The sister pitmasters of Jones Bar-BQ, made famous by Queer Eye, are selling their restaurant | KCUR 89.3

After Thursday’s lunch rush, Mary “Shorty” Jones and her sister, Deborah “Little” Jones stood outside their beloved Jones Bar-BQwaving to cars and trucks that honked “hello” as they passed.

The pitmaster duo – a beloved part of Kansas City, Kansas, who rose to international fame after an appearance on the Netflix reality show weird eye – are sale their business this fall, citing their age, health issues and lack of staff.

Two of the country’s few black housewives, the sisters took over Jones Bar-BQ from their father, Leavy B. Jones Sr., who started the business in the 1970s.

“After 43 years, it is time to sit down. We are tired,” says Mary Jones.

“I don’t really want to,” interjects Deborah Jones. “But you know, sometimes you don’t want to do a lot of things. But sometimes it requires it. »

Bek Shackelford-Nwanganga


KCUR 89.3

The Joneses said one of the reasons they were selling their business was because they were understaffed. This note was hanging on the order window on Thursday.

The Jones sisters have said they plan to retire on September 15, but they won’t be going anywhere. They want to train new owners and share recipes, and plan to be just a phone call away to answer questions.

“If it’s something you [the new owners] accompaniment or something, you know, they can always find us,” says Mary.

The Jones sisters and their restaurant got a facelift in 2019, a look that the sisters say drew visitors from around the world. Shortly after the pandemic hit the following year, they launched the city’s first barbecue vending machine and have kept it stocked with spare ribs and burnt ends ever since.

Now the restaurant often sells out before lunch ends at 3pm – on Thursdays they ran out of food at 1.40pm and closed early.

Rick Wheaton showed up for lunch just in time to get a platter of ribs. He’s been following the sisters ever since he saw them on Queer Eye and decided to try Jones Bar-BQ before they left.

“I wanted to come here and participate, if you want, in a very good barbecue. I’m a barbecue snob, so I wanted to come here and help support them,” Wheaton says. “These ladies, I guess, if I understand correctly, are probably the only two female pit masters there.”


Bek Shackelford-Nwanganga


KCUR 89.3

Rick Wheaton, enjoying his lunch on Thursday. He said he wanted to try Jones Bar-BQ since he saw them on Queer Eye, so he drove from the Raytown area to Kansas City, Kansas to meet the sisters before they left.

Although the sisters own the building and all of their equipment, they do not own the property the restaurant is on. It will be up to the new owners to find a solution with the owners or to relocate the business. They also have two employees, whom they hope the new owners will keep on staff.

But not all of Jones Bar-BQ is up for grabs. Jones Sauce and Sausage recipes will remain a family secret.

Jones Bar-BQ Sauce – another result of Queer Eye’s makeover – is a separate entity and will continue to sell online and in select stores like Made in North Carolina.

Deborah Jones said that when she retires from the restaurant, she plans to work in the warehouse where she won’t have to stand for long periods of time. As for Mary, she says she wants to go back to school and get a teaching degree.

“I’m going to be a teacher, because the kids need me now,” says Mary. “Adults exhausted me. Now the children need me.


Bek Shackelford-Nwanganga


KCUR 89.3

Detra Wilson, longtime patron and family friend of the Jones Bar-BQ, stands between Deborah “Little” Jones and Mary “Shorty” Jones.

Detra Wilson has been a customer of Jones Bar-BQ since she was a child – she followed them as the company moved three times to Kansas City, Kansas. Thursday, when the Jones sisters posted on Instagram about selling their business, she rushed to the restaurant during her lunch break.

Wilson says she’s worried about new owners.

“It’s going to be a little sad for me because it’s personal. But not the love of barbecue. Just that they’re lovely, they’re lovely individuals,” Wilson says. “Everything about them is just… that’s all, because you taste the love in the food. As if it was more than a question of money, I think for them.

However, the Joneses have high expectations for the next owner, who they say must bring a solid understanding of the “basics” – customer service and a good barbecue. And there’s a special ingredient they want to see.

“They have to come with a little love. Everything we prepare contains love. Everything from bread and pounds of beef to slices and sausages,” says Mary. “You have to want to do this and you have to want to know that whatever you do, someone is going to feel good about it.”

“We’re getting out of here together,” Mary continued. “Just like we did 43 years ago, we come in with our heads held high, we go out together with our heads held high. One can’t leave the other – damn, who am I gonna argue with? »

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