By SUZANNA LOURIE
SARATOGA SPRINGS — For almost 28 years, PJ and Carolyn Davis have been serving customers the smoky taste of summer at PJ’s Bar-B-Q on Route 9.
But right now, a week into winter, passersby will notice a new structure erected around the ’50s-style barbecue joint — one that will allow it to be open year-round in 2012.
Earlier this year, PJ Davis announced his plans to turn the business into a year-round franchise. He said construction on the restaurant’s addition was supposed to start in October but was delayed until December.
“Luckily, the weather has been very conducive to working outside so everything is on schedule,” he said.
If all goes according to plan, construction is expected to wrap in early April, and Davis hopes the new space will open in April or May.
The restaurant’s make-over won’t stray too far from the casual ’50s vibe and laid-back atmosphere that keeps customers coming back to PJ’s year after year. It will use the same footprint — 3,000 square feet — but people will order their favorite pulled pork or grilled chicken sandwich inside instead of outside.
“Instead of having to walk up to the counter outside, that area will be enclosed,” Davis said.
The outdoor tables will remain and the original indoor dining room will be expanded to seat slightly more than its current 50.
The Davises will return to Saratoga Springs from their winter home in Florida in early January.
“To start off, we’re not going to spend the entire winter like we have been in Florida,” Davis said from his home in the South. “But our son, Johnny, will eventually take over the reins of the business, which will allow us to come down here more in the winter.”
During the first year of business, Davis plans to assist Johnny and the PJ’s staff to make the transition to a year-round business.
“One thing we’re really looking forward to is being open during the holidays,” he said. “A lot of places offer smoked hams and turkeys for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and we’re definitely going to be a big player in that game. We’ve got the smokers, and people will be able to take away their holiday dinner, smoked turkeys, hams, pork shoulders and brisket.”
Even after their son takes over in Saratoga, the Davises don’t plan to retire. The husband and wife, who have been in the barbecue business since 1975, hope to expand PJ’s Bar-B-Q into a national franchise.
“We’ve already got a franchise license in New York,” Davis said earlier this year. “You never know where it could go.”
In the past couple of years, the Davises spent time on a taste tour of America’s favorite barbecue destinations — Memphis, Texas, Kansas City, the Carolinas — sampling what each one has to offer.
Now, their strategy is to offer the best from each region under one roof.
“We want to take that countrywide,” he said.
Before extending PJ’s reach across the United States, the Davises intend to complete the construction that will allow it to stay open even after the weather turns cold.
“I think it’s going to be great for our customers who are sad to see us close in September,” Carolyn Davis said.
PJ’s Bar-B-Q will begin hiring full-time, part-time and seasonal employees this January. For more information, go to www.pjsbarbq.com.