Richard’s Bar-B-Que to close after 42 years of food service

Published 12:10 am Sunday, July 3, 2022

SALISBURY — From feeding Bill Clinton to becoming a almost second home for some customers, Richard’s Bar-B-Que’s will be closing for good at the end of the month.

Owner Richard Monroe has sold the building to Rowan-Salisbury Schools and he hopes it will be put to good use for staff meetings or things like cooking classes.

“I really have to thank Paul Fisher for putting me in connection with the schools to sell this building,” Monroe said. “He’s always helped me out financially with the place and I want him to get that recognition.”

Monroe’s journey began in 1970 when he worked for T&F Barbecue, which was co-owned by his father. He became manager in 1975 when he was 16. He then took over as owner in 1979. The restaurant moved to a closed-down trailer park property that Monroe purchased. That is the home of the current restaurant that he renamed Richard’s Bar-B-Que.

Many faithful customers are bittersweet about the closure. Charles Shuler, founder of Charles Shuler Pool Co., has been a regular customer for more than 30 years. He visits occasionally for lunch, but most of the time he’ll come in for a breakfast plate of bacon, eggs, tomatoes and plenty of coffee to start out his day.

“It’s become an established routine for me,” Shuler said. “I’ll come in here and just chill with my Charlotte Observer puzzles in my usual spot. Me and Richard have grown into retirement age together. It’s like family. He deserves to have kudos for running a business for this long. I really appreciate the job he’s done.”

His daily seat is a booth in the back left corner of the eatery.

Bob and Beverly Rogers have also been frequent customers of Richard’s Bar-B-Que. Bob always goes for his favorite lunch item: hot dogs.

“It’s my favorite place to get barbecue,” he said.

His wife told the story of Bob’s impressive record of eating nine footlong hot dogs in 45 minutes back in the days of Al’s Nighthawk in Salisbury. However, after the closing of that beloved restaurant in 2001, they looked for another place to get quality franks. Since Richard’s doesn’t have footlongs on the menu, Bob always orders two.

“Bob had the honor of having the last hot dog at Al’s Nighthawk,” Beverly said. “We’re hoping he gets to have the last one from Richard’s, too.”

It wasn’t just about Monroe that the customers had exceptional things to say. The waitresses in the restaurant have made regulars and out-of-town visitors alike feel right at home with their warm hospitality.

“This place is my second home,” said regular customer Dolores Boykin, who always likes to try something different when she comes in. “I feel welcomed, accepted and cared for here.”

Richard’s meant so much to Boykin that last year, she was surprised with a party on her birthday with everyone at the restaurant.

“I feel right at home here,” said waitress Robin Moore, who has been working at the restaurant for 10 years. “I know I’m going to cry when it closes. I’m planning just to take some time off and take vacation because I know God has a plan for the future.”

She also said that Monroe was practically a father figure to her. He had a playful side with his employees, setting up pranks that rubbed off on the workers, who would pull gags on each other, from remote control rats to rubber snakes.

“We’re all family here and treated fairly,” said Jimmy Tutterow, who has worked in the kitchen of Richard’s on and off for the last 21 years.

Over the years, Richard’s has garnered a lot of traffic from people outside of the state, including feeding Ringling Brothers Circus members on a train with plates of barbecue to 11 trays being brought to Bill Clinton when he came through North Carolina. Former Gov. Bev Perdue also got a taste, having food served on 125 china plates at a dinner.

Additionally, the restaurant was featured in the New York Times after seeing the restaurant featured as part of the N.C. Barbecue Trail.

“I’ve known more people than I’ve made money,” said Monroe. “But I don’t think I’m better than anybody.”

The building was sold with all the kitchen appliances still inside. Souvenirs and T-shirts will be available for purchase from July 25-30 for a memento of the favored downtown Salisbury barbecue spot.