Los Banos barbecue business is fired up

07/03/2014 6:32 PM

07/05/2014 6:52 PM

Just in time for the Fourth of July and the summer barbecue season, the Gallichio family has opened BBQ Pros, a barbecue supply store.

The project has been in the works for Steve Gallichio and his son Eric for two years, and the building (the original home of Bressler’s Auto Electric, then Los Banos Paint Co.) officially changed hands last fall.

“There was a lot of cleanup. The first three months, all we did was clean up. There were homeless living in here, so that was an issue,” Steve Gallichio said. “I’m pretty proud of what we have here now. It was a little depressing the first couple of months. Believe me. To buy something, and once we got in here and started looking around and digging, it was pretty bad.

“But I think what we have here now is pretty nice. My son did a lot of the work, spearheaded a lot of the cleanup and trying to get this place set up and getting going.”

The store employs five – all members of the Gallichio family, starting with Steve and his wife, Kathy, Eric and his wife, Nicole, and cousin Michael. In addition to helping clean up and run the 15,000-square-foot property (7,500 in the store itself and another 7,500 in a breezeway the store uses for its builds), Eric takes care of the store’s budding social networking campaign – getting word out about a store featuring one the oldest human technologies, burning meat with fire, on some of the newest technology.

The location, at I and Sixth streets, is one that makes Donna Mendes happy. As president of the Los Banos Downtown Association, BBQ Pros are exactly the type of business she likes to see in the area.

“Small businesses are the heart of not just Los Banos, but the heart of America,” Mendes said. “That’s what sustains us, is the small business. We also try to promote shop local, so businesses like that are perfect.”

And not only having a new business, but one that renovates a pre-existing building is another plus.

“I’m all about downtowns. Every town has it. There’s so much history downtown, and it’s amazing, when you drive downtown in your car, it’s so different if you walk,” she said. “There’s historical buildings, and it’s important to preserve those. Just the architecture, there are some really beautiful buildings downtown, and we don’t notice it because we’re so busy.”

As for the product itself, Gallichio said he wants to specialize in things one won’t find at a Home Depot or a Wal-Mart.

“You’re going to get different here. You’ll get Aussie, Smoke Hollow, Black Stone, Traeger – we have different, and I think we have some pretty high-quality stuff,” he said. “I have a lot of Char-Broil. Half of my store is Char-Broil, so we’re supported by them and promote their stuff. All the accessories, they’re here. We have a full line, all the pellets for the Traegers, that I understand not everybody has, all eight flavors.”

Traeger makes pellet smokers, which Steve said have been growing in popularity. He is also working on building up a section devoted to rubs and sauces. The store features nearly 100 at the moment, and he said there are more on the way. Most are from competition barbecuers that can be seen on Food Network shows. Steve, who prefers leg of lamb smoked using wood chunks, said he’s looking for a rub made for lamb.

His own background in barbecue is extensive – Steve and Eric built a 27-foot smoker when Eric was still in high school, which the family loans to the Fire Department when they have an event. He said he’s done everything from turkey to chicken to wild game to tri-tip.

“It’s had a lot of meat put on it,” he said.

The store has a narrow specialty, but the Gallichios are betting Los Banos is the type of town that will sustain the business.

“If you look as you’re driving around, as you go to people’s houses, how many don’t have a barbecue?” The elder Gallichio said.

“Everybody’s got a barbecue, or is getting a barbecue, or it putting in a backyard kitchen. I would say you’re probably looking at 90 percent of the population has, has had, or will have a barbecue of some sort.

“Nationally, I think they say 82 percent has barbecues or does barbecuing. And on the average they barbecue two or three times a week. Pretty strong numbers.”

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