Local restaurateur fuses two familiar eateries

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Charlie’s Pit Bar-B-Que moved from Manitou Springs to East Fillmore Street, where it has combined with Yakibob’s.

Charlie’s Pit Bar-B-Que moved from Manitou Springs to East Fillmore Street, where it has combined with Yakibob’s.

Charlie Martin moved to Colorado Springs in 1988, and soon after arriving noticed a spot on East Fillmore Street that he thought might make a good home for a restaurant.

So he opened his restaurant Charlie’s Pit Bar-B-Que. The restaurant has had numerous locations during the last 20 years, and most recently could be found in Manitou Springs at 718 Manitou Ave. But now he’s back on Fillmore and has combined Charlie’s Pit with Yakibob’s at 1190 E. Fillmore.

Both Charlie’s Bar-B-Que and Yakibob’s unique wrap sandwiches will be served under one roof.

When Martin’s old friend Bob Crouse, Yakibob’s owner, told him that he was leaving the restaurant business for health and family reasons, Martin offered to buy Yakibob’s.

Rather than shutter Charlie’s, Martin asked himself, “why not operate both restaurants in the same place?”

The idea is not entirely new, after all. Large chain restaurants such as Kentucky Fried Chicken and A&W have done it, and so have Taco Bell and Pizza Hut.

Martin has been around the restaurant business all his life.

“My uncle had owned a restaurant for more than 40 years in Uvalde, Texas outside Hondo,” Martin said. “I bought and old A&W root beer stand and remodeled it, then flew my uncle up to Oklahoma to help me with the opening. We called it Dink’s Bar-B-Que. Back then someone did a survey of some 800 Oklahoma Bar-B-Que restaurants and Dink’s ranked in the top 25. It’s still there too. My brother-in-law owns and operates it now.”

Since arriving in Colorado Springs, Martin has owned several Bar-B-Que restaurants, including Brother Bridges Bar-B-Que near North Nevada Avenue and Garden of Gods Road, a Charlie’s Pit Bar-B-Que in Security and another in Pueblo.

“All of those places are closed now,” Martin said. “Most I sold to new owners, who ended up changing recipes and food. Then they just went out of business. They even tore the building down in Security.”

Now that his business dealings have brought him back to his original location, Martin can’t help but feel optimistic about the new year, even as our national and local economies limp toward a sluggish recovery.

“The opportunity was there and I took it,” he said. “Being in Colorado Springs for 20 years, my track record is pretty good. People seem to like my food and I saw this deal as an opportunity rather than a risk.”

For now, two signs adorn the marquee above the curb on Fillmore, but Martin, always the building contractor, will give the restaurant a major face lift in the coming months. He is in the process of redecorating the interior and will re-landscape the exterior later in the year. He has purchased all of Crouse’s Yakibob recipes and will even offer Yakibob’s dishes in his Bar-B-Que catering business.

He said another plus of moving Charlie’s from Manitou Springs to Fillmore is the increase in business during the winter months.

“I had to let all but three of our employees go during the winter, but since I’ve opened over here, business is better in these cold months,” he said. “I was able to hire them all back.”

The new Yakibob’s/Charlie’s can seat 50 people indoors and another 30 on the patio.

Scott Prater covers retail for the Colorado Springs Business Journal.