WILLCOX — A steady climb, despite the setbacks, has resulted in local restaurant Big Tex Bar-B-Que receiving statewide recognition as the Restaurant-Service Firm of the Year.

Located at 130 E. Maley St., Big Tex has a humble origin story. Starting in 1998, Big Tex Bar-B-Que was a chuck wagon created by owner Jeff Willey, which transitioned to working out of Brown’s Store and then into the Lifestyle R.V. Park restaurant.

Willey was later approached by Phil Stratton, who suggested the use of the railroad dining car in the Willcox downtown area as a prime location. Taking this advice, Willey moved Big Tex into the dining car in 2003, where it remained until the fire that shut down the restaurant May 22, 2018.

“If it wasn’t for the family and kids, my son and daughter, we probably would have had second thoughts on (rebuilding) it. But we sat down and asked them what they wanted to do — if they wanted to continue, or if they thought we should just go ahead and be done with it. They said. ‘No, we’ve got too much going on.’ The community was also really supporting us, so after that, we decided to go ahead and rebuild,” Willey said.

Big Tex reopened its doors Feb. 12, 2019.

The Restaurant-Service Firm of the Year award will be presented to Willey at the 27th annual Minority and Small Business Alliance of Southern Arizona Awards Celebration on Sept. 26 at the Casino Del Sol in Tucson.

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