Seventy years ago, a little corner store stood along White Chapel Boulevard. No one knew that one day it would grow up to be one of Southlake’s most popular restaurants. The building has been given many names throughout the years: the Bailey Feed Store, Miller’s Grocery Store, Dee’s Hitchin’ Post and Southlake Feed & Tack. Today locals know it as Feedstore BBQ, and they all line up to dine on its delicious barbecue.
“There are parts of this building that go back to the early ’50s, maybe even ’40s,” general manager Mike Lafavers reflects. “This place has been here longer than anybody else here. There’s a lot of history here.”
Owned and operated by the Lafavers family, Feedstore BBQ is the brainchild of Papa Bill and Phyllis “Mema” Lafavers, who oversee the restaurant alongside their son Mike. With April marking Feedstore’s 20th anniversary, Papa Bill and Mema reflect on the foundation they’ve established, the community culture they’ve helped cultivate and the legacy they’re leaving for their grandchildren.
COMING TO SOUTHLAKE
The Lafavers originally lived in Carrollton before moving to Southlake in July 1974. Looking to get away from the affluent, country club scene, Papa Bill wanted to give his family space to grow.
“I was raised in the country,” Papa Bill says. “Country schools, country roads. I decided we [were] going to move back to the country, so we started looking all over for a new place to call home.”
Eventually, a real estate friend recommended the Lafavers move to Southlake, which, at the time, was still largely undeveloped. So they and their four children — Mike, Eva, Mark and Matt — moved to a small property off White Chapel Boulevard. Today, that property is called Lafavers Acres and houses a variety of donkeys, goats and cattle.
“We owned two of the oldest houses on this street. One house was 100 years old. The rest were torn down. We called our house the dog house because the people before us had two great big old dogs that scratched the whole surface. I actually thought it was dirty,” Mema chuckles.
But in front of the Lafavers’ property was the humble Miller’s Grocery Store, where the kids would go to fill up on gas every weekend.
“It was a losing business,” Mema recalls. “It lost money every day. The backside of the place was in horrible shape, and the property ran up right against the fence of our property. They didn’t even have a parking lot.”
The store cycled through two other owners before the Lemieux family bought it in the mid-’80s and turned it into Southlake Feed & Tack. Papa Bill then purchased the store in 1997 and ran it for three years before making a change.
At first, they thought about tearing it down and adding it to their acreage. Then they thought about turning it into a Dragon merchandise store for Carroll ISD. Finally they made the decision to turn the feed store into Feedstore BBQ.
When Feedstore BBQ first opened its doors in 2001, Papa Bill and Mema didn’t know the first thing about the restaurant business. Papa Bill used to work in the distillery business with Jack Daniels, and Mema says her best meal was Hamburger Helper. But despite their industry inexperience, Mike says Papa Bill’s passion fueled their enterprise.
“My dad was a cook enthusiast,” Mike expresses. “He liked grilling outside. He loved to cook.”
As a fan of good barbecue, Papa Bill loved judging at Jack Daniel’s World Championship Barbecue competition every year in Lynchburg, Tennessee, and he especially enjoyed bidding on the fattest calves at the Tarrant County Junior Livestock Show.
“We’d take those 1,200-pound steers, have them butchered, then take two of the best roasts, a few of the best steaks and the whole rest of the thing was made into 2-pound hamburger meat packages,” Papa Bill recalls. “We’d have about 600-800 pounds of hamburger meat in the freezer. We had three big freezers full of it nearly every day.”
Even though they had cattle on their own ranch, Mema says they never could bring themselves to butcher any of them — “not even the chickens.”
When they fully stocked up on all of their ingredients, Papa Bill and Mema began crafting the recipes for their menu, from Papa Bill’s burgers to Mema’s green beans. Everyone in the family, both their children and grandchildren, pitched in to put Feedstore BBQ on the map.
“In the beginning, they’d put these cardboard boxes with head cutouts over us that said ‘BBQ’ and point across White’s Chapel,” Mike’s daughter and assistant manager Kamy remarks. “All of the grandkids would do that at least once. Then they’d put us up by the cash register, and we’d wash potatoes and clean the tables.”
From the jump, the Lafavers knew it would be difficult to establish Feedstore BBQ in the heart of the Metroplex.
“When we opened Feedstore, this old man came in, sat down and started talking to me over lunch,” Papa Bill recalls from his first year of business. “As I was talking about the place, he says, ‘You know, barbecue is the hardest business in the world to make money in.’ It’s just so competitive, and everybody’s got their own spin on it — especially in Texas.”
MORE THAN A RESTAURANT
Shortly after opening, Papa Bill understood Feedstore BBQ needed to build its own presence in Southlake, especially with the restaurant tucked away from the main traffic on Southlake Boulevard.
“This is a destination,” Papa Bill says. “You don’t just drive along and stumble onto it. You have to be coming to Feedstore specifically for our barbecue.”
Feedstore found an organic connection to the community through the Southlake Carroll Dragons. From catering for high school sports teams, special events and fundraisers to operating the concessions stand at Dragon Stadium, Feedstore made it a point to support the district as often as possible. Mema says many Dragons even got their first job working at the restaurant.
“That’s not a business thing — that’s a family thing,” Mike says. “When mom and dad first moved out here, they started contributing to the community almost immediately. Dad was part of the group of guys that built the first baseball field here in Southlake, while mom has always been part of the school and band booster clubs. They would throw victory parties, even if the Dragons weren’t winning. They’ve always been involved. That’s just who they are.”
Their support extends beyond Carroll ISD. Mike says they’re also a second-chance employer that will hire people who are in recovery programs or are struggling. They regularly hold Meaningful Mondays, where they donate a portion of their proceeds to a nonprofit or philanthropy organization that partners with them.
No matter the order, their cooks are always busy behind the scenes, smoking beef brisket and pulled pork for over 12 hours, slow-cooking St. Louis-style pork ribs, chicken, turkey, ham and sausage links for three hours and prepping the line for lunch hour.
“Everything we do is fresh,” Kamy says. “The morning is a lot of prep work, and we load and check the smoker every two to three hours.”
Papa Bill says they’ve cultivated such strong customer loyalty that it isn’t unusual for them to recognize customers by name every time they come back to the restaurant. “That’s because we have the same kind of loyalty to them by keeping the food at a high quality and maintaining a family-friendly atmosphere all the time,” Papa Bill says. “It isn’t just a business. We know most of the people coming in here.”
‘YOU ARE SOUTHLAKE’
Many restaurants were placed in a state of jeopardy due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While Feedstore BBQ did experience a drop in profits in 2020, it continued to succeed thanks to not only shifting to takeout but also the support of its customers.
“The loyalty of the customers in the area is what kept us going this entire time,” Kamy says. “We were secure enough to keep doing what we were doing.”
The pandemic hit closer to home for Feedstore BBQ. Last summer, one of its employees tested positive for COVID-19. Instead of brushing it under the rug, Mike shut down the building, deep cleaned the restaurant and tested all of his employees. Even after Texas fully reopened, Feedstore BBQ continued to operate at partial capacity out of concern for its customers.
Kamy says they were largely complimented for their transparency, honesty and precaution.
“It was surprising to hear how many people were impressed because not a lot of restaurants felt the need to disclose,” Kamy says. “We’re so open and honest and everybody knows us, so it’d be hard to even keep a secret like that.”
Locals recognize Feedstore’s high standard of customer service. Not only has the restaurant been awarded several accolades by the Southlake Chamber of Commerce, “The Dallas Observer” and “D Magazine” but also it was honored closer to home in Southlake Style’s Readers’ Choice 2020 and 2021.
Mike says he’s excited to see Feedstore continue to grow in the hands of its third generation and he’s already preparing Kamy, her sister Katy and cousin Cameron to inherit Feedstore after he’s gone by teaching them the business and bookkeeping aspects of the restaurant.
“Mom and dad established the foundation of this company so that when me, my brother and sister aren’t here, our shares and ownership can only go to our kids,” Mike says. “They’ve set up a line of succession where we make sure it stays in the family.”
While Kamy is eager to lead and add her own spin to the restaurant, Papa Bill is even more content knowing Feedstore will continue to provide for the community well beyond his time.
“People in the community look at you like, ‘You are Southlake,’” Papa Bill expresses. “We care about everything and everyone, and we make it the best we can every day. It’s just a good feeling knowing that we aren’t just living in the community — we are the community.”