Gio's BBQ

Dave Panasiti, owner of Gio’s BBQ, scheduled his last day for Wednesday, Dec. 8. He sold the business to Royer’s Concessions.

WOODLAND — After 40 years, Dave Panasiti, owner of Gio’s BBQ, is hanging up his hat, letting those younger take the reins.

His last day will be Wednesday, Dec. 8, and he plans to mark the day for customer appreciation. “What I didn’t want to do is just leave. I spent 40 years of my life in Clearfield County, and it’s going to be very hard for me to just shut that off.”

Panasiti recalls riding around with a friend in Houtzdale back in the 1980s. Unable to find any restaurants in the area, the pair traveled to the grocery store for a loaf of bread and some sandwich fixings for lunch.

Panasiti opened a pizza place in Houtzdale. It eventually burned in a fire.

Barbecue became a central part of Panasiti’s life in 1987. Panasiti entered a rib cook-off in Pittsburgh. After the preliminaries, the preparation of the ribs changed, receiving more attention.

“What we can do is seal them up, and the judges would like that,” Panasiti remembers saying. “The next day we did that, and I knew when I took them out that they were beautiful.”

Panasiti was overwhelmed upon hearing the news of winning first place best ribs and first place best sauce. “That started to change everything,” Panasiti said.

Business continued. A gentleman came into Panasiti’s store offering to buy his spaghetti sauce and meatballs for a store opening. Skip ahead about a month. The man returned and relayed that the money ran dry. Interested in the man’s endeavors, Panasiti traveled to the store’s intended spot, the site that would eventually be known as Gio’s BBQ off Interstate 80 in Woodland.

“I was used to being in downtown Houtzdale where the only cars that came my way were the ones coming to my store,” Panasiti said. “I saw all this traffic and I (said), ‘How much do you want?’”

He left after six months and returned, buying it as his own a couple years later. Ribs and barbecue weren’t a main component until the early 2000s when Panasiti found inspiration in a dream.

Traveling with his family in Myrtle Beach, he enjoyed all the tourism. When he fell asleep, he dreamed of owning a hoagie shop in Myrtle Beach with unfamiliar Pennsylvania-like elements weaved into the setting.

“I woke up,” Panasiti stated, “and I said it’d be neat to be in a place where there’s tourism. Well I am in a place where there’s tourism. Where I sit in Woodland, there are people traveling. It just hit me a different way.”

Remembering the past victory with barbecuing, Panasiti went to work.

Over the years, Panasiti watched as employees, customers and travelers disappeared, either moving away or passing. Royer’s Concessions asked for a few years to buy the business. With the human loss taking its toll, supply chain issues and other factors, Panasiti finally felt it time to let a younger person take charge.

“It’s time, after 40 years, for a change,” Panasiti said. “This place needs another young person to come along and take it to the next level.”

He thanked the community for their support and his employees for all they do.

Although leaving the business, Panasiti plans to remain busy. He looks forward to spending more time with his family members down in North Carolina and continuing his volunteer work in Tyrone.

“I want to help people,” Panasiti said. “The only thing I ask God is to give me something else to do.”

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