WILLIAMSBURG- As one listens to Jay Pierce talk about his restaurant, it becomes clear that the legendary Pierce’s Pitt Bar-B-Q is about a lot more than food, it is also about ‘family’.
Pierce recalls that family and community, as much as the food, have been the driving force behind the business.
“After we moved here from California, my parents opened a little drive-in. There was a nice, older man that always came in and sat at the counter. Over time, he and my parents became friends, and the gentleman offered us a home he had built but no one lived in,” said Pierce, “Later that same man took my father to meet the president of the local bank when my dad said he wanted to start his own quick-service restaurant and agreed to co-sign the loan since my parents were not from here so that they could get established.”
While assisting his father, Doc, during the construction of the original building in 1974, Pierce admits he was not originally interested in being a part of the family business.
“I remember coming home from school in those early days and telling my dad that kids teased me because we had this ‘tiny little fruit stand’. He told me to just hold my head up and be proud of where I came from and who you are,” Pierce continues, “Dad taught me it is all about how you treat people that will get you somewhere. Now, I live by those rules.”
Over time, the business has grown. Pierce’s has branched out into catering, events, and producing retail products in addition to producing award-winning barbeque. But Pierce is the first to say he has not done any of this alone.
“We have been really, really blessed to have so many wonderful employees. Lots and lots of long-term employees. Many first, second, and now third generations have worked here. It is truly a family we have here,” said Pierce.
Andrea Hutchinson, Director of Operations, has worked with Pierce for 38 years. Watching both the restaurant and the owner grow.
“I could tell you so many stories,” chuckles Hutchinson. “We’ve had some good times and we’ve had some tough times. But, we could not have done anything without each other.”
After Pierce’s father passed away, he said he felt alone and unsure how to carry on without having his father around. But, the amount of support he and his mother received from the community pulled them through.
Pierce remembers that during that time, a family friend told him, “you can do this. You’ve been doing this. You are not by yourself, don’t forget that. Just call and people will be there. And he was right,” continuing to list employees and community members that showed their support over the years Pierce concludes, “I could go on and on telling you about the friends and neighbors who have been a part of keeping us afloat and going.”
A family atmosphere and community influence is certainly a main ingredient in the success of the restaurant. Recently, Pierce’s Pitt Bar-B-Q was named 2023 best barbeque in Virginia by Southern Living magazine for the fourth time.
“It is a fabulous business, absolutely fabulous. There are heartaches and tears but, we have a lot of smiles and laughter together too. I wouldn’t trade it (working at Pierce’s) for anything,” said Hutchinson.