Retail Roundup: Bird Dog Barbecue homing in on Briargate Shops

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Brad Cleveland opened his first Bird Dog Barbecue near Powers and Stetson Hills boulevards during 2004.

Brad Cleveland opened his first Bird Dog Barbecue near Powers and Stetson Hills boulevards during 2004.

Bird Dog Barbecue owner Brad Cleveland plans to open a second location on Colorado Springs’ north side during September.

Cleveland’s debut restaurant, near Powers and Stetson Hills boulevards, has performed well during the past five years, despite an economy that has pushed consumers into necessity-only spending.

He said he’s been looking for the right location for several months, and couldn’t help but leap at the deal when a spot opened up at the Promenade Shops at Briargate.

“They’ve got a nice upscale, trendy feel,” Cleveland said. “That’s what I’m going for. We’re going in a different direction than the standard Western or pig-in-a-chef-hat theme. We’re trying to present a more urban and modern theme while still keeping the barbecue authentic and original.”

Cleveland’s second restaurant will take over the spot vacated by Colorado Steak Co., which closed last fall. The addition boosts the shopping center’s occupancy rate to 92 percent.

“We’re doing well while riding out the recession,” said Jennifer Crowley, general manager of the shops. “Our sales were up 15 percent in May and a lot of that has to do with Apple Computer, Bath and Body Works and Ann Taylor Loft.”

Bird Dog Barbecue gets its name from Cleveland’s grandfather, Burnis Dean McDonald, who used “Bird Dog,” as his citizen’s band radio handle.

“I remember I spent months trying to come up with the perfect name,” Cleveland said. “I cultivated names and had several that I went back and forth on. Then it just hit me.”

Following a 10-year management stint at a pair of Oklahoma barbecue restaurants, Cleveland figured he had grasped the keys to business success. So, he took the entrepreneurial plunge during 2004.

“Oklahoma is a saturated market,” he said. “When I visited Colorado there really seemed to be a lack of good barbecue. I thought we could do well here and I liked the idea of bringing Oklahoma someplace else.”

The new Bird Dog Barbecue is smaller than Cleveland had envisioned.

“You do only a few things really well instead of trying to do everything for everybody,” Cleveland said. “This will help me manage two functioning restaurants the way I want to do them, without too much volume or pressure coming from the second restaurant.”

Bird Dog at Stetson Hills is a quick-casual style of restaurant, and its new cousin will follow suit.

“This market segment is doing well in this economy,” Cleveland said. “A lot of people are stepping down from full service. They’re looking for more value and less bells and whistles. That fact helps us. And, as long as you continue to improve, you don’t have to wave your arms a whole lot.”

Retail sales remain flat

The Commerce Department reported that nationwide retail sales jumped 0.6 percent during June, the largest gain in five months and the second consecutive monthly gain.

But much of the increase was attributed to higher gasoline prices, and total sales were still 9 percent below June of last year.

Retailers counting on back-to-school sales increases might be disappointed.

The National Retail Federation released results of its 2009 Back-to-School Consumer Intentions Survey, which shows families with school age children will spend 7.7 percent less on school supplies than they did during the same time frame last year.

The report said that 56 percent of families will hunt for bargains while 50 percent will spend less overall than they did last year.

Scott Prater covers retail for the Colorado Springs Business Journal.