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Early success brings quick expansion for Hadley barbecue eatery on Route 9

HADLEY — Less than a year after Wildwood Barbecue opened — specializing in smoking meats on site and serving beer from regional microbreweries — it is undergoing an expansion that will nearly double the size of its seating area during the spring, summer and fall.

Construction has started on a covered patio that will add 625 square feet and provide 25 more seats to the 34 seats already inside the building at 235 Russell St.

For owner Glenn Brunetti, the $25,000 project will transform the restaurant and provide a new amenity for customers. “We’re anticipating the deck will give us what we’ve been missing,” Brunetti said.

One of the issues has been customers not being able to be seated right away. On nice days, some patrons use an overflow landscaped picnic area, but beer and wine cannot be served there.

The patio will be connected to the existing dining area, with three windows at the front of the restaurant being replaced with French doors. On warm days the restaurant will be able to divide the air-conditioned dining area from the patio, which will have screens to let in air and ceiling fans to keep people cool.

“It’s a stage one, stage two as warranted,” Brunetti said. “I like the idea of having some seasonality.”

Building the patio will also allow the exterior to have a more rustic look and provide a more authentic appearance for a barbecue joint than the white clapboards on a building that originally housed Sully’s, which served breakfast and lunch and was known for its polka music.

As the owner of a barbecue restaurant in the Northeast, Brunetti said he can be more flexible in the menu options and does not have to conform to a certain expectation from customers as if he were in South Carolina or Texas.

“We do what we like, paying homage to different things,” Brunetti said.

These include Carolina-style pulled pork with cole slaw on top and St. Louis-cut ribs. While ribs are a big seller, the menu includes vegetarian and gluten-free offerings, salads and sandwiches and 16 sides, including cajun rice, barbecue beans, potato salad and jambalaya. There are eclectic specials, too, such as frog legs and smoked salmon.

The restaurant’s slogan, “Smokin ’Que, Awesome Brew,” which adorns the T-shirts worn by staff, indicates the importance of beer. Wildwood has eight taps, with Berkshire Brewing Co., People’s Pint, Element and Lefty’s served. There are tap takeovers once a month, in which one of the local or regional microbreweries pours from all the taps.

The restaurant also features a dessert case.

Brunetti said business was brisk right off the bat since its opening July 21, with use of social media to promote during the four months it took to build the space and quadruple the size of the kitchen.

“By the time we opened, we were busy,” Brunetti said.

Being on the heavily traveled Route 9 corridor helps, he added, observing that for all the complaints about the traffic, Hadley remains a shopping destination for many people in the area and beyond.

“I think it’s an excellent location,” Brunetti said. “Everyone’s on Route 9 more than they want to be.”

Brunetti said even with the building not having direct visibility from the roadway, business has been better than expected. The customers are a mix of Hadley, Amherst and Northampton residents, and is less dependent on college students. Brunetti added that Wildwood attracts people from out of state, including Vermont and New Hampshire residents who do not live near a Whole Foods Market or Trader Joe’s.

Working with Hadley officials to get the expanded beer and wine license, an entertainment permit and the permits for the expansion project has been easy, he said. “It’s been very business-friendly,” Brunetti said.

Wilcox Builders of South Deerfield is handling the work, which should be complete before July.

The restaurant remains open throughout construction. “The other thing about barbecue is that it’s a destination food,” Brunetti said. “People will drive 50 miles just for barbecue.”

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