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Mangonia barbecue man scores again with Super Bowl

Derrick McCray, owner of McCray's Backyard BBQ in West Palm Beach, will be catering Super Bowl parties this year at the game.
Gary Coronado/Palm Beach Post
Derrick McCray, owner of McCray's Backyard BBQ in West Palm Beach, will be catering Super Bowl parties this year at the game.
By Jeff Ostrowski

Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Updated: 8:49 p.m. Friday, Jan. 29, 2010

Posted: 8:31 p.m. Friday, Jan. 29, 2010

Barbecue chef Derrick McCray served up a feel-good story for the 2007 Super Bowl: Local entrepreneur runs roadside barbecue stand, catches eye of game officials, lands gig cooking ribs at nation's most glamorous sporting event.

Super Bowl organizers liked McCray's barbecue enough to invite him back. McCray, owner of McCray's II Backyard Bar-B-Q in Mangonia Park, will serve beef brisket at several Super Bowl-related events next week a catering job he considers a touchdown for his business.

"You cannot get this type of advertising and marketing," McCray said. "You couldn't even pay for it."

But the feel-good plotline also has veered into nail-biter territory. In 2008, the year after the Super Bowl bestowed its seal of approval, the Great Recession left McCray to eke out a tiny profit.

After laying off workers, cutting prices and putting business expenses on credit cards, McCray made only $600 that year. McCray slashed costs and boosted his own hours, and his bottom line improved in 2009.

During Thursday night's dinner rush, McCray cheerfully greeted the steady stream of customers who stopped by for carryout. The menu includes a rib dinner for $11 and a pork sandwich for $6.25.

"It was a blessing that we were rooted pretty deep with our faithful and loyal local customers," McCray said. "We've been blessed to weather the storm, but we've still got major challenges."

Among them: Raising up to $1 million from investors to put up a 2,400-square-foot restaurant on the vacant land McCray owns at 1521 45th St. For several years McCray has operated from a trailer. He cooks his ribs out back over an open fire.

The building would include a drive-through and a proper kitchen. But finding cash has proven challenging.

Another complication: McCray bought his land in late 2005 for $550,000. The Palm Beach County Property Appraiser says the site is worth $205,958 now.

In a Hail Mary, McCray will present his business plan next week at a Miami event for current and former NFL players seeking business opportunities. He hopes to find a backer there.

Mangonia Park officials are pressing McCray to make good on his promise of putting up a building. Without it, they say, he must convert his town business license to a more restrictive peddler's license.

"I'm hoping that he's going to be able to do the building," said Town Manager Lee Leffingwell.

Residents near McCray's have complained about constant smoke from his fires, Leffingwell said, and a building with vents would ease their concerns.

Ever the optimist, McCray vows to put up the building, and he has an eye on further growth. But he notes an irony of the barbecue biz: The more polished a rib shack gets, the less street cred it enjoys.

"I'll tell you, 99 percent of our customers like the roadside service," McCray said, smoke wafting from one side of his property and traffic noise blaring from the other. "They like the down-home feel."

God Bless you and your business. You are a survivor and your ribs are the best I've tasted. Everyone should come and support you and your business. There aren't many credible rib joints left.
12:38 AM, 1/30/2010
I have to agree with mccray's last commeent,I would never have stopped at the restuarant[building].For me it is the roadside bbq smell that got me to stop the first time.Each time I come back its a time issue,I don't have time to go park my car 800 feet away go inside a building sit down get water wait for a waitress while she is serving someone else their food take an order than wait another 20 minutes for my food ,when I can stop by park 20 feet away and wait 5 minutes and go.
john harvey
3:57 AM, 1/30/2010
I would hate to see a building go up I like the out side pit with the shack it's what keep me and everyone coming back. I would hardly stop when in a hurry if I had to walk inside.
What a great story. It's so uplifting to hear good things coming to small business owners! God bless you on this venture and I wish you all the success. I have never eaten at McRays but have heard it is wonderful. I will be making it a point to come in, little building or big building. As a small business owner myself it's these challenges that help us all endure, hopefully.
i too have stopped by and yes it is good, u get what u pay for, its worth it, i suggest on the building;make it differant, leave the front just like it is, take out on the run, change hardly nothing ,mybe even incorperate the trailer itself into the building sticking out, even the gravel parking leave alone and the rear out of sight, with a dubble drive thru with the kitcken in the middle..serving both ends to keep up with demand, trafic exiting away from the front, take that to the bank...
the mcray's is family name in riviera and lake park i work at bennett auto. all of us enjoy the food from mccrays i just need to make it a point to eat there more to support local business. good luck
tiki huts, beer, girls on roller skates, forget the building.

remember who brung ya to the dance
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