By LAWRENCE SPECKER, AL.com
MOBILE, Ala. (AP) – There’s a love affair in the name of this restaurant, Bar B Quing With My Honey, and meeting the owners puts you in the middle of it all.
The final chapter is being written in downtown Mobile, where Glenda Marks Witherspoon and her husband, Timothy Witherspoon, have been operating their new restaurant for a few months. It’s a big place with a big menu: Barbecue, burgers, loaded fries, fish, shrimp and grits. There is brunch on Sundays and they add a hot bar for the lunch crowd. If you can resist going straight to the barbecue, you have to try the fish tacos.
But the story begins long before that place or menu, and as they tell, Glenda and her honey sound like two characters who should be the focus of an entrepreneurial reality show. They finish each other’s sentences. They tell stories about each other.
His mother ran the Mount Vernon restaurant for decades. Jackie’s kitchen. “I grew up in the business,” said Glenda Marks Witherspoon. “Watch my mother, help my mother. I had no choice. We started going up there with her, me and my sister, I was 12, she was 13. That’s where it all started.
She grew up, moved, lived in other parts of the country, came back to Mobile. She and Witherspoon, a landscaper, had been together for a few years when they came up with the idea of starting a barbecue restaurant in Mount Vernon.
Her: “I saw a small building in Mount Vernon, it was an old dentist’s office…”
Him: “Let me tell this story.”
Her: “We went there and renovated it…”
Him: “What did she say?”
Her: “I was telling her how we got the dentist’s office. A guy had a sign on it…”
Him: “That’s not how it happened. Let’s tell the truth about it. She came home one day. I’m a landscaper, I’ve been a professional landscaper all my life. That’s where I made my living… She and I had been together for a while, she was still working for her mom, she came home one day and showed me this sign. I said, ‘Where are you going with that sign, it’s a rent sign. Why did you bring this home? She said, ‘I want to open a barbecue business.’
Her: “Well, I stopped and took her out of the building so no one else would see her.”
Him: “I said, ‘You’re going to get both of us in trouble.'”
Her father, a bricklayer, helped design and build the pit. “My mother made the barbecue. What she did for me was a great thing. I always have to say that,” Marks Witherspoon said. “I told her I wanted to sell barbecue, and she let me sell her barbecue, her sauce. What she did, she completely removed from her menu. It is very important for me because it is a big problem. My mother made a lot of money with her barbecue.
It’s love, right there.
It was 2002. When they closed the restaurant years later, the idea was that she was going to spend about a year relaxing. Her company was working in other states, and she was following. Unlike catering, there was free time. “We were going fishing,” she said. “I was like, is life really like this?”
It didn’t stick. In 2019, she couldn’t resist getting back into the game.
Her: “He worked in Mississippi. I called him and said ‘Guess what?’ What did he say?’ I said “I found a restaurant”. He’s like, ‘Not really, not now. I’ll look when I get back there. But when I looked at it, I said “I do”. He said, “Are you sure?” I said, ‘I want this place.’
Him: “Like a fool, I did it again. For the second time. I didn’t know there would be a third time.
It was a small mall store in the Loop area. The idea was for it to be a take-out place, and that turned out to be a good call about six months later when the pandemic hit. After a few weeks of closure, they settled on a minimal-contact business model: Customers ordered ahead and they took the orders out for curbside pickup. “It worked out better than I thought it would,” said Marks Witherspoon. “It got things moving.”
Still, times were tough. For one, prices have skyrocketed on ribs and wings. On the other hand, the fact that the business has been open for less than a year has made it much more difficult to access the various COVID-19 assistance programs offered to businesses.
“We were living hand to mouth,” Witherspoon said. “Other people who weren’t doing the right thing were getting money left and right.”
Still, it was a time of opportunity.
“Do you know what that did to me?” said Marks Witherspoon. “It did something of the little man. It made the little man, or the small business, a big business or a medium-sized business. … He’s done so much for online.
In 2021, as the pandemic slowly faded, she embarked on another dream of hers: opening a boutique. Honey Chile Custom Jewelry is primarily an online effort, with information at www.honeychilejewelry.com.
Him: “It’s another one that I should have said ‘no’. It should have been “H no”.
Her: “But it wasn’t her choice, to say no to the store. I wanted a store. He helps me in everything I do and I like that about him. He does not discourage me. Sometimes I wish he would, but he doesn’t. This is a good thing. We are really very good partners.
Him: “She supports me in everything I do.” He is mostly retired from landscaping work, but promotes gigs through his company Riverside Productions. (Coming soon: a Father’s Day blues show on June 18 at Cooper Riverside Park in downtown Mobile.)
By the end of 2021, she had also set her sights on another new venture. “I wanted another sit-in business,” she said.
Her: “I don’t really know what we thought about this one, though, really.”
Him: “Let’s talk about her.
Her: “He speaks the truth”
Him: “I didn’t think I would open another place, because I was trying to control this place. … I knew nothing of his shopping for a location.
Her: “Me neither.”
Him: “We had run out of ribs, I had gone out to get some ribs. I received a phone call. She called, I said, ‘What’s going on?’ She said, ‘I need you to come here.’ ” Or ? “Here, in Dauphin Street. I said ‘What, I’m trying to put these ribs on, I’m late.’ She said, ‘I need you to come here right now, I’m talking to the owner.’ I said, ‘For what?’ “He has a restaurant here, I want -” I said “NO”.
Her: “He did. He said ‘I don’t mess with that.’ “You’re all alone,” he told me. I said, “But you have to come because the owner wants us to have this building.
Him: “It took me a long time to digest, really. I’ve been here all day all night trying to figure out what to do, what I’m gonna have to have. He sat there all evening, listening to the radio, sipping a drink, thinking about the work ahead. He had already gone from “no” to “how”. Soon work began on site, west of Florida Street and well east of the fast food corridor near the freeway.
Her: “We are here now. I’m a little scared. He doesn’t like it when I say it. A very tough guy here. He doesn’t like it when I say I’m a little scared, and I am. ”
Him: “We opened it. Now we have to do what it takes to keep it open.
The two say their priorities for Bar B Quing With My Honey are providing good customer service in a clean, family-friendly environment. Like seemingly everyone in the restaurant industry these days, they have found it difficult to hire and keep reliable employees. Marks Witherspoon said she was happy with the core group she had built, but was looking for more.
Meanwhile, customers browsed the menu, finding favorites. And it turns out that excellent pulled pork isn’t the only thing at the top of the list.
“Bone-in fried catfish is one of our big sellers, it came as a surprise,” Marks Witherspoon said. “What comes out the fastest are the ribs and the fish with the bones. The fish with the bone. I mean, they’re mad at us when we went out.
Supply chain issues continue to be a gremlin.
“It’s like, ‘fish on the bone, fish on the bone, fish on the bone,'” she said. “We’re out, oh no, society’s out, I’m calling somewhere else, we’re out of this fish, oh no, people we’re out of this fish. “Well, give me that net. They are like, with an attitude.
They will get out of it.
Him: “I love my wife and I try to give her what she wants.”
Him: “We bump our heads.”
Her: “We bump our heads a lot. But we work together.
For more information on Bar B Quing With My Honey, including menu and prices, visit https://www.facebook.com/bbqwmyhoney.
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