WILKES-BARRE TWP. — A cheer went up at Mission BBQ when the clock struck 6 p.m., as dozens of people who gathered to take part in the restaurant’s soft opening on Friday night.
But, considering the company’s longstanding history of giving back to what they deem “American heroes,” Friday’s event was about more than just snagging some tasty brisket.
According to Jerry Sullivan, director of operations for the new barbecue joint, the Wilkes-Barre Township location, situated at 271 Mundy St., will officially become the company’s 87th location when it holds its grand opening this Monday at noon.
That’s an incredibly impressive feat when you consider that the restaurant’s first location was opened only in 2011 in the Annapolis, Maryland, area by Bill Kraus and Steve Newton. Sullivan said the pair wanted to honor American heroes — veterans and first responders — and that’s probably part of why the chain has exploded in popularity.
“I think there are a lot of veterans, and a lot of patriotic people in this country,” he said. “And the fact that the food is good probably has something to do with it.”
Friday’s soft opening was more than just a simple test run, though. From 6 to 9 p.m., 100% of the proceeds would be donated to the United Service Organizations, or USO, a nonprofit organization that provides entertainment to troops in the various branches of the military. Sullivan said it’s the third such charitable event at Mission BBQ this week, with sales benefiting local fire departments on Wednesday and police departments on Thursday.
Outside, there were plenty of the “patriotic people” Sullivan mentioned, patiently lined up outside before the official opening.
Some of those in line were from the local branch of the U.S. Naval Construction Battalions — better known as the Seabees — including Mike Boncheck and Al Nudelman.
Nudelman, who said he’d been to other Mission BBQ locations, said it was important for the group to come out in support of USO night.
“We’re all about coming with them here; we want to show them we’re in support,” he said.
Boncheck added, “We’re not just coming to support them, we’re coming to promote them.”
He explained that the Seabees will be acting as an honor guard during the grand opening Monday, which will be complete with a live rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Mission BBQ plays a recording of the national anthem every day at noon, but Sullivan said the company likes to do something special for the grand openings.
If you come out to the grand opening next week, Sullivan suggested you might want to check out either the Texas-style brisket or the North Carolina-style pulled pork, as they are two of the company’s most popular offerings. Your meal can also be completed with other down-home sides like corn bread and mac-and-cheese.