Historic Jones Bar-B-Q reopens after devastating February fire

Local News

MARIANNA, Ark. — About five months after it went up in flames, an Arkansas staple is back in business.

Jones Bar-B-Q is believed to be the country’s oldest Black-owned restaurant. It caught fire in February, and nearly 70% of the historical building was burned.

Wednesday, a reopening ceremony was held, and about 100 people were there to celebrate the big day, from local officials to fire crews, to police officers and people out of town. The people who live in Marianna said this is more than a restaurant to them. 

“With all the finances and all the help, we sitting on top of the world right now,” James Jones, Owner and Pitmaster of Jones Bar-B-Q, said.

Jones was full of emotions as he celebrated the re-opening of his family’s business. Jones who is 76-years-old said he started working at Jone’s Bar-B-Q when he was 14-years-old.

“My granddaddy’s uncle started it, his name was Uncle Joe. It went from him to my granddaddy, to my daddy to me,” Jones said, “When it hit me it was the fourth generation, and my son it will be 5.”

The century-old restaurant was closed for months, after the fire. 

“I was cooking. Fried it up, come inside and go back outside and that’s when it caught fire,” Jones said.

Everyone around town remembers that day. Almost everyone who lives in town had a story that was shared from then.

“We can immediately that morning and the whole community was just broken-hearted and praying James would come back,” Anne McClendon, a woman who lives in Marianna, said.

Immediately after seeing the devastation, people came together. The Venture Center, a local non-profit organization in Little Rock, Arkansas, along with Jone’s son, was able to raise more than $67,000 to help rebuild.

“It just blows me away,” Jones said. 

Jones was determined to rebuild as soon as the fire happened. People from all over the state and even people as far as Baltimore, MD were outside the door waiting for Jones to start the grill.

“Generations of Lee Countians coming here to eat, my mother, my grandmother, now my family, my children,” McClendon said. “There’s just no barbecue like it.”

The owner of this historically Black-owned business said he’s still overwhelmed by all the support he’s receiving.

“It’s just made all the difference in the world, in Marianna and Lee County, and surrounding areas, he’s just a staple,” McClendon said.

“I look at it as a blessing in disguise,” Jones said. “I don’t have no reason to stop doing nothing, nope. I’m proud of it.”

Mr. Jones said he has no plans of retiring anytime soon. He said his son will take over next and already comes in to help him when needed. 

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