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Family Business Thinks Big Despite Pandemic Challenges and State Fair Cancellation

The deep-fried pulled pork Funyun dings by Sherry and Chris Howard
The deep-fried pulled pork Funyun dings by Sherry and Chris Howard
courtesy of the State Fair of Texas

If you know of Sherry and Chris Howard through their State Fair of Texas concessions business, you might think their motto is “Go big or go home.” But if you learn more about their family and their Scrumbscious Burgers and Pieshakes restaurant in Forney, you’ll find they know how to go big and go home.

Their big family has been a key to their success in good times as well as more challenging times. In fact, it was their family that led them into the food business in the first place.

Staring down a recession, the couple brainstormed ideas for Sherry, a stay-at-home mother of six, to bring in some additional income. They decided to sell pies out of their home, and with a website Chris built to fuel the business, they launched the sweet venture in 2007.

By the next year, demand had grown so much they moved into a commercial kitchen. After another busy holiday season, leftover pies and hungry kids inspired Sherry to create the pieshake — an ice cream shake blended with a whole slice of pie.

Chris, Sherry and Hunter Howard
Chris, Sherry and Hunter Howard
Courtesy of Scrumbscious

This led them to fully transition into the restaurant business, opening Scrumbscious Burgers and Pieshakes in Sunnyvale in 2010. Now located in Forney, the restaurant serves fresh-made burgers, fries, chicken wings, tater tots and more, along with six to 12 pie-of-the-day offerings.

The big attraction here is that diners can order any slice they choose and also have it made into a pieshake. These have always been a popular item, so in 2013, the Howards jumped at the chance to sell them at the State Fair of Texas.

Despite the demands of running a fair concession, the three-week stint was a change of pace from their busy day-to-day routine.

“We look forward to the fair every year. It's a break for us,” Sherry says.

When they became eligible to enter the Big Tex Choice Awards during their second year as a vendor, they embraced that opportunity in a big way.

In 2015, their deep-fried bacon cheeseburger basket was named a semifinalist in the annual fair food competition, and they’ve had at least one entry make it to the semifinal or final round every year since.

Their hopes to win the top spot this year were dashed when the fair was canceled. But by then, they already had other issues to focus on.

Until the pandemic shutdowns hit, Scrumbscious Burgers and Pieshakes was on better than solid footing. Its growth had required a move to a larger location in Mesquite and eventually to an even larger location in Forney in 2018.

But the challenges brought on by COVID-19 were no small obstacles. Shifting a large percentage of their business to takeout meant that making delivery profitable was a high priority.

“We're done with the third-party delivery apps,” Chris says. “I have a background in programming, so I was able to build an app for it. We've been able to handle local delivery ourselves.”

Another challenge arose with staffing when business was down as customers stayed home. But the couple’s big family, which has grown to eight children and a grandchild, was once again part of the solution.

The children, ages 7 to 25, have always helped in the restaurant. Along with their teenagers, the Howards were able to keep the business running through the earliest days when they had to cut back on staff.

At the beginning of the shutdown, no one knew what the future might bring, but with delivery and staffing issues solved, they were able to breathe a sigh of relief and make plans to face future challenges.

“Once we realized we weren't going to go out of business, it was important to stay focused on the positive and not the fear,” Chris says.

Sweet potato pieshake and a slice of pecan pieEXPAND
Sweet potato pieshake and a slice of pecan pie
Kristina Rowe

That positive outlook shines through on the restaurant’s Facebook page, with posts sharing something to look forward to on a regular basis.

A karaoke video contest in March, a free pieshake day in April and a hilarious COVID-themed parody written and sung by Chris in May were just the start. In late July, the Howards announced that Scrumbscious would be holding a fair food event of its own.

From Sept. 25 to Oct. 18, the Howards will serve their Big Tex Choice Awards entries at Scrumbscious. If you’ve ever wondered what deep-fried chicken noodle soup on a stick tastes like, you can find out, with no admission charge, no State Fair crowds and no need to buy coupons.

The fair food menu will also include the Texas twang-kie, deep-fried pulled pork Funyun dings, deep-fried Nutella-custard-stuffed French toast and five other award-winning dishes.

While they already had a dish planned for this year’s entry, they're keeping that one under wraps.

“We can always make it next year,” Sherry says.
The fair food event isn’t the only big news on the horizon for this “go-big” family. Plans for a Scrumbscious location in Irving are in the works, with an official announcement due any day now.

Scrumbscious Burgers and Pieshakes, 450 F.M. 548, No. 112, Forney. Open for takeout, delivery and limited dine-in 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday; noon to 8 p.m. Sunday.

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