Glenn’s Again: Former barbecue joint owner back in new location

Published 12:00 am Sunday, January 26, 2014

KANNAPOLIS — It’s about 11:15 on a Tuesday morning.
At Glenn’s Again, 1503 West A St., Ken Clanton sits down at a booth with a cup of coffee.
The breakfast regulars are gone. The lunch rush isn’t really going yet.
But the customers come in, by twos and threes, as the next hour passes.
And many of them have been coming for years.
In November of 2010, the Clanton family got out of the barbecue business, Glenn’s Barbecue, that they’d been running for decades on Central Avenue.
A little over three years later, a former neighborhood restaurant has been rebranded Glenn’s Again, and Clanton and his crew are once more serving old-timey barbecue, home-style sandwiches and big breakfasts.
Everything old is new again.
Ask him why he opened his doors back up, and he’s liable to say it was the food.
“For the two and a half years I was closed, I couldn’t find any decent barbecue,” Clanton said with a grin.
The real reason Clanton says he came back was because he missed the people.
Jack Hare operated Glenn’s for nearly three decades, up until his death in 2004.
And Clanton, as he put it, “went to Charlotte and worked, and found my fame and fortune, if there is such a thing.”
When his father got sick, Clanton said, after a lot of talking, they decided to take over running the restaurant on Central Avenue.
But there were a lot of problems. Aside from the recession that followed on the heels of Pillowtex’s closing in 2003, there were a lot of problems with the old building.
The time seemed right to call it quits.
After all, Clanton said, he hoped that he’d be able to retire.
What he learned, however, was that he just wasn’t ready yet. Too young, for one thing.
And, for another, “I began to miss what I did,” Clanton said.
“One of the phrases that was applied to us was we were ‘Cheers without the beer,’” Clanton said.
The TV sitcom bar that the series “Cheers” was named after was the place “where everybody knows your name.”
And that’s how it was at Glenn’s, Clanton said.
An hour spent sitting at Glenn’s Again makes it clear that’s still the case. Clanton and his staff trade wisecracks and hellos with almost everyone who comes through the door.
“You know their mamas, their daddies, their granddaddies,” Clanton said.
Last summer, Clanton said, he’d made the decision to go back into business.
The old location wasn’t an option due to the massive amount of work that needed to be done.
Then, he located the former West A Street Grill — the perfect location, Clanton said.
“We’re not on the main drag,” Clanton said. “I like being not on the main drag. I like having neighborhood people around.”
Glenn’s Again is on a two-lane road, with homes and subdivisions all around.
Clanton said he and his staff wanted to have a soft opening, not advertising right away that they were back in business.
But now, he said, the word has gotten out and the regulars are back.
“There is something fulfilling about three or four old guys that haven’t seen each other since we closed over there (on Central Avenue) having some coffee, eating breakfast and rekindling old relationships,” Clanton said.
Behind the counter, chopping barbecue and working the grill, is Lisa Petrey, who everyone (including Clanton) calls “New Girl.”
As Clanton tells it, he’d been through so many cooks he told Petrey he wasn’t even going to bother learning her name.
Nine years later, she’s back at Glenn’s Again.
“I’ll be honest with you, when we closed, I said I was not going to work in another restaurant,” Petrey said.
She took a job in retail, but when Petrey got the call that Glenn’s Again was opening, she put in her two-weeks notice.
“And they were not very pleased!” Petrey said. “But, sometimes you have to do what you enjoy.”
The menu at Glenn’s Again is standard barbecue-joint fare — simple and straightforward.
The pork barbecue they cook is made according to the same secret recipe used at the original Glenn’s, Clanton said.
“I promise you, it is exactly the same” as the barbecue they used to serve at the original Glenn’s, he said.
Beyond that, there are sandwiches, French fries and onion rings, salads, burgers and hot dogs.
“This is not, nor will it be, a health food establishment,” Clanton said.
In the mornings, Glenn’s sells basic omelets, eggs and breakfast meats, pancakes.
“Two people can eat breakfast here for $10. And if you leave here hungry, it’s your fault,” Clanton said.
The most exotic things they sell are the desserts. Fried Oreo cookies are one option. Another: Nutella banana pudding, made with the chocolate-hazelnut spread.
Those and other features will be made “just when we feel like it.” Clanton said he wants to keep switching up some of the options.
But the basics, he said, will remain the same: “The things that mean the most to me, the hickory-smoked barbecue, the well-seasoned grits, fresh hamburgers, unique desserts.”
“This place really does represent what I think middle America is,” Clanton said.
“I’ve used this term forever, the hole-in-the-wall type places, the mom-and-pop type places, are the best,” Clanton said.
He said he hates what he calls “the McDonald’s-ization of America.”
“If you get something to eat, and you don’t at least say, ‘That was good,’ you’ve wasted your time and money,” Clanton said.
Now, Clanton said, he’s trying to bring in people who live nearby — the kind of people who might stop on the way back home from work and pick up a pound of barbecue for supper.
“I’m not going to turn down anyone’s dollars, but I want to know 90 percent of the people who come in here.”
He said Glenn’s Again will sell whole shoulders at the holidays, and can do catering jobs, too.
But most of all, he said, it’s about the people.
“They bring their babies in for their first taste of barbecue,” Clanton said. “We’ve served first meals and last meals.”
And they’ve built an extended family.
Johnnie Guinn, who said he’d been a customer of the original Glenn’s “ever since they opened,” had been sad when the old restaurant closed.
“It felt like my best friend died or something,” Guinn said.
Now, he said, he comes into Glenn’s Again three or four times a week.
Walking by, Clanton swaps jokes with Guinn and the men with him at the table about putting them on the payroll.
But the serious note is clear: “There ain’t many of these mom and pop places left,” Guinn said.
Which makes it all the better, in Clanton’s eyes and many others’, that it’s time for Glenn’s Again.
Contact Hugh Fisher via the editor’s desk at 704-797-4244.