Saw’s Inc., Saw’s Juke Joint and Saw’s Soul Kitchen earn Alabama Retailer of the Year Title

HOMEWOOD – Mike and Jennifer Wilson opened the first Saw’s barbecue restaurant in 2009 in Homewood, “Mike manned the store, while I handled the books, finances and ‘office’ work,” said Jennifer Wilson, who at the time was a full-time teacher. “Over time, we grew the Saw’s brand through partnering with others to open Saw’s Soul Kitchen in Avondale and Saw’s Juke Joint in Crestline.” A franchise company oversees three other Saw’s in Hoover, Leeds and Southside.

While the rapid expansion eventually led to an end of their marriage, “the business continued to thrive,” Jennifer said.

Then the unexpected happened in September 2020. Mike Wilson, pit master and founder, died at the much-too-young age of 47. By then, the restaurants that shared his high school nickname had become nationally acclaimed for their Carolina-style smoked pulled pork, chicken and ribs. The founder’s business interests passed to his children, Tuc and Reese, while Jennifer, who has since retired from teaching, continues to handle business operations.

The Wilson family today was named Alabama’s Bronze Retailer of the Year in the Annual Sales $5 Million to $20 Million category. “We accept this award not only on behalf of our family but also for our co-owners, numerous employees, other supporters and last, but certainly not least, posthumously for Mike. However, none of what we do would be possible without our customers, all of whom are the lifeblood of Saw’s,” said Jennifer Wilson.

Meredith Drennen, executive director of the Homewood Chamber of Commerce, who nominated the Wilson family for the award, said, “Even after the passing of its founder, Saw’s continues to offer the best barbecue in Birmingham.” This spring Southern Living magazine dubbed Saw’s barbecue as “the best in Alabama.” While maintaining quality food, “the family’s commitment to our community and chamber is fantastic,” added Drennan.

In keeping with Mike’s wishes, his legacy “lives on in his children, restaurants and recipes,” say his family, partners and employees.

Tuc Wilson, a college sophomore, and Reese Wilson, a high school senior, own Saw’s Inc., the original Homewood location. Jennifer Wilson is president, chief executive officer and manager of Saw’s Inc. and managing member of Saw’s Juke Joint in Crestline. Besides Saw’s Juke Joint, the Wilson family also holds the majority ownership of Saw’s Soul Kitchen in Birmingham and owns the trademark and all the rights to the sauce and rub created by Mike Wilson.

Tuc “fully immersed himself in all aspects of the business this summer with an eye to the future,” said his mom.

The Retailer of the Year judges were impressed with Saw’s partnership with college athletes through the NIL (Name, Image and Likeness) program to promote the business online, as well as improvements to cost structure, adding online sales of its sauce and rub and partnering with a local university for meals for incoming students and events at local apartments.

The Alabama Retailer of the Year awards, started in 1999, honor retailers who have demonstrated growth, innovation and a commitment to their respective communities. Saw’s is one of 11 businesses being honored as the 2023 Retailers of the Year by the Alabama Retail Association. This year’s winners were selected from 57 entries submitted from a pool of 86 nominees.

“The Wilson family are retailers of the year EVERY year to Saw’s customers, 70 employees, the Homewood community and the other Birmingham area communities the business serves,” said Alabama Retail Association President Rick Brown. Saw’s has been a member of the Alabama Retail Association since its founding in 2009.

Other 2023 Retailers of the Year
Previous Retailers of the Year

The Alabama Retail Association represents retailers, the largest private employer in the state of Alabama, before the Alabama Legislature and the U.S. Congress. Through sales of food, clothing, furniture, medicine and more, our 4,300 independent merchant and national company members touch almost every aspect of daily living. Since 1943, we’ve worked to promote what’s best for the retail industry in Alabama. Whether voicing the retail view when public policy is made, educating members about issues that impact them, negotiating rates for benefits and services or communicating the retail story, the Alabama Retail Association and its members are better together.

Jennifer Wilson, Saw’s | 205.229.1647
Nancy King Dennis, Alabama Retail Association | 334.868.2195 | 800.239.5423

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