This September marked 44 years of business for Steve Onstad, owner of a local barbecue spot off FM 359 in Richmond. Now the bustling barbecue joint is known around the Greater Houston area and beyond as the Swinging Door, but Onstad said business was not always so smooth.
“We were betting on the future, which was delayed,” Onstad said. “It was a struggle in the beginning.”
When he first opened in 1973, Onstad said business was slow because plans for a subdivision across the street from his property fell through, and the exceedingly underdeveloped area made it difficult to bring in customers.
This coupled with the fire that burned down his original building a year after opening discouraged Onstad. However, with patience, the help of the community and the development of Pecan Grove, his restaurant came back to life.
“It was a starving moment for a couple of years, but it started evolving and all of a sudden caught on,” he said.
The Texas-style barbecue family-friendly restaurant serves pecan-smoked brisket, ribs, chicken and sausage, with homemade sides, such as green beans and coleslaw. For 26 years, a back room served as a dancing hall for locals, and now it is used for weddings and other events.
Onstad said he is not sure of what will become of his legacy, but he thinks the Swinging Door will stick around for years to come.
“I’ve got plenty of pride in what we do and what we’ve done and what we continue to try to do here,” Onstad said. “I don’t have as much pep as I used to when I was 25 years old—I’ve got a lot of miles. But I can still run with the big dogs.”