Buck's Smokehouse will offer free food to locals on its last day, Saturday, as a “thank you” to its loyal customers.

A local barbecue staple is closing its doors Saturday, but the owner says he’s reopening in just a couple of months as a brand new restaurant.

Buck’s Smokehouse, located at 303 Harbor Blvd., opened to great fanfare in May 2014, when owner Mike Buckingham decided to give away food to locals for free on his grand opening day. Residents were quickly captivated by his barbecue smoked pork sandwiches, ribs, baked beans and fries, and have remained loyal customers in the three and a half years since.

But Buckingham said he is closing his doors Saturday and has decided to enter into a joint venture with Moe’s Original Barbecue, a national chain barbecue operation. The spot will reopen as Moe’s Original Barbecue at Buck’s Smokehouse in February.

“Myself personally, I like to build, I like to create, I’m not an operator,” Buckingham said. “People say I’ve done a pretty damn good job because it’s been very, very successful, and I thank all the locals for their support, but I want to go build.”

Buckingham said he is looking to eventually open up several franchise locations of Moe’s Original Barbecue restaurants in Walton, Okaloosa and Santa Rosa Counties and is eyeing Fort Walton Beach for his first installment. He said he is staying a “small partner” in the operation but is looking to mostly expand the restaurants throughout Northwest Florida.

Moe’s Original Barbecue was founded by “three Alabama boys” in 2001, according to the company’s website. It now has about 60 restaurants throughout the United States and Mexico, with its only Florida location being in Panama City and, in two months, Destin.

“Moe’s Original BBQ is a Southern soul food revival where great food is served in an atmosphere that is relaxed, spontaneous, yet civilized….well, sometimes,” the website says.

Buckingham said the building will remain the same and he believes locals “are going to really enjoy” the food.

“We’re going to keep pretty much the same look, and a little bit different menu,” he said.

He added he is looking to take some time off with his wife, Michele, who has “worked her tail off" in the restaurant.

Buck’s Smokehouse will offer free food to locals on its last day, Saturday, as a “thank you” to its loyal customers. Buckingham said he hopes locals will continue to patronize the restaurant when it reopens in two months.

“We are going out the same way we came in,” he said. “The first couple days when we opened we gave food to the locals to let them know we were here, and (Saturday) will be free to locals. Thank you for your support, your friendship and your business.”