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Everett and Jones BBQ comes home to the Laurel

A currently nondescript storefront on MacArthur Boulevard is soon to house the newest personality of the Everett and Jones BBQ legacy. Known for its unique sauce and spicy ribs, Everett and Jones is slated to open its doors mid-March in the Laurel District, only half a mile from Mills College.

The Laurel District location for the new Everett and Jones BBQ is about a half a mile from Mills. (Chantelle Panackia)

The Everett and Jones name has been synonymous with barbecue in the East Bay for almost 40 years, since opening their first restaurant on 92nd Street in Oakland in 1973.

With four East Bay franchises, the famous BBQ restaurant’s sign has gone up at 4245 MacArthur Boulevard, down the street from Giant Burger.

A family-run establishment from the start, each franchise is owned and run by descendants of Dorothy Everett, the founder of the company. Everett and her husband were sharecroppers on the Mississippi-Alabama border until moving to the Bay Area in 1951.

Business is booming now, and the company even sells jarred barbeque sauce to numerous retailers throughout California. Though the franchises are connected by the recipe and family ties, they each have famously different styles and different business goals. Some are known for their cheerful service while others have taken on a more “take it or leave it” attitude.

The particular franchise that is coming to the Laurel is owned by Dorothy King-Jernegan and her husband John Jernegan, who together also own the more upscale sit-down style Everett and Jones in Jack London Square. Dorothy King Jernegan is Dorothy Everett’s daughter, known to the family as Dorothy Jr.

“Everyone has a favorite,” said John Jernegan, referring to the different experiences a patron will get at each location.

This past Sunday found Jernegan alone in the empty dining area, fiddling with a new meat smoker. He is tall and thin with a white beard and a laid-back attitude. Though the front door was locked, he was perfectly happy to put his work on hold and talk about barbeque.

When asked what brought them to the Laurel, Jernegan said it made sense to invest there.

“First of all, we all live here,” he laughed, looking up and down the street. “When the Fruitvale shop closed, we laid out the map, and it was obvious.”

Jernegan’s reference to the Fruitvale location is telling about the choice to open a more simple operation.

Shirley Dicko, who owned the Everett and Jones in Fruitvale, did not merely close the franchise, but joined forces with Vida’s Fish Market, moving with Vida’s to their new location on 14th Avenue. Vida’s, also a family run business, has been in the Laney College area for over 30 years and the merge highlights what each outfit does best—good food with a no fuss atmosphere.

The MacArthur location will seat 16 to 20 patrons and looks like it will be back to basics for the Jernegan’s. The cafeteria-style counter and simple red and white motif are a contrast to the large Jack London Square joint, which often hosts live music and seats over a hundred.  The simpler operation seems a welcome change to Jernegan, who was quick to point out that the new location is worlds away from the “huge operation” at Jack London.

Some additions to the menu from the Jack London location will be particularly of interest to Mills students.

“We plan to play with more veggie-oriented items,” Jernegan said.“Ninety-nine percent of what we do is meat, but we are sympathetic to and have a lot of friends that are even vegan, so we’re interested in possibly smoked eggplant, smoked portabella mushroom.”

The addition of fried options such as french fries and fried vegetables will also expand the vegetarian options, he said. The new restaurant will also be offering prepared deli options.

“You can come and pick up an entire picnic for an event to go,” Jernegan said, gesturing to the glass deli fridge next to the counter. “You can really just grab it and have it whenever you want.”

The new restaurant will serve Peets brand coffee and offer free Wi-Fi. They also hope to broadcast important sports games on the televisions in the dining area.

Though Jernegan married into the business, his passion for barbeque and the family business is strong.

He points to the nearly seven-foot-square smoker behind the counter, still a bright new candy apple red. He has traveled to Texas to research smokers, and explained how the technology has developed to make the operation safer and more environmentally friendly. Grease from the old smoker was not viable for recycling, but now Everett and Jones recycles their barrels of rendered grease with Darling International Inc., a recycle and storage company for rendered grease and animal products.

Everett and Jones’ history is full of pit fires. The “old fashioned” smoke pits that all the restaurants once used catch fire easily. With nothing separating the meat from the flame, a smoke pit is a recipe for a destructive grease fire. One particular incident is mentioned on the company’s website when an unattended pit caused the original shop on 92nd Ave to burn to the ground on the third anniversary of its opening.

Jernegan is hopeful that the Mills community will visit Everett and Jones as an opportunity to explore the neighbor. He mentioned that the new bike path connecting the Mills campus to the Laurel as a great way to further patronage in the area. Everett and Jones has long been a part of Oakland’s landscape, and Jernegan says they are excited to test the waters in the Laurel.

“We are hoping to maintain and grow,” Jarnegan said.