Jill Bergus of Lockhart Smokehouse is a full-time TV producer and a fun person to talk to on just about any topic. During our interview with Jill and her co-owner and husband, Jeff, for the September Advocate, we learned some things.
1. Jeff Bergus worked as a fashion designer for 22 years.
Bergus was the creative director for New York City fashion houses including Geoffrey Beene. He is still an adviser in the fashion design school at Kent State University. When he gave a commencement speech there recently, the graduates were much more impressed by his barbecue achievements than his extensive experience in the fashion world, he says. The same is true in his other life — barbecue enthusiasts often are astonished to learn of his fashion career.
2. Neither Jill nor Jeff Bergus had previous restaurant experience.
Jill Bergus is Texas barbecue royalty, as the granddaughter of Edgar “Papa” Schmidt, who bought Kreuz Market in 1948. But their business partner, Lockhart pit master Tim McLoughlin, is the only one with a previous restaurant career.
3. Almost everyone who works at Lockhart Smokehouse lives in Oak Cliff, except the owners.
Jeff and Jill Bergus live in Preston Hollow, and they frequent old downtown Plano, the site of their second Lockhart Smokehouse, set to open as early as Dec. 1. McLoughlin lives in Plano and will run the Lockhart store there.
4. The Berguses count choosing their Bishop Arts location as one of their best business decisions.
They chose their new location because they say old downtown Plano has a similar vibe as Bishop Arts. — converted old storefronts, walkability and an old-school neighborhood feel. When pals form their neighborhood want to visit Oak Cliff, Jill Bergus often will write up a “staycation” weekend itinerary for them.
5. They (sort of) made up with Leslie Brenner
After the Dallas Morning News gave Lockhart a one-star review in 2011, the owners responded by celebrating “Fork You, Leslie Brenner Day” and ran a baloney special, which made local and national restaurant news. But then Lockhart started offering barbecue sauce and forks, two things Brenner had criticized the restaurant for lacking. Recently, she named Lockhart in a list of the “12 most delicious places to take out-of-towners.”
6. If you work at Lockhart Smokehouse, you never don’t smell like delicious smoked meat.
“Our laundry room entirely reeks of it,” Jill Bergus says. “The dogs chew up the hats because they smell like meat.” An employee’s dog once chewed up his eyeglasses because they smelled so delicious. Jeff Bergus recounts: “The craziest story I have about that is the time I went to the bank, and the teller said, ‘I love it when you come in because your money smells so good. It smells like barbecue in here for hours.”