Sugar Pine isn’t going anywhere anytime soon


Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune

The Sugar Pine Smokehouse BBQ Restaurant is currently open for takeout, curbside, delivery within Madera and outdoor patio dining with tables set up for social distancing.

Contrary to social media beliefs, Sugar Pine Smokehouse isn’t planning on leaving anytime soon.


“There was a Tweet that went out that said the city had received paperwork that Sugar Pine was going to be demolished and an In-N-Out Burger was going to be built,” said Sugar Pine general manager Lisa Gill. “There’s still a ton of paperwork to be filled out. Nothing has been approved by the city or the Madera Irrigation District. It’s something that could happen. Newman Development Group, who owns the building, has agreed to sell to In-N-Out. That is a true fact. Whether or not if it will be approved by the city will be another factor.”


Another response to the rumor mill is that Sugar Pine is a failing business and would close.


“Sugar Pine is not going anywhere anytime soon,” Gill said. “We are not a failing business. We are not getting kicked out because we’re not doing well. There’s just a chance that the building could turn into an In-N-Out.”


Even if the Newman Development Group gets approved, the process could take up to a year, which is plenty of time for Gill and the owners to find a new facility.


“We are looking at a couple of places in case we have to move,” Gill said. “We have some interest in some places. If something happens and we have to leave, then we’re able to move into a location. That could be a good year from now. I don’t think Newman would make it sudden on us. I think they would give us plenty of time and notice to get our business established somewhere else.”


Unfortunately, the Tweet did have some negative effects on Sugar Pine, and Gill is working hard to overcome it.


“We’re not going anywhere,” she said. “We did have some catering jobs get canceled because they were afraid that our business was not going to be open when their event came. A few people stuck with us. Unfortunately, we did lose some business because of it. The thing that is hurting us the most is gift card sales. Nobody wants to buy a gift card from us. They think we’re not going to be in business. I’ve had people turn in gift cards. This time of year, we bank on selling gift cards. We’ve had to take that out of our equation this time of the year.”


Gill has worked hard over the past few years to build the Sugar Pine Smokehouse brand and to have the rumors circulating is tough for her and her employees.


“It’s been a little hard emotionally tiring,” Gill said. “The phone has been a non-stop. It’s been a bummer because we worked so hard to build this place. It feels like it’s our home. I tell our team our walls don’t define who we are. We’ve built a good business by who we are. We just might have to get new walls and that’s okay.”


Although the thoughts of a possible move, albeit a year away, circulating, it doesn’t stop Gill from doing some events to help the community.


Saturday, Sugar Pine will host the Cali-Livin Car Club eighth annual toy drive/car show/concert. There will be a Lowrider tribute band, Danny D and Heavy Weather, a Santana tribute band. Also Henry Lozano, the No. 1 oldies deejay on the radio, will be on hand.


“We decided to turn a negative into a positive,” Gill said. “We sold our version of a Double-Double and donated $5 of those sales over a four-day period to buy toys for Toys for Tots. We were able to buy 53 toys. We have our public bringing in toys. I’m excited to see what Sugar Pine will be able to donate to Cali-Livin. They already do an amazing job for Toys for Tots.”


Sugar Pine will also be hosting a Winter Coat Drive on Dec. 12 from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. with Tacos and Beers and Brewlifornia serving food with proceeds going to the Madera County Food Bank.


“Tacos and Beer will be selling sushi, we will be doing barbecue and Brewlifornia will do some specialties,” Gill said. “Along with that, we are doing a coat drive. In Madera County, there are a lot of families that are in need of coats and food. If people want to bring in monetary donations, they can. We will have a big box and we hope to fill it with coats.”


Gill and Sugar Pine has worked to give back to the community over the last few years, including feeding families and first responders of last year’s Creek Fire.


“That’s been the biggest plus of my career is to give back to my community,” she said. “I was born here. I feel like doing these things is what I owe our community. During the pandemic, if it wasn’t for the community, we wouldn’t be still standing here. everyone backed us. It would be selfish on me if we didn’t return the favor. We are constantly trying to give back to everyone.”


If it wasn’t for the pandemic or moving rumors, Gill might have smooth sailing at Sugar Pine. However, she keeps a positive attitude and reminds everyone that Sugar Pine isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.


“I’m hoping one year, we will have a smooth year,” she said. “Even if we’re not in this location, our gift cards will be somewhere and our gift cards will be honored wherever we go. This is a beautiful building. it would be sad to see it torn down. Whatever happens, we’ll find a great home and we’ll make something great out of that, too.”

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