EL CENTRO — A family-owned restaurant celebrated its grand opening Friday, July 23, with a ribbon cutting ceremony attended by family members, business owners, city officials, and guests. The ribbon cutting started at 11 a.m.
Leroy’s Backyard BBQ, located on 401 Broadway Ave. at the corner of Fourth St., opened with the assistance of the El Centro Chamber of Commerce.
Daniel Sohn, CEO, El Centro Chamber of Commerce, welcomed about 30 guests, some of whom stood under the shade of a portable pop-up tent. The others braved the summer heat and humidity.
“Please support our local businesses,” said Mayor Pro-tem Tomàs Oliva, who encouraged support for the newly opened Leroy’s Backyard BBQ as well as other small businesses in Imperial Valley.
“I love barbecue. I’m not going to have any problems supporting Leroy’s at all,” said Chamber President Anne Irigoyen. Her comments drew immediate chuckles and applause from guests.
“Thank you for coming,” said Jamaal Weatherspoon, owner of Leroy’s Backyard BBQ. He lowered his voice and recounted the time about three years ago when he received an eviction notice for not paying rent. He did not even have enough food to feed his family.
But his nana, or grandmother, gave Jamaal $800 for food and rent payment.
He was invited to the Imperial Market Days, a community event where he sold barbecue that earned him $1,400 — enough to pay for rent. Business grew and he was able to pay rent and advance rent, said Weatherspoon. His nana recently passed away.
As he told his story, Weatherspoon spoke intermittently and used his shirt to wipe dry his eyes. For the most part, he stared down and did not look at the audience. The guests were quiet while automobiles kept rushing by along Fourth Street. Weatherspoon’s remarks then drew encouraging comments and applause from guests.
“Jamaal, you were writing a success story,” said Oliva, who went back to the podium and spoke.
“I really thanked my father. He taught me everything,” said Weatherspoon, speaking about, Leroy, who taught him how to cook barbecues. He occasionally helps cook in the restaurant.
According to Weatherspoon, on many weekends his family would barbecue in their backyard. The family tradition became a business and was aptly named Leroy’s Backyard BBQ in honor of his father. Now, the community can sample Leroy’s own barbecue recipe.
Leroy’s is open Thursday through Sunday, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. or until it runs out of barbecue. According to Weatherspoon, on a typical day, the restaurant runs out of barbecue in about four hours. The 50-seating capacity restaurant also offers take out and to-go orders.