Edley’s Bar-B-Que celebrates 10th anniversary, says Nashville barbecue is the best

Will Newman reveals how a long line of ice cream launched his trading career – and why Nashville is the new home of Tennessee’s best barbecue grills

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Have you ever seen best of lists online and thought to yourself: How the hell did THAT win?

Will Newman a.

A Memphis native who grew up eating a world-famous barbecue, Newman was shocked at what continued to top Nashville’s “best barbecue” lists.

“I became obsessed with the question, ‘Why isn’t Nashville doing better? “”

So Newman did something about it.

A contractor who had opened a few marble slab creameries around Nashville, Newman launched Edley’s Bar-B-Que ten years ago out of 12 South.

In the first year, Newman found himself getting $ 2 million in gross revenue, $ 800,000 more than he expected. Newman and his wife, Catharine, have turned Edley’s into four restaurants in mid-Tennessee that together generate annual revenues of around $ 14 million, he said.

And it is growing – there are plans to open three more Edley’s in the next few years.

Newman spent an hour with The Tennessean at his original location on Carl’s Patio – so named for the dishwasher of longtime Edley who died two years ago – giving us shots and the story of his family and its restaurants.

Nashville barbecue is better than Memphis barbecue

The hottest of his shots, Newman, 43, says his hometown of Memphis has fallen behind Music City Q in part because Memphis is “stuck in lore.”

Nashville’s two best-known pitmasters, Pat Martin of Martin’s Bar-B-Que and Carey Bringle of Peg Leg Porker, both have roots in western Tennessee, Newman concedes.

But these two broke new ground beyond what they learned from Bluff City pitmasters.

“We are not stuck,” he said. “We have a big open sandbox and we can innovate and have a lot of fun with the barbecue.

“Nashville dominates.”

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What’s the long line for ice cream? In winter?

Newman may be the only barbecue restaurant owner in the state with a law degree. For a while he wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps, lawyer Robert Newman of Galligan & Newman in McMinnville, Tenn.

So, after graduating from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville with a degree in history, young Newman went to law school at the University of Alabama.

One day in Knoxville, he dropped off his then-girlfriend at her job at Marble Slab in Knoxville – and was surprised to see a long line of customers waiting outside on a snowy day in February.

He got a job at Marble Slab and began to learn how to run a business, which led to his becoming an entrepreneur, both before and after graduating in law.

Newman’s Favorite BBQ Places In Nashville Aren’t Called Edley’s

1. Peg Leg Porker

2. Martin’s Bar-B-Que

3. Jack Cawthon’s Bar-B-Que

Edley’s is named after Newman’s grandfather

After living in Memphis for a few years, Newman grew up in McMinnville, Tennessee, where his grandfather ran the Caney Fork Electric Co-op.

His grandfather, George Edley Newman Jr., died when the owner of the Edley only had one. But he grew up with local townspeople telling him how much his grandfather had impacted their lives, bringing power to places where there was none.

“And I apparently had a striking resemblance to my grandfather,” Newman said. “People of his generation would stop me, sporting events, catfish fry, community events, and tell me about him.”

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12 South or bust!

Newman did not initially intend to create his own barbecue empire. He knew and loved the Moe’s Original BBQ chain which has stores in several states.

So Newman wanted to bring Moe’s to Nashville. In 2009, he got the 12 South location where Edley’s is now located, feeling the neighborhood was going to thrive.

But Moe’s business people wanted to be in Cool Springs instead. “We didn’t want to be in Cool Springs,” Newman said simply.

So Moe found someone else to open a Cool Springs store, and Newman started a competing barbecue business – in 12 South.

“It was painful and scary,” Newman said, “but a great decision for us.”

“I had no concept, I had no credibility,” he said. “We had just enough money to be dangerous, not enough money to be good. I managed to convince the owners here to take their chances with me.”

Contact Brad Schmitt at [email protected] or 615-259-8384 or on Twitter @bradschmitt.

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