Ray Kendrick looked around his spacious dining room last week with an air of renewed confidence.
It had taken him nearly a year to arrive at this point - mere hours from opening the Original Mr. K's BBQ last Thursday at its new home in the 2,100-square-foot former Snuffy's Bar and Grill, 6302 S. Park Ave.
And for the first time in that year - one filled with family drama and hurt feelings - Kendrick was openly optimistic.
"I think that 90 percent of our old customers will follow us," he said, referring to the loyal diners who frequented Mr. K's at its former location at 1830 S. Park Ave. "At the same time we will acquire new business from Raytheon and Bombardier and the airport - all these businesses that are at our doorstep."
Throughout the opening day, Kendrick served a steady stream of diners from a menu that has changed little over the years. Prices are relatively unchanged, Kendrick said, except for a small increase in family packs and meat bought by the pound. The restaurant also has added beef ribs to the lineup of smoked meats that have long been Mr. K's signature.
A year earlier a family feud had pitted Ray against his father Charles Kendrick and sister Rhonda Kendrick, and threatened to close the popular south-side barbecue joint.
Charles Kendrick started the restaurant 14 years ago in 850 square feet of the building that houses his Afro-American Heritage Museum. Ray worked with his father from the beginning. A couple years into the operation, he ran it on his own.
Last summer, Charles Kendrick teamed up with Rhonda and Tucson restaurant designer John Foster to open Mr. K's Barbecue in a former Chili's restaurant near the Tucson Mall. The family invited Ray to join them, but he declined. It took the family months to iron out legal issues regarding the Mr. K's name; in the end Ray added "Original" to settle legal disputes.
Walking around his small, clean kitchen at the new location last week, Ray Kendrick flashed a big smile.
The Snuffy's building, which he bought last fall, signals a fresh start. "Everything is new," he said.
The Original Mr. K's is open from 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays.
In other Mr. K's related news:
• Foster and the Kendricks parted ways in June, and Foster is launching a fast-food barbecue restaurant next to Fort Huachuca in Sierra Vista.
Foster, who also owns May's Counter Chicken & Waffles at 2945 E. Speedway, hopes to open the Buffalo Corral Barbeque - he calls it BCB in keeping with the military town's penchant for acronyms - by July 19.
"We're hoping for a sea of camouflage because we're really here for the soldiers," said Foster. "There is nowhere here in Sierra Vista where you can get barbecue. A couple places also sell it, but it's prepared in Tucson and shipped in. No one is doing it here."
BCB will be in a former Burger King restaurant outside the gates of Fort Huachuca, where Foster's grandfather served the final years of his military career. The barbecue recipes, including the dry rubs and vinegar-based barbecue sauce, are the same ones his grandfather, the late retired Lt. Col. John William Ferris, used when he hosted barbecues in the late 1950s for Fort Huachuca servicemen. Ferris was in charge of the post's Buffalo Corral wellness and recreation program, Foster said.
"I had always heard of the Buffalo Corral and when I saw this location was available right outside the fort, I went for it," said Foster, who initially had planned to open the restaurant with the Kendricks as a Mr. K's outpost. "We're going to be able to do it the way it was done back then."
Foster said customers can get their food at the drive-through window or eat in the dining room, which will be decorated with photographs of his late grandfather. The restaurant will include standard barbecue fare from ribs to pulled-pork sandwiches, as well as barbecue pork tacos and burritos. A full breakfast menu will include premium espresso roast coffee; Foster notes that Sierra Vista has two Starbucks locations, both inside grocery stores.
BCB will be open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays, and until midnight Fridays and Saturdays at 23 N. Garden Ave., at the corner of Fry Boulevard and Garden Avenue.
• Rhonda Kendrick said Mr. K's at 4911 N. Stone Ave. has some new decor, courtesy of Charles Kendrick's Afo-American Heritage Museum. Rhonda Kendrick said they have moved several artifacts to the restaurant in the past couple months. The restaurant is now serving petite sandwiches in addition to the line of full-size sandwiches. The restaurant hours are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.
Did you know?
McDonald's opened its first drive-through window at its restaurant in Sierra Vista in 1975 so that Fort Huachuca soldiers in uniform could get a bite to eat. The post barred soldiers from getting out of their cars in Army fatigues.