One couple’s dream became a reality this week when their Dickey’s Barbecue Pit franchise in Sanger finally opened its doors.
Tracy and Katrina Norris put all their savings into the restaurant on the east side of Interstate 35 and are counting their blessings after a successful grand-opening day.
Despite pouring rain and flooding in the area, they saw at least 300 customers Thursday, their first official day of business.
“We are very excited and relieved at the same time,” Katrina Norris said Friday morning. “We had a nice turnout our first day.”
The couple had been in what they called “survival mode” after they encountered construction problems last year. Not only did they miss the planned opening of their Dickey’s franchise, they were left several thousand dollars in debt.
“We were pretty much in financial ruins,” Tracy Norris said. “We really downsized, sold off assets ... everything to make it through. This business was to be my retirement.”
Some friends from church witnessed their struggle, and by November the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association had more than 20 veterans from across North Texas working to get the business ready to open.
“Vets helping vets” is the motto of the nonprofit and a philosophy members proudly live by, Leonard “Preacher” Clemons said in November.
Tracy Norris served in the Marines, then became a project manager working with military armor in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The team of veterans, augmented by community volunteers, saved the couple an estimated $20,000 in contracting costs and aided in finding another investor to help get the restaurant up and running.
The new investors, Jeff and Desi Gutknecht of Aubrey, came along this year, and the project’s pace soon started to pick up.
Concrete was poured, a drive-through service area was built, and finishing touches were made to the interior of the building.
“We picked Dickey’s because not only were they affordable and accommodating for someone wanting to start their own business, but we also enjoyed eating there,” Tracy Norris said. “We are just blessed Jeff and Desi joined our team. ... It’s been an experience.”
The Norrises plan to continue enjoying their first weekend in business and hope people come out to meet them.
“We are looking forward to what’s to come,” Tracy Norris said.
MEGAN GRAY-HATFIELD can be reached at 940-566-6885 and via Twitter at @MGrayNews.