CHILDREN OF SAW’S BBQ FOUNDER INHERITED THE BUSINESS UPON THEIR FATHER’S DEATH AND HOPE TO CARRY THE BUSINESS FORWARD FOR MANY YEARS TO COME
“Mike Wilson, you created a hell of a barbecue joint,” Jennifer Wilson said when accepting a Retailer of the Year award on behalf of the Wilson family.
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, 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.
Tuc and Reese began working at the Homewood restaurant when they were both 16.
“Even at 15,” said Tuc, who is now a sophomore in college, “when I couldn’t drive yet, my mom would drop me off here.”
“I started working as cashier, then I started on the line,” he said. “A couple of mornings this summer I’d get here around 5:30 in the morning to start learning how to prepare the meat. Then I’d also go over to the Saw’s Juke Joint in Crestline and I would be a server there.”
Reese, a senior in high school, said, “I work like one day a week to help out.” She also has another summer job elsewhere and during the school year is a cheerleader.
Tuc is studying finance at Auburn University. “I’m going into the business management side of things,” he said after telling his Mom that he’d made a 93 on a recent supply chain test. “Maybe a minor in culinary. We’ll see.” Tuc made a speech in a public speaking class about the best way to make ribs, which prompted his teacher to check out Saw’s.
“Entrepreneurship has always been my thing,” said Tuc. “Selling candy, doing pressure washing, mowing lawns, car washing.”
After he started working at the restaurant though, those pursuits fell by the wayside. “I could make a lot more money working as a cashier than scrubbing a car in the sun for four hours,” he said.
Tuc and Reese own Saw’s Inc., the original Homewood location. Jennifer 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.
Source of Pride
“He loved these two kids more than anything, and he is so proud of who they’ve become,” Jennifer said when asked what Mike would say about receiving a Retailer of the Year award. “He’s proud of the partners that we have at the other locations.”
Besides being recognized as a Retailer of the Year, Southern Living magazine in the spring dubbed Saw’s barbecue as “the best in Alabama.”
“We love our customers, and we want to continue to serve them for many, many years to come,” said Jennifer.
MEMBER SINCE 2009
The Wilson family owns the trademark and all the rights to the sauce and rub created by Mike Wilson, the late founder and creator of Saw’s barbecue. To find the six Saw’s locations or to order Saw’s sauce and rub, visit sawsbbq.com
This article also appears on Pages 14 and 15
of the November 2023 Alabama Retailer