Whitley’s Bar-B-Que remains a tradition
Published 9:25 am Wednesday, September 10, 2014
by Jim Hart/Contributing Writer
MURFREESBORO, N.C—Whitley’s Bar-B-Que, which originally opened in Murfreesboro, North Carolina, on July 12, 1963, is still cooking its pork in the same pit and with a very similar recipe that has been modified just a little by new owner and manager Cassie James and her husband, Colton James.
Originally opened and operated by Robert E. Whitley and specializing in pit-cooked BBQ pork and chicken, it continued operation under his supervision until his death, when it was turned over to his daughter, Ruth. It remained in her care until her death in 2008, when it closed. The establishment remained closed for about one year until Dan Hunt took it over in 2009 and managed it until he announced that he had plans to close it in June. Just a few weeks prior to locking the doors, Colton and Cassie James were visiting as regular customers, and in conversation Dan mentioned to Cassie that this could be her chance to own her own restaurant.
“Dan was aware of my restaurant management background and knew I had an interest in one day opening up my own place,” Cassie James said. “I immediately considered it on a serious note and Colton and I talked about it all the way home and for several days.”
Cassie James also said she had come from a restaurant background with her family and had several years experience in the restaurant business in various positions of management, just not in owning her own.
She wanted to operate it, but first she had to run it by her family.
“It was time for a family meeting,” Cassie James said. “This would affect our entire family and our children needed to have some input as well.” This was a family-operated business and is back to being just that. While Cassie James runs the day-to-day operations, Colton James helps prepare the barbecue and new ribs on the menu when not away tending to his professional music career. Their son, Austin, a 2014 graduate of Southampton High School, is also employed as a waiter and plans on attending a local community college in the fall. Their daughter, Hailey, who is a student at Southampton High School, also plans to work on a part-time basis as time allows.
Cassie James is very proud of the fact that the restaurant never did close. She, Dan Hunt and the Whitley family were able to work things out so that when Dan left, she came right on in and went to work officially as the new owner on June 9.
While keeping with much of the same menu that Whitley’s had kept for years, she has expanded it with more items on the buffet table including Colton’s special ribs and a different brand of jumbo crab legs for their seafood buffet on Friday nights. There is also a new sandwich in town, the Chowan Burger.
Much of the same staff is still on board with only a few changes, and Cassie James said she was glad to keep that intact.
“I really hope that we can bring Whitley’s Bar-B-Que back to its former presence as a true destination for local travelers and a crown jewel of Murfreesboro,” she said.
Cassie James went on to describe other plans for Whitley’s that she and Colton James were really planning on for the future.
“We hope to build some outside seating areas and build a covered area outside for live entertainment,” she said. “With Colton’s love of music and his contacts, we would love to have local entertainment for our community to enjoy.”
Whitley’s Bar-B-Que is open Wednesday and Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Saturday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.; and on Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. In addition to having a daily lunch and dinner buffet, patrons can also order from the menu.
On Friday night, the seafood buffet is also open, but patrons can also choose to just dine from the regular buffet at its usual cost.
Walk-ins are always welcome, reservations are appreciated and special occasions can be easily accommodated. Call Whitley’s at 252-398-4884 for more information. It has been located at 315 Beechwood Blvd., Murfreesboro, North Carolina, since 1963.