MARIANNA, Ark. — The owner of Jones Bar-B-Q Diner in Marianna, Arkansas, said he plans to rebuild and reopen after a fire gutted the business over the weekend.
Harold Jones has been cooking there for more than 50 years, and is beloved in his community. The restaurant itself is believed to be one of the oldest Black-owned businesses in the Mid-South and one of only two Arkansas restaurants to have received the James Beard Foundation award.
The fire department said a burning ember from a barbecue pit is believed to have started the fire.
Jones spoke with WREG-TV and recalled what happened that day.
“I was cooking six Boston Butts, and I fired it up and I went inside for a minute…turned around and come back and it had caught a fire. And it burned from that,” Jones said.
Harold, as friends and customers call him, says a covered area where the bar-b-que pit is located, “burned like paper,” But fire crews were able to save the front dining room and carry-out section housing Jones’ many awards and his important guest book.
“When people that come in and out from out of town, in town too, they sign the book and tell where they’re from,” Jones said.
On Monday, workers were clearing debris as diner regulars expressed shock over the fire.
“When I saw on Facebook that they’d had a fire. I just wanted to stop by and see that everything was okay.”
Leroy Moore inspects grain elevators and never misses a chance to see Jones or taste his bar-b-que.
“I always try to make it about lunch time and stop and get a sandwich or two while I’m here. He’s such a nice guy to visit with,” Moore said.
Steve Higginbothom, a former Arkansas Senator, spoke about the historicalness of the restaurant.
“This business started with his uncle in 1910. He’s been at this location since 1964 and it’s a very unique tasting bar-b-que and it’s really a special place,” Higginbothom said.