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Coach’s Bar-B-Que to get downtown Waco location

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The owner of Coach’s Bar-B-Que in McGregor will tweak his game plan to include a location in the former Sam’s on the Square in downtown Waco, new menu items and a goal of attracting Baylor University backers as the school’s exclusive barbecue provider at McLane Stadium.

Gary Zacharias confirmed Tuesday he has signed a lease on 6,500 square feet in the Waco Town Square development at South Fourth Street and Franklin Avenue, and hopes to unveil his second Coach’s location at that corner by year’s end. Sam’s closed there in January, ending a three-year run.

“We hope to get open in November at the latest, though it could be as early as late October,” said Zacharias, a former McGregor High School football player and coach who has seen his McGregor location become a fan favorite and wants to tap into the excitement of downtown Waco and the Lake Brazos corridor.

Barbecue will remain the backbone of his menu, but he also will sell burgers, sandwiches, salads and specialty items like trailer-park nachos.

In McGregor, he does not sell alcohol, but in Waco he will create a bar area to serve liquor, draft beer and wine as patrons watch game action on up to 20 big-screen televisions.

“I want this place to come alive on game day. I want to get involved with Waco and get involved with Baylor,” said Zacharias, whose downtown location will seat about 170 people, including 50 on the patio, when he completes the transformation from Sam’s to Coach’s.

He added he wants to take his brand to the next level and has hired a friend and industry veteran to advise him on franchising the Coach’s concept in Texas’ larger cities.

Lance Wilson, who owns the Simply Fondue casual restaurant concept found in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex and in upscale communities on the east and west coasts, said in a phone interview he has agreed to serve as a consultant to Zacharias and will give him the benefit of his experience in developing name recognition.

“Our business continues to grow, and if we can make this work in McGregor, we surely can make it work in other places. There is no reason we shouldn’t get a Coach’s in larger communities,” said Zacharias, who founded the restaurant in 2012 with Danny Ripley. Also a former McGregor coach, Ripley is no longer affiliated with the restaurant.

Zacharias said he does not want to “niche” the restaurant as solely a barbecue haven, which is why he refers to the eatery simply as Coach’s.

More space

At 6,500 square feet, the site in downtown Waco offers Zacharias about twice as much space to work with as his McGregor restaurant.

He said once it is open and running smoothly, he likely will return to his first place of business to add touches that will make it more like the location in Waco’s inner city.

Supporting his desire to make his restaurant a tradition with Baylor fans, Zacharias said he has secured exclusive rights to sell barbecue in McLane Stadium, the $266 million football complex taking shape on Lake Brazos, with Baylor’s first game scheduled there Aug. 31.

“Ours is the only barbecue you’re going to get,” said Zacharias, adding that he hopes to make an impression that will persuade fans to visit his downtown location.

2nd barbecue spot

Coach’s is the second barbecue-themed restaurant to target the downtown market in the past week.

Old Fashion BBQ has opened at 416 Franklin Ave., which most recently was occupied by a Mediterranean restaurant called Al Miraj.

Owner Michele Walton and her husband, Harlem, who serves as pitmaster, said it was a longtime dream of Harlem’s to open a place of his own where customers could sit and enjoy the brand of barbecue he learned from his grandfather.

For years, he has sold product at North Ninth Street and Waco Drive, beside Old School Detail.

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