For 18 years, the weather-beaten shack on Beaver Dam Road has been known for the funkiness and homey touch that it brought to the impersonal suburban industrial park landscape.
But today, the venerable Hunt Valley institution known as Smokey's Pit Beef is shutting its rickety aluminum doors. Smokey's is moving.
The pit beef emporium is being squeezed out of its familiar spot by Sinclair Broadcast Corp., which had allowed the shack to remain for two years rent-free after the company bought the land.
The fading red shack has become an obstacle to parking spaces needed for Sinclair's five-story, brick and tinted glass headquarters, which houses its national telecommunications business.
Realizing Smokey's days there were numbered, owner Scott Fauntleroy had been searching for months for a new location. Starting Monday, Fauntleroy's lunchtime customers will be served at a new location nearly a mile away, off Cockeysville Road.
And many of the hundreds of lunchtime regulars are likely to follow.
"You can bet I'll be there," said John Cooper, owner of a nearby industrial maintenance business.
To some, pit beef stands are strictly an urban or rural experience, unfit for the trendy tastes of suburbia.
"Many do feel like the old pit beef stand is a dying piece of Americana," Fauntleroy said.
Clearly, however, Smokey's fills a need in Hunt Valley.
Through the years, warehousemen in work clothes, Baltimore Orioles such as retired pitcher Jim Palmer and sales reps in snappy business suits dined off their dashboards or carried the sandwiches back to work or home.
It wasn't unusual to see a Baltimore County firetruck pull in.
"It gets tiresome eating in the station house, and they have good roast beef here," said Harry Ellwood, a veteran firefighter who stopped by this week with two fellow officers in a pumper truck.
Even Sinclair executive Rob Smith sometimes enjoyed a Smokey's sandwich, served in a flash and piled high with beef or turkey on a fresh kaiser roll.
In 1997, Fauntleroy's business partner, Joshua Cockey, sold the multi-acre tract to Sinclair for an undisclosed sum. After the deal closed, the owners at Sinclair "were actually sweethearts," Fauntleroy said.
"We didn't pay rent for two years while we hunted for a new place," Fauntleroy said. That arrangement ended this month and "we knew we had to leave, but that didn't make a lot of our customers happy at first."
But Smokey's pit beef aficionados should make the transition with little trouble, Fauntleroy said.
Smokey's recipe for success has been simple -- a 100-pound bottom round cooked up to four hours in one of several ovens and held on 140 degrees for another 12 hours. There are no exotic rubs, sauces or coals. The result is an extremely tender cut that can be flavored with horseradish, pickles, hot sauce or peppers.
"I know our regular customers and pretty much know what they want when I see their faces," said Chris Cockey, a relative of Joshua Cockey who serves the lunchtime crowd.
"It's kind of like being a good bartender," he said.
On a busy day, Smokey's slings up to 400 sandwiches, mostly beef.
"They have the best corned beef, better than downtown," said Cooper, who will continue his thrice-weekly visits.
Adds Samrerah Syed, who works at nearby Procter & Gamble Co.: "Every day I'm here, corned beef with a lot of onions. And I'll be at the new place."
One thing customer Phyllis Gill knows for sure: "I don't care where Smokey's is. They're fast and have good sandwiches. I'll go where they go."