Archive for Monday, April 14, 2014

Buffalo Bob’s Smokehouse to close after 37 years in business

April 14, 2014


Bob Schumm

Bob Schumm

Come to find out, even tater curls piled high to the sky have a limit: 37 years.

Buffalo Bob's Smokehouse, which has operated for nearly four decades in downtown Lawrence, will close April 29.

"I have employees who are children of past employees of the restaurant," said founder and owner Bob Schumm. "I always said when I started employing their grandchildren, it would be time for me to move on. We're getting pretty close to that point."

Schumm opened the restaurant in 1977, and he believes it is the oldest restaurant still operating in downtown Lawrence. For most of those years, the restaurant served barbecue ribs, meat and piles of french fries that Schumm made famous through countless advertisements.

But Schumm, who is 67 and a Lawrence city commissioner, said he was ready to move onto other ventures.

"I'm not as inspired as I used to be," Schumm said. "But I have had a great run. My family has had great outcomes from this business, and we've had so many people wholeheartedly support us. We'll always be thankful for that."

Schumm already has reached a deal to lease part of the building at 719 Massachusetts St. to a new venture called Ladybird Diner, which will operate in the part of the building that houses the Dynamite Saloon. Schumm said he is in discussions to lease the remaining 3,000 square feet to another restaurant.

The closure will mark the end of Schumm's time in the Lawrence food service industry. He started his first restaurant, the Bull and Boar, 44 years ago in a spot behind Weaver's Department Store. He also owned and operated Mass Street Deli for 37 years before closing it in 2007.

Schumm estimates there were nine restaurants in downtown Lawrence when he entered the industry, and downtown was a far busier place during the day than in the evening.

"I was in the business when the eat-out craze really exploded in the '70s and '80s, and we did very well during that time," Schumm said. "In the 1990s, the market was pretty saturated. I would suggest right now that the restaurant market in Lawrence is fully saturated."

Schumm said he plans to stay busy after the restaurant's closing. He'll continue to own several properties downtown and he said he plans to develop a long-vacant lot he owns in the 800 block of Vermont Street.

The restaurant has about 40 employees, mostly part-time workers, Schumm said. From April 26 to April 29, Schumm said the restaurant will take 15 percent of all gross sales and divide it among the employees as a thanks for their service.


Fred Mion 3 years, 10 months ago

Their food has been way below mediocre for many years now. Too many.

Matthew Herbert 3 years, 10 months ago

Buffalo Bob's "barbeque"...home of 6 microwaves and 0 smokers.

John Myers 3 years, 10 months ago

Unless they removed the smoke room after I worked there in the mid-90s, that's absolutely false.

Eddie Muñoz 3 years, 10 months ago

I may have to go one more time just because it's awesome what he's doing with the profits there at the end.

Julius Nolan 3 years, 10 months ago

Been here 20 years, tried Buffalo Bob's. Haven't been back in 19+ years. Lousy service, lousy food and mounds of greasy fries way more than I could stomach.

Bob Forer 3 years, 10 months ago

If Buffalo Bob's opened as a new restaurant tomorrow, I doubt it would last more than six months.

Larry Bauerle Jr. 3 years, 10 months ago

Reading the comments from the culinary crowd makes me wonder how it stayed open 37 years.

Bob Forer 3 years, 10 months ago

When Schumm started up in the seventies, Lawrence was a virtual restaurant desert. You could count the number of decent restaurants on one hand.

Schumm offered what Lawrencians expected back then--greasy tasty food a slight cut above fastfood fare, with lots and lots of fries. Back then, we were not very sophistciated and thought it was decent.

Of course, now Lawrence is overloaded with restaurants, and many good ones at that.

I think Schumm stayed open so long because of massive advertising, and loyalty from those customers who weren't aware that there were better choices in the market.

The mediocirty caught up with him when Mass Street Deli closed several years ago. I am sure Bob did very well over the years, has made sound investments in downtown property, and probably felt that the diminishing return on his time and effort simply wasn't worthwhile anymore.

You gotta hand it to the guy, though. He obviously did smoething right to maintain a viable business for 37 years.

Chris Johnson 3 years, 10 months ago

I remember back in the mid 70s when the Mass St. Deli was packed all the time. It may have been the most popular place downtown then when the Varsity and Granada were both still showing movies. I would go there in the evening with my future wife to have sandwiches, coffee and cheesecake.
I've been trying to think of what else was around in the 70s downtown- Campus Hideaway, Casa de Taco, Drake's (breakfast). Pizza Hut came along in 1976, the first (I believe) national chain to locate in downtown Lawrence.

Clark Coan 3 years, 10 months ago

"Lousy service, lousy food and mounds of greasy fries way more than I could stomach."

Exactly, how did they stay in business that long? I think it became a tradition for visiting alumni and their student children who remembered it from their student days.

Pizza Hut located in downtown Lawrence much earlier than that. It had to be the very early 60s.

I am still surprised that Jefferson's and that Wings place are still in business.

Eddie Muñoz 3 years, 10 months ago

Both Jefferson's and Buffalo Wild Wings do very good business as far as I can tell. Sports on television help a lot, I'm sure.

Julius Nolan 3 years, 10 months ago

Lots of beer, food quality is secondary.

Chris Johnson 3 years, 10 months ago

I worked at the downtown Pizza Hut for 10 years and helped install the furniture and equipment when it opened in 1976. Pizza Hut did come to Lawrence in the 60s, though. They had two locations - one on 23rd St over near Ousdahl and another at 8th and Iowa. I was told once that the 23rd St location was one of the first outside of Wichita. The opening of the downtown location was followed soon by the closing of the Mass St Deli for remodeling. I'm not sure that the Deli ever recovered from being closed for so long.

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