JACKSONVILLE – JW’s BBQ in Jacksonville, which opened in October 2020, has garnered national attention as one of the best barbecue spots in East Texas, as mentioned in a June article by the global media. CNN.
JW owner Jonathan Wilson, who grew up in Jacksonville and graduated from Jacksonville High School in 1996, said the idea of owning a restaurant started in his backyard in Arkansas.
“Most of my life after graduating from UT Tyler was spent in religious higher education and then in a nonprofit religious organization in Arkansas. Living in Arkansas for so long, I couldn’t find breasts like I grew up at Stacy’s here in Jacksonville,” Wilson said. “So, like most people who get into this line of business, I started out in my backyard. Soon I would start doing small catering gigs for local organizations in Conway, Arkansas, where we lived.
Wilson said after a move and a leap of faith, the restaurant became a reality.
“In 2018, I accepted a corporate leadership position here in Texas. At the end of 2019, I left this position due to an organizational restructuring. My wife and I prayed for what was to come next and God opened doors to open Jehovah’s Witnesses,” he said. “Stacy’s, a popular barbecue spot here in Jacksonville, closed in 2018 after 30 years and there was a void in Jacksonville of a brick and mortar barbecue restaurant.”
“My wife, Johnna, knew of my passion for barbecuing and she supported me as I pursued that dream. Our desire was for this to be a ministry opportunity for us. I say we are in the realm of people, but we use smoke and meat to get to them,” Wilson added.
Wilson said the community reception since opening has been incredible.
“The city of Jacksonville and surrounding communities have shown overwhelming support. You never know what will happen when opening a business and especially a restaurant. Will they hate it, love it, love it, come back…” he said. “We are very grateful that people are willing to spend their money and their time with us. We hope that everyone who visits feels at home.
“It’s really humbling to watch and see a line with all demographics online…together,” Wilson said. “That’s one of the best things about barbecuing; it brings people together, regardless of their differences.”
Wilson admitted he was shocked when he saw the CNN article.
“My first thought was shock. I was traveling out of town for a conference when Stephen Joseph from Riverport to Jefferson texted me the link,” he said. “I read the article and I got to the regional listings and couldn’t believe what I was reading. Just to be mentioned with all the best in Texas is huge.
“When we opened we had three goals; serve great food consistently, have bathrooms as clean as Buc-ee’s, and have excellent customer service. The fact that we are mentioned confirms that we have achieved these objectives; it’s a testament to the hard work of our team,” Wilson said.
JW’s was mentioned alongside Stanley’s famous Bar-BQ in Tyler; something Wilson still finds hard to believe.
“It’s great but also unworthy. After just less than two years of being open and being considered a worthy stop at the legendary Stanley’s, it’s such an honor,” he said. ‘to be able to have a legacy and durability like Stanley’s. They’ve set the bar not just here in East Texas, but nationally for all of us to achieve.
The barbecue restaurant sports a large map on the wall where patrons are encouraged to “pin” where they have traveled from while leaving a message and signature on the walls.
“We want guests to sign our walls and put a pin on the map. Guests came from all over the world and from almost every state in the United States,” Wilson said. “When you look at the map, seeing where everyone is from is mind-boggling. Who would have thought that a small town in East Texas would have visitors from so many places? That’s the charm of a small town in Texas and why Jacksonville is on the move.
Wilson says he knows expectations are high and he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“We are a young restaurant and are always trying to improve. With writing articles, we know expectations will be higher, but we look forward to exceeding them,” he said. “We continue to learn and grow, but we are so grateful for all the support. We really love what we do and love our city.
“We never thought we’d end up in Jacksonville, but God had different plans. Sometimes those plans take a passion and turn it into a full-time gig,” Wilson said.
JW’s Barbecue also offers after-hours catering services and is located at 1015 East Rusk Street.
For more information, visit www.jwsbbq.com.