeff Harless, in what will eventually be the restaurant kitchen, shortly after the lease was signed to talk about his vision and his place in downtown Lititz:
Record Express: You’ve been the talk of the town for some time. I guess it’s no longer a rumor.
Jeff: We’re coming. We’re definitely coming. The signs are in the window.
It seemed like it took forever to get to this point, but we’ve been working on this for several months. The lease was signed on our 13th wedding anniversary, July 22, at 10 a.m. That was a great present for Jo and I.
Record Express: Rudy’s Hall is a big building, the biggest in Lititz. This must be a huge investment for you and Jo.
Jeff: When we opened the first JoBoy’s in Manheim (April of 2010) it was during the downturn in the economy. We both had business backgrounds, but no experience with opening a restaurant, and we knew we wouldn’t get a bank loan.
We took our life savings and our credit cards and maxed everything out. Four years later, here we are.
That was a heck of a risk. She trusted me, and we did it. But it wasn’t just something we thought of and did. This has been on my mind for a long time.
Record Express: You’ve built a successful restaurant and brew pub, so why move from Manheim to Lititz?
Jeff: We have always been supported by Manheim. The main reason we’re leaving is because of the growth and expansion. We want to be able to offer more in the way of different foods, and we need a much bigger brewing system. We have no space to expand whatsoever over there.
Record Express: When did Rudy’s Hall catch your eye?
Jeff: This started probably six months ago. We had seen this building over a year ago, but heard there were some other interested parties and knew we didn’t have the funding at the time. Then we finally got hooked up (with Wes and Lisa). They came and visited our venue in Manheim and saw who we were, what we were about and everything, tasted all our food. And we just hit it off, and came to find out that Jo’s aunt and Lisa’s mother were very close friends. We had no idea. It was almost like this was just supposed to happen.
Record Express: Why is this building perfect for the next chapter in JoBoy’s history?
Jeff: Number one, Lititz wasn’t named America’s coolest small town for no reason. It’s very busy. The demographics. The palates are more traveled, I think, here. And I think you have a good group of craft brew drinkers.
There’s also a very active downtown development group, and there’s always something going on here.
And, we’re right at the square. There are a lot of great reasons to be here.
Record Express: When do you expect to be open for business?
Jeff: Once everything goes through, after all the drawings meet code and all that stuff, we’re hoping to be here (open) the latter part of November or the first part of December. That’s our goal.
Record Express: So, when I finish my last minute Christmas shopping, I’ll be able to stop by for barbecue and a beer?
Jeff: Boy, I hope so.
Record Express: Do you have any special events in mind?
Jeff: One thing we want to do is hold wine dinners… Vineyards can showcase their wines and we’ll have our executive chef prepare meals to go with them. We also want to showcase our beers and do food pairings.
The whole premise of JoBoy’s from the beginning was blues and barbecue, and we want to depict that blues feeling. From the dark mahogany to the art on the walls. We want it to be a good down-home southern barbecue, but we want it to be classy.
And we plan to have entertainment. On 2nd Fridays we want to host live music, and we’re considering a possible stage on the second floor for bands.
Record Express: How will the addition of your restaurant change the downtown landscape?
Jeff: It’s going to be outstanding. More options will bring more people into Lititz (referring to the Bulls Head, ABC and Sturgis Haus). You almost become a pub crawl. It’s like a magnet, the more the merrier. And it’s not about whose beer is better, because craft beer is an art. Everyone’s beer is their depiction, just like an artist.
Record Express: What about your barbecue?
Jeff: I was born and raised in North Carolina. When I say I’m doing southern barbecue, I’m doin’ it. Our red slaw is quintessential Lexington, N.C. red slaw; vinegar-based slaw. Our baked beans, the way that we smoke our pork… The way that we do all these things is how I grew up.
Another thing that will separate us is we have our own JoBoy’s garden where our chef grows our vegetables.
Our overall vision is to truly introduce people to real southern barbecue; smoking meats, the way that they smoke them back home for 16 hours or more. Always slow. Using pecan wood and hickory. But presenting that meat the way that I grew up with it.
Add to that a French-trained executive chef and you’ve got a unique mix of traditional southern barbecue on an elevated menu. We’ll always have that authentic southern barbecue, which back home is smoked pork, cole slaw, hush puppies or fries and baked beans. That’s how barbecue is served back there. But he (Chef Spencer) has taken our barbecue to another level. His smoked pork loin stuffed with dates, spinach and pine nuts is succulent.
We don’t want it to just be a barbecue joint. We want it to be something that only Lititz has.
Record Express: What’s your most popular menu item?
Jeff: Even today, our smoked cabbage is the most unique thing in the world.
(Jeff takes a whole cabbage head, cuts out the top and fills it with butter, barbecue sauce and bacon. He smoke that for about eight hours, low and slow.)
People come specifically for that.
Record Express: What about your beers?
Jeff: All the beers are my recipes. Our philosophy is to do pre-prohibition beers. We’re traditionalists. Full flavors. The grains, the hops. And lagers too. Our first lager is going to be called Lititz Lager.
Our number one selling beer, at our current place, is our Manheim Red. That was our start. Manheim Red always has and always will be with us. We’re very proud of our roots there.
(Currently, he features two cask beers, eight regular beers on tap, and seasonal beers. His brewmaster is Mike "Tug" McGall)
Starting this December (hopefully), JoBoy’s will be open during the week until 10 p.m., weekends until 11 p.m., and Sundays until 8 or 9 p.m. Doors will open for lunch at 11 a.m. every day.
More JOBOY’S, page A3