Hotel Hickman's Chuckwagon BBQ: Same Great Food, but New Ownership


Milly McClure and Scott Thomas standing out front at Hotel Hickman's Chuckwagon BBQ. photo by Lonnie Huhman

One of the reasons why the new owner of Hotel Hickman’s Chuckwagon BBQ wanted to take over the well-loved eatery was that she didn’t want to see the delicious food go away.

Well, it’s not and in most ways the spot for good BBQ in downtown Dexter will remain as longtime owner/proprietor Scott Thomas envisioned it when he opened the location a decade ago.

Looking to spend more time at his new home being built, Thomas has decided to step away from full-time management of Hotel Hickman and has turned over his ownership to Dexter resident and customer Melissa “Milly” McClure.

“I still enjoy cooking and talking with the people, but it’s time for me to take a break,” Thomas said.

He won’t be gone altogether. He will be helping her with the transition by doing things such as training the next cooks to help maintain the quality of food. He will also continue with the Chuckwagon catering service.

However, he will be working less hours at the spot in downtown.

“I will be stepping back a bit more, but I do want her to be successful,” Thomas said of helping with the changes.

In getting to this point, Thomas said he knew needed time away and didn’t want to close, so he had been thinking about selling and was floating the idea around. His thinking became a reality when McClure, after hearing about the possibilities, connected with him to say she was interested in taking over. He said they sat down and talked, and a deal was struck up in a day.

For McClure, taking on this new venture comes from a place of love, for Hotel Hickman and wanting it to stay and be what it is for the community. McClure has been a Dexter resident for the past seven years and worked as an accountant for 20 years. Looking for a change and new challenge, and although she knows it’s a bit risky, McClure said she wanted to take it on.

“I live here and I’ve grown to love Dexter,” McClure said.

When thinking about Hotel Hickman closing, she said, “I couldn’t let that happen.”

Hotel Hickman might eventually lose its sit-down building (next door), but the main location will remain as is with carry-out food as a mainstay. At this point, they will also keep the same hours, and while over time McClure might add some new options, the menu is also staying the same. McClure said she might eventually add a few options from the family cookbook left to her by her great-grandmother.

Thomas is looking forward to what’s ahead, but he said he will always cherish the time cooking up good BBQ in downtown Dexter.

“I want to thank the community,” he said. “The last 10 years have meant a lot to me and I’ve made a lot of friends. It’s been a blessing.”

Of McClure, he said he hopes the community rallies behind her and continues to enjoy the good food from Hotel Hickman.

Here’s some history about the BBQ joint from Hotel Hickman’s website:

Hotel Hickman Chuckwagon BBQ came into being when Scott Thomas, Proprietor, while doing cowboy reenactments with his chuckwagon in 1999, was asked to cook for a birthday party. While at the party, he was booked to cater a wedding and it grew from there.

Weekends were booked with graduations, weddings and corporate events, then in 2012, he moved the chuckwagon and smoker to the Dexter Feed Mill in Dexter, Michigan, cooking roadside barbeque.

All his recipes were developed by Scott, many using chuckwagon-style-cooking with Dutch ovens over open fire. (Ask about how the I-44 Potatoes came about…)

In the fall of 2012, when a small building in the Village of Dexter became available, Scott thought it would be great to have a little kitchen to cook in during the winter month. He parked his huge smoker behind the building and opened up for carry-out.

Diners no longer have to eat in the elements or carry out. In the winter of 2015, Scott purchased the building next door. Now diners have the choice of enjoying their food under the new pavilion or indoors in the Mercantile.

In addition to dining space, the newly remodeled building offers everything from mouthwatering penny candy to Lodge cast-iron cookware, Hotel Hickman’s own sauces, seasoning and coffee.

So where’s the Hotel part of Hotel Hickman Chuckwagon BBQ? Scott’s wife is one of twelve kids and Scott has two brothers and two sisters, and since someone was always staying at their house on Hickman Road in Ann Arbor, they started calling their house Hotel Hickman.

Dressed in his familiar suspender and cowboy duds, including the hat, Scott laughs, "I was in the restaurant business when I was younger and got out of it because I got tired of working holidays and weekends and now here I am working holidays and weekends! But I love what I do, playing in the kitchen, coming up with different recipes, even getting up at 3:00 a.m. to make our sausage. People tell us how much they enjoy our food and thank us for being here! ​That makes me feel blessed.”

Hotel Hickman is located at 8050 Main Street in Dexter and can be reached at 734-646-6261. To learn more, go to

Here's a look at some of the offerings at Hotel Hickman. image courtesy of the Hotel Hickman's Chuckwagon BBQ website
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