Mad River Union
FIELDBROOK – After a massive 10-month floor-to-ceiling makeover, the Fieldbrook Family Market is back open again, with a new owner, a new manager and a whole new attitude.
The market, which reopened April 4, was closed for 14 months after the previous owner went out of business. The building sat vacant, depriving the Fieldbrook Valley of what is not just a convenience market, but a community center and gathering spot.
“It’s the cultural center of Fieldbrook,” said customer Mike Holland last Friday while visiting the new grill. “If you want to know what’s going on in Fieldbrook, you come here.”
It’s also the new go-to joint for people who want barbecue done right, a place where you can enjoy a pulled pork sandwich, a cold beer and listen to bands play every Friday night.
The building was purchased by Chuck Chojnacki in March 2013. He teamed up with Scotty Appleford, who serves as the general manager/pit master, while Chojnacki runs the store’s front counter. The market has a total of 10 employees, many of them part-timers.
The old store, built in 1946, was in need of a major remodel, said Appleford. And so began the 16-hour-plus work days.
Appleford and a crew of helpers tore the place apart, first removing all the items that had accumulated inside and outside the building over the past half a century. More than 200 cubic yards of debris were removed. “If you stacked all those dumpsters on top of each other, they would be 50 feet high,” Appleford said.
Everything was cleaned, painted and remodeled. Workers made the business accessible for persons with disabilities, with new bathrooms and an outdoor beer garden, complete with wheelchair ramps. Even the parking lot in the front was redesigned and repaved.
Particular attention was given to the new and improved kitchen and outdoor grilling area – giving Appleford the opportunity to pursue his true passion in life – cooking, grilling, smoking and serving up mind-blowing barbecue fare, preferably with bacon.
Appleford used to be a team leader for Americorps before the program closed down and its McKinleyville office was shuttered. Before going to work last year remodeling the store, Appleford had an office job, and pursued cooking on the side. Using his magic ingredient – bacon – Appleford even won a cooking contest at the Blue Lake Casino.
Now Appleford gets to use his culinary talents full time. Actually, with his manager duties and everything else he has to do at the store, he gets to work not just full time, but double time. It’s not unusual for Appleford to pull a 16-hour day.
However, you won’t hear the restaurateur complaining. “I’m in heaven right now,” Appleford said. Everything from the remodel to the time spent smoking pork and grilling burgers “is a labor of love,” he said.
Smoked & grilled
When it comes to food, Appleford doesn’t take short cuts. At the store last Friday afternoon, Appleford removed a hunk of pork that had been sitting in his custom-made smoker for 18 hours. The meat was so tender it came out of the foil in shreds, as smoke drifted in the air.
Appleford will make you a pulled pork “sammy” with house-made barbecue sauce. Or you get a burger made with Appleford’s “B&B Patty,” consisting of 1/3 ground bacon with 2/3 ground beef, seasoned with plenty of spice, with the burger built to order.
If you want a snack, try a Jalapeño Grenade, which is a jalapeño stuffed with smoked cream cheese, pulled pork and wrapped in bacon, then smoked for two hours. The grill also serves hot dogs, nachos and sandwiches and has beer on tap, including Six Rivers Brewery’s Weatherman Wheat.
As for the store, Appleford said the selection of merchandise has been upgraded and expanded.
“We’ve got a little bit of everything,” said Appleford, describing the market as a “convenience store on steroids.”
Appleford said he has plans to expand the store’s selection of organic produce, and may host a local farmers’ market. He’s making a list of items customers want, and will try to stock the merchandise if possible.
“We love these guys,” said a customer who was visiting the store last week. “We’re going to support them. The whole valley is going to support them.”
The store is open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day. The grill is open from noon to 7 p.m. on weekdays, with hours extended to 8:30 p.m. on Fridays. The grill is open from noon to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
There is live music every Friday night at 7 p.m.