Leroy Payne and his wife, Donna, turned the closing of the Spokane Public Market into a life-changing opportunity.
Originally setting out to open their own barbecue restaurant, the Paynes leased a Valley location that altered their vision of owning a restaurant into one Payne describes as “goofy and a little twisted.”
Now, in addition to opening Uncle Leroy’s Competition BBQ restaurant later this summer, he converted the 1-acre property into a farmers market and swap meet at the former Concrete Works location, 205 S. Pines Road.
“This is a huge twist,” Payne said. “Who else has a farmers market with a BBQ restaurant?
“Next thing I need to do is call ‘Diners, Drive-ins and Dives,’ ” Payne added while laughing about the show airing on Food Network. “They feature goofy, little twisted diners.”
The Paynes opened the market June 7, and will be open every Saturday and Sunday throughout the season.
He said there were six vendors the first weekend – including a local psychic medium, the Scone Ranger and Payne’s shaved ice trailer – and it looks like there will be about 10 this weekend.
Booths are available for free to any interested party, Payne hopes to fill the lot with 60 to 80 vendors, ranging from local farmers to commercial sellers.
“We’ve opened it up for everybody,” Payne said. “There are no limitations.”
Payne plans to open the restaurant in July in a former office building. He’s signed a lease with a seven-year option and plans to spend $25,000 remodeling the 500-square-foot location. He plans to have picnic tables for outdoor seating.
His menu will have a selection of chicken, ribs, brisket and pulled pork. Payne slow cooks the brisket and pulled pork for 10 to 12 hours.
“All my barbecue is Kansas City-style,” he said. That means it’s done with hickory smoke.
Lunches and dinners will cost $6 to $10 and come with cornbread and the choice of coleslaw, potato salad or Payne’s “Killer” barbecue beans and peach cobbler for dessert.
Although the meat is cooked without sauce, Payne’s original barbecue sauce will be available as a condiment.
“They can put all they want on,” Payne said about the barbecue sauce. “I’m not going to do it.”
A special feature of the menu is sausage, made using a recipe traced back to 1700s Germany.
Payne became interested in barbecue competitions about 15 years ago when he was looking for a career change from traveling and selling cookware. He started his career as a Kansas City BBQ Association certified judge at a Portland competition and studied under World BBQ Champions Johnny Trigg and Chris Lilly.
From there he and his wife began to travel and compete. Payne tied for second place in 2011 at the Jack Daniel’s World Championships, held in Lynchburg, Tennessee.
Two years ago to be closer to his grandchildren, he secured a booth space at the Spokane Public Market and worked it four days a week. He left two months before the market closed.
Payne plans to teach a Backyard BBQ class once a month. His first class is scheduled June 22.
“I hold nothing back when teaching,” Payne said. “I can boast that I’m truly going to teach the right way to barbecue.”
Next spring, Payne intends to host a barbecue competition at his restaurant.
“We have big plans,” Payne said. “It will be really good barbecue so come on down to the goofy place and join our family for a good time.”