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Marshall Fire one year later: Wayne's Smoke Shack ready to reopen with 're-energized passion'

Wayne's Smoke Shack, a barbecue restaurant in the Superior Marketplace shopping center, is ready to reopen a year after it was heavily damaged by smoke in the Marshall Fire
Posted: 8:40 AM, Dec 30, 2022
Updated: 2022-12-30 10:40:31-05

As Boulder County marks one year since the most destructive wildfire in Colorado history sparked, the recovery continues for many homeowners and businesses.

One of those businesses is a restaurant in Superior, now looking forward to opening its doors.

Wayne’s Smoke Shack, a barbecue spot on Center Drive in the Superior Marketplace shopping center, was ravaged by smoke damage during the Marshall Fire. Its owners plan to reopen the restaurant on Jan. 6 — 53 weeks after the fire.

One of the restaurant’s owners, Samantha Shelnutt, spoke with Denver7 about the road to reopening.

“I'm sure, like, for many, it's been a roller coaster of emotions — there's ups and downs,” she said on a video call. “You know, we all suffered as a community a terrible tragedy and loss. So, there's the grieving process that comes with that.”

Shelnutt and her husband, Wayne, own the restaurant together. The couple also lost their home and their car in the fire, which burned more than 6,000 acres, destroyed roughly 1,000 homes and caused upwards of $2 billion in total damage.

The smokehouse was closed for the holiday on Dec. 30, 2021. Something tripped the restaurant's HVAC system, Shelnutt said, which pulled smoke inside and damaged the interior. Embers from the fire landed on the roof, burning a hole in it. Snow that fell in the days following the fire flooded the inside of the restaurant.

The damage meant gutting the interior, properly cleaning, and reordering new equipment — smokers, butcher blocks, utensils and the like — all amid supply chain challenges brought forth by the coronavirus pandemic.

The signage on the door of Wayne's Smoke Shack in Superior.

When the fire broke out, Shelnutt was seven months pregnant with her daughter, River Rose. That made some of the insurance nightmare even more draining, she said, but was also a light at the end of the tunnel when it came to rebuilding.

“We feel very grateful that we do have so many positive things to look forward to. I know that's not the case for a lot of people who went through the same thing we did,” she said. “We had our daughter to look forward to this year, which was a beautiful positive light on the situation.”

“There's really no time to sit and wallow," she continued. "We've been behind the scenes working so hard this past year to get ready to reopen.”

READ MORE: Denver7 visits Wayne's Smoke Shack while covering 'Superior Cash' program during pandemic

For the Shelnutts, shutting down the restaurant was never an option because of the support of their community.

“Immediately, we were just contacted by so many friends and customers and loved ones [who wanted] to know how we were doing, wanted to know how [they could] help,” Shelnutt said. “The momentum of that really gave us the strength to... get to work.”

“We're definitely not people who get caught up in challenges," she continued. "We move forward through them.”

Meat being cut inside Wayne's Smoke Shack in Superior.

With many of those challenges in the rearview mirror, the page turns to the next chapter of recovery: putting barbecued meat back on people’s plates.

“It's kind of exciting to see it all come to fruition now,” Shelnutt said. “We have a re-energized passion for the restaurant.”