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New Smoked location saved jobs and barbecue continuity

Just 3 1/2 weeks after a Christmas Day flood put it out of business, a popular Crozet-based barbecue restaurant has reappeared on the northern outskirts of Charlottesville near Walmart.

Since late January, Smoked Kitchen and Tap’s new location has been sending the smells of smoked brisket, pork, and chicken wafting along the commercial strip known as Seminole Plaza.

If such a speedy, and aromatic, landing seems like the product of a Christmas miracle, this place is actually the result of months of planning.

“We already had an existing, skilled, knowledgeable staff,” co-owner Natalie Yancey told The Daily Progress. “They already knew the drill, and they understood our quality and vision, so we have opened with our very best staff.”

Yancey and her husband, Jack, said they signed the lease six months earlier and were on the verge of hiring and training a new staff for the new location on Seminole Lane. But everything changed because of what happened at the original location on the afternoon on Dec. 25.

As near-zero-temperature winds roared down Afton Mountain, a sprinkler head on an upper floor of the mixed-used building known as Piedmont Place froze and burst. Before the Albemarle County Service Authority was called to shut off a valve at the curb, water had gushed for several hours. Smoked was soaked – as were seven other businesses in the structure.

“The real silver lining is that all of these people, with this flood that occurred through no fault of their own, didn’t have to lose their jobs,” said Jack Yancey.

As demolition crews were stripping the Crozet building down to its wall studs to prepare to rebuild the interior, a new opportunity north of Charlottesville was opening for the Smoked employees.

“It’s 20 to 25 minutes away, but most of them were willing to come over and help us open this new spot,” said Natalie Yancey. “For our grand opening here we had our A-team.”

When the new location opened on Jan. 19, it wasn’t just staff who benefited. Finding employees in the post-COVID era has become rife with difficulty as low unemployment numbers make filling slots difficult for owners.

“So where we were trying to do a massive hiring and training all this new staff,” Natalie Yancey said, “we didn’t have to go through any of that.”

The couple say they hope to reopen the old location in about two months.


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