Come by Pierce's on Tuesday, October 18th and help us celebrate our 40th Anniversary!
We'll be handing out some delicious cake to honor you, our friends. But, we've got a lot of friends and can't feed everyone - so, get there while supplies last!
We'll also have some great new Pierce's hats, shirts and mugs for sale!
At Pierce's, we know that great Bar-B-Que makes for a great party. As a valued customer, we would like to contribute to your birthday celebrations with a special gift. All you need to do is tell us your birthday month and we'll make sure something special arrives in time for your special day. To register, click here.
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As I sat and listened to JC Pierce reminisce about the very beginnings of Pierce's Pitt Bar-B-Que I could not help but admire the Pierce family's unbelievable accomplishments. JC's parents lived the American Dream. They exemplified the true pioneer spirit when starting a small drive up barbecue "joint" in the middle of a horse pasture in Williamsburg, Virginia. In fact, JC's grandparents were sharecroppers from Flat Creek, Tennessee.
The year was 1971. Mr. and Mrs. Pierce, "Doc" and Verdie, were both 55 years old and decided to simplify life by opening a "quick serve" instead of a full scale eatery as they had been doing for some years for other people. They were flat broke, had no backing, and had one child still in school. Also, not even sure the concept would work! On top of that, they did not own the property!
Doc went to the Citizens and Farmers Bank in West Point, Va. and asked to borrow $2,500.00 to start on this adventure. He had to put up his car as collateral. The start up money helped to buy materials to build a small walk up that you ordered at one window and picked up at the other. This also helped to buy the actual inventory when the building was up and ready. Needless to say, the bank president would show up every month for payment and probably a barbecue!
The actual building was built by a friend of Doc's, Waverly Davis. Doc, Verdie, and JC helped in any way they could. JC and his Mom would mix the cement in an old wheelbarrow and push it around to wherever it was needed. The kids that JC went to school with would tease him about building a "fruit stand" in the middle of a horse pasture out in the country. The location was 6 miles from the center of town. Mr. Pierce always told JC "don't ever be ashamed of what you are doing." "If you are digging a ditch be the best ditch digger you can be." "Be proud of what you are doing." The actual building was 16x18 feet.
The first Pierce's sign was painted by an old man that misspelled the word "pit." He spelled it "PITT." When told about the mistake he said, "if you don't like it you can paint it yourself or it will cost you another $20.00." The sign was never changed. 40 years later we are still Pierce's PITT Bar-B-Que.
Grandson, Scott Shelton
When all was ready for business, there was no money left for the "cash box." Another family friend, Ray Hugley, stepped in and lent Doc $40.00. On the first day the walk up took in $80.00. Verdie's heart sank. She broke down in tears because she was afraid "they weren't going to make it and still had one child in school." Doc said "we made 100%, we are going to be alright."
The first pitt was a very small, handmade affair situated in the yard next door where the Pierce's were renting. Doc cooked about 60 pounds a week. (FYI: We now cook over a half million pounds per year.) There was homemade cole slaw, homemade sausage served on a bun made by Doc, homemade pies and cobbler thanks to Verdie. Milk shakes and soft serve ice cream were also served. In the beginning there was only a regular sized sandwich for $.99. Fries sold for $.49. Drinks cost $.25-Pepsi to be exact.
Doc was very loyal to the companies that would check on him weekly and sell him his inventory. Birtcherd Dairy from Norfolk would deliver one gallon of milk. Kotarides Bakery, also from Norfolk, would supply the bread. These companies would do business with him even though he bought such a small amount. Other companies told him "it was not worth stopping for such small amounts" but to get in touch when the business grows. So, Doc remained loyal to those companies that gave him a chance and that were loyal to him.
In 1975, one year after graduating from high school, JC had to make a very important decision. At the time when a lot of kids move away from home, Doc had a heart attack. JC needed to stay in the business and take over lots of responsibility in running the store. He did stay, of course, and in the late 70's, when Doc could no longer work, JC took over the entire operation of Pierce's. JC had worked in the store from 1971 but the actual business became his entire responsibility when he was in his 20's.
JC learned a lot of things from his Dad and Mom. The customers that come through the door are thought of as family. There are customers that still visit that started coming in 1971. JC recognizes that "every customer has a choice...even if they buy only a drink, I am glad to see them." There are stories from customers: "your Dad gave us gas for our car." "Our first date was at Pierce's. So, when I proposed, it was done in the parking lot!"
Another trait learned was to be appreciative of your employees.
In the early years, Maggie Bonafe was the Manager and helped to run the business with JC. She was with Pierce's for over twenty years. The first "pittmaster" after Doc Pierce was George Lemnois. He continued to work for Pierce's for 30 years, driving all the way from Chesapeake five days a week! Both of these employees were extremely loyal to the Pierce's as the Pierce's were loyal to them.
Pierce's now has quite a few employees that have been here for over ten years.
Pierce's now has over sixty employees and cooks hundreds of thousands of pounds of pork yearly.
- Andrea Hutchinson, Director of Operations, has been with Pierce's for twenty six years.
- The General Manager, Tonya Walker, has been here for twenty one years.
- Jackie Brinkley, the Catering Manager, celebrated twenty years this year.
- Cathy Acree, our Senior Kitchen Manager, celebrates twenty five years with the Pierce's.
- Kim Harris, Office Manager, has sixteen years, as does Charles Wallace, the current pittmaster.
- One of our Front Supervisors, Christie Brinkley, has twelve years with Pierce's, as does one of our Prep Supervisors, Morgan Thompson.
- There have been sons and daughters working side by side with their parents as the years went by!
The restaurant has won lots of awards, catered at functions for many customers as well as celebrities, and even had a visit from Paula Deen! We were a part of the Salute to Virginia at Bloomingdales in New York. Helped Governors enjoy their Inaugural events....been mentioned in best sellers by David Balducci and Patricia Cornwell.
We have been honored to host Habit for Humanity functions, Wounded Warrior events, and have met lots of the military personnel that come to see us after they return from overseas.
JC recognizes how fortunate he has been to enjoy such a good business and is proud of all the accomplishments through the years.
"Thank you to all of our loyal customers and employees." "You have made all of this possible."
"Doc" and Verdie's great-grand daughter, Lucy Jo Pardy, getting into Pierce's at any early age...
Lucy Jo's grandparents, Florence and Herb Shelton.
A few months ago, US Army SSG Matthew Borgen was sent overseas for deployment and Pierce's was there to help it make feel a little bit more like home.
"Thank you so much for the BBQ sauce, it just so happened that the chow hall had pulled pork sandwiches today and what better way to make them taste good than to put Pierce's on them. This BBQ sauce is gonna make my deployment AMAZING!!!"
We all wish SSG Borgen, his troops and everyone else in that serves this great nation of ours the best. Come back safe and stop back into Pierce's when you get home!