150 Boise icons: Smoky Davis

awebb@idahostatesman.comMay 21, 2013 

Did you know? Smoky Davis’ iconic neon sign — some of the most recognizable script around for longtime Boiseans — is grandfathered. Were the business to open today, the Davises couldn’t advertise with such a big sign, said Dee Davis.

PROVIDED BY SMOKY DAVIS

This reporter's snapshot of a Boise childhood: Shooting sulfury cap guns while sporting a fringed leather vest that could skew either "hippie" or "cowgirl;" dividing my thoughts between the existence of Bigfoot and the exploits of Evel Knievel; and looking forward to Christmas and the appearance of a bag of Smoky Davis beef jerkey in my Christmas stocking.

Smoky Davis, in the hands of the Davis family for three generations, still makes the blessed jerky. The recipe hasn't changed since 1953 when Dell Davis, the original Smoky, opened his doors on State Street.

The Davises, Dell's grandson Gary and his wife Dee, preside over a case of smoked meats and cheeses. The backdrop: a soft-hued mural featuring a turkey striding across an idyllic landscape.

"The mural even lights up," said Dee.

The cases hold Basque sausages, Kansas City ribs, Idaho trout, whole smoked chickens and pepper cheese curds. Within a 20-minute period on a recent Saturday, customers came in for tri-tip sirloins, bottles of beer, dog bones and, of course, beef jerky.

The Davises process and smoke the meat they sell on-site, a process that hasn't changed in six decades. They'll custom smoke "anything," said Dee - rabbit, deer, fish. They smoke hundreds of steelhead brought in by fishermen every year.

Dell Davis, said Dee, was an all-around entrepreneur. He had his own plane. He ran a bar in Mountain Home for a time. He became a partner at Robinson Quick Freeze, a place in Downtown Boise where people could rent freezer space. Customers started asking him to smoke the meat they brought in. It got to be such a thing, Davis decided to open his own smoke shop on State Street. Bankers advised him against it.

"They didn't think it would work," said Dee.

Dell opened anyway. He started smoking meats, plucking birds and gathering a loyal clientele.

Sixty years later, the Davises continue to prove that Dell was right and the bankers were wrong.

Smoky Davis will host a 60th anniversary party in July. Details aren't yet set. We'll keep you posted.

3914 W. State St.

Anna Webb: 377-6431

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