By Fran Maye
Dawn and Larry Hood can see the day not too far away where Hood’s BBQ has locations in other parts of Chester County and the surrounding area.
Hood’s BBQ on Route 82 in Unionville has become so popular in the past several years that the Hood family has plans to expand their current building to give themselves more room and accommodate more people in the process. Architect Brad Bernstein of Design Data Associates has already drawn up the preliminary plans, and if all goes well, construction could be completed in early spring of next year.
The Hood family opened Hood’s on Aug. 1, 2006 in a building that has a rich history. It was at one time a general store and a garage with fuel pumps. Earlier this year, they purchased the property from their longtime landlord in order to make their dream plans for the future come to reality.
And business is good, Dawn said, because of the food.
“Customers say they feel like they are in their own kitchen when they’re here,” she said. “People tell me they don’t want us to change too much and I tell them that it may change on the outside, the property hasn’t been kept up for years by owners of the past, but what’s inside will stay the same.”
Hood’s is truly a family business. Their son, Larry III, 24, a recent graduate of Shippensburg University and soon to be groom, handles front of the house operations and does the marketing and advertising. Morgan, 20, works the grill and runs the back of the house operations. Dawn said she does a bit of everything, but is known for her baking. Her cakes and pies don’t seem to stay on the shelf for long.
Larry Jr. works full time at Longwood Gardens where he has been for the past 30 years. After work at Longwood he comes to the store and puts even more time in.
“This is what I’ve always dreamed of,” he said. “I just want to make everything work for the family. My dad was a farmer all his life and had a poultry farm on Hood Road off Route 842. I’ve been around here all my life and the people in the community know me.”
Larry Jr. was 14 when he began cooking barbecue chicken for family reunions. He was so good at it, and loved it so much, he knew his passion was to eventually have his own business.
The “Hoodie” is probably the single item that propelled the business to where it is today. The signature sandwich contains slow roasted pulled pork smothered in homemade barbecue sauce, (Dawn’s mother’s original recipe) melted sharp provolone cheese and topped with Dawn’s homemade cole slaw.
Larry Jr. was sometimes called Hoodie growing up, and it just seemed natural to call their signature sandwich just that. “It just took off from there,” said Larry III.
Hood’s currently seats about 30, and it could easily seat 40 or more if not for some of the furnishings. There’s an old fanning mill, circa 1882, from Larry Jr’s farm, a Singer sewing machine, and an antique stove brought over from Dawn’s side of the family. And in fitting tradition to the horsing community, the walls are adorned with equine events. There’s even a signed photo of the Matriarch of Unionville, Nancy Penn Smith Hannum.
“There’s room for more tables, but the atmosphere wouldn’t be the same,” said Larry III.
But the expansion will cure that. The expansion will accommodate a larger amount of patrons, and the cooking area will be moved to the rear. A front porch will eliminate the dangerous parking in front of the store. Customers will still be able to park in the large lot behind the store and use its rear entrance or across the street at the parking lot of the URA baseball fields.
“We’re going to spruce things up a lot, even outside,” said Larry Jr. “And we’ll be looking to hire people.”
When plans comes to fruition Hood’s will have plenty of job opportunities. They will be looking for cooks, wait staff, dishwashers, and the like. They will putting together job applications for the new plans in the near future and interested applicants can inquire within or eventually online.
Whether or not expansion plans materialize, the food will stay the same – home cooked and delicious. It’s the reason Hood’s BBQ has been sought out by national celebrities. Owen Wilson and Mark Wahlberg ate there. So has Dick Vermeil.
Hood’s BBQ offers a variety of sandwiches. There’s a wide selection of cheesesteaks, wings, burgers, sloppy joes, hoagies, wraps, hot dogs and salads. Mexican fare features burritos, quesadillas, and taco salads. Breakfast is served all day. Weekends features ribs and chicken. One of the more popular sandwiches is the smoked beef brisket. The beef brisket sandwich is typically served on a hoagie roll with melted sharp provolone cheese, grilled onions and mushrooms and a side of that homemade Hood’s BBQ Sauce. Larry III’s favorite option is their BBQ baby back pork ribs.
The proximity of the nearby baseball fields has been a boom for the business. This past Memorial Day weekend, with tournaments in full swing, Larry Jr. said he cooked 1,000 pounds of pork. He normally smokes about 500-600 pounds of pork a week.
“Our pork is all local,” he said. “The sausage, bacon and scrapple are all from Frank’s Pork Products in Chatham. And our milk comes from Bailey’s Dairy Farm in Pocopson. It’s all local.”
Dawn said because the menu is limited at the URA concession stand, officials there don’t mind business being diverted.
“Some of these teams come from far away and they’re looking for a good place to eat,” said Dawn, who admitted the aroma from the outdoor smoker lures many to cross the street.
Daily, Hood’s offers unique menu items and specials for their loyal following. One recent item was a grilled meatloaf sandwich between Texas Toast with brown gravy. This item was featured in a recent post by Tilda Tally Ho in The Kennett Paper, and since then Larry III said people have come in requesting it.
“We may just have to put this on the menu and call it Tilda’s Meatloaf,” Larry III said.
The Hood’s believe in community. Every Thanksgiving, they like to give back to the community by offering Thanksgiving dinner. Donations collected go to a local charity chosen by the Hoods.
“We fill the place,” Larry III said. “This will be our fourth one. The expansion will give us the opportunity to serve more and give back more to charity.”
The business brings its mobile facility to lots of local events, including the Willowdale Steeplechase, the Chester County Balloon Festival, the Pennsylvania Hunt Cup and many more. The Hood’s offer pick up catering at the store and have a wide selection of food items to choose from for your next birthday party, graduation, or holiday get together.
The renovated Hood’s will still keep its hometown flavor. There will be three separate areas, a luncheonette bar, a dining area, and a general store, that will sell many of Dawn’s home-cooked pies and cakes.
The Hood’s say East Marlborough officials have been generally favorable of their expansion plans, and they feel the growth will be good for the business and community.
“We’ve become fast-food oriented today,” Larry III said. “People want convenience, but they also want that home-cooked feeling.
Hood’s Barbecue is located at 1664 W. Doe Run Road, Unionville. For catering options, call (610) 347-1433. Check them out at www.hoodsbbq.com