[EDITOR'S NOTE — Each week, this feature section, “Movers and Makers,” will feature the stories of the movers, launchers, entrepreneurs and makers who contribute to the vitality of the Mahoning Valley. This section is supported by our first community partner, Farmers National Bank. If you are interested in being our next community partner, contact Mark Eckert at firstname.lastname@example.org.]
YOUNGSTOWN — Charlie Staples Famous Bar-B-Que restaurant has remained a Mahoning Valley favorite for 46 years, serving new customers and loyal patrons.
“Ever since then, you know it's been going day to day, year to year,” Staples said.
The restaurant, located at 372 W Rayen Ave., is known for its Midwestern style cuisine, New Orleans-themed decor and a famous barbecue sauce formulated more than 100 years ago.
The barbecue sauce recipe’s original owner sold the recipe to Bill Robinson in 1939, who owned Bill Robinson’s Bar-B-Que for 35 years before selling the establishment to Charlie Staples.
Robinson wasn’t willing to give up the barbecue sauce recipe to just anyone, though.
He took Staples under his wing for a full year before selling him the recipe. Staples said Robinson made him “sweat it out,” making sure he had what it took to run a successful barbecue restaurant.
Staples renamed the establishment C. Staples Bar-B-Que’d Restaurant, which was then located across the street from the current location. Later, the restaurant relocated and was renamed Charlie Staples Famous Bar-B-Que.
After the initial success of C. Staples Bar-B-Que’d Restaurant, Staples and his wife, Margaret, moved to Columbus in the 1980s to open more barbecue restaurants.
Later, the couple relocated to Houston for 25 years to try their hand in the beauty industry. They sold a variety of health and beauty aids, including shampoos, conditioners and relaxers, under the parent name Magg Products.
“I tell folks that I was born in West Virginia, raised in Youngstown and I grew up in Houston, Texas,” Staples said.
During that time, Staples handed over C. Staples Bar-B-Que’d Restaurant to business partner Carl Young and his wife, Emma, who ran the operation until their deaths in 2003.
“[The Young’s] gave me freedom to go while they ran my restaurant over the years,” Staples said. “They did a very good job for me.”
When his other business ventures weren’t gaining the revenue Staples had hoped for, he sold the company and moved back to Youngstown in 2003 to refocus his attention on the restaurant.
Staples tore down the original building, reopened across the street in 2005, and made major renovations to the dining room in 2009.
Staples is hopeful his daughter will be the next to take ownership of the restaurant.
“She just recently came into the company. You know, to try it out — to see if it’s something she wants to continue on,” Staples said.
Staples said his faith and the support of the community has kept the restaurant in business.
“I really just feel it was my purpose to do what I'm doing: to bring good to the community, to be a role model to younger people [and] to show that there is a way out. You don't have to sell drugs and those types of things. Be willing to work hard,” he said.
Staples said although the restaurant has gone through good and bad spells over the years, it’s been able to hang on.
“Competition gets tougher each year, and each year we get a little tougher ourselves.”
According to Staples, barbecue-style cuisine is a personal thing, and not everyone has the same preferences. But his menu has proven itself over the years.
“We have a world-class barbecue. We've tested in different markets, and everybody seemed to like our style,” he said. Popular menu items include rib dinners, beef brisket sandwiches, chicken breast strips and Big Bertha baked potatoes.
But what’s the secret ingredient? Staples said it's “a cup of love,” which is the restaurant’s logo.
“I started joking around [with customers] and I said, ‘Yeah, OK here [is the recipe] … in every batch, I take a full cup of love and I pour it on in there.’
“And that's actually where it came from,” he said.
Customers who want Charlie Staples' barbecue sauce at home can buy it in original and hot flavors by the bottle in local stores and online. Recently, Staples introduced a new Texas-style sauce called Cowboy Sauce that will be on store shelves soon.
“I’ve been toying around with the recipe for a couple of years,” Staples said. “It's just got a little bit more of a Texas twist to it. You know, every region has [its] own [style]. We’ve got ours here in the Midwest. Texas has [a style of barbecue]. So does Tennessee.”
From politicians to entertainers, people visit from near and far to taste that “cup of love.” Ohio Gov. Mike Dewine recently stopped by the restaurant to taste the soulful cuisine.
“When [Youngstown visitors are] coming through, somebody tells them, ‘You gotta go to Charlie Staples before you leave,’” Staples said.