By Joel Hall
The son of a Louisiana sharecropper, Jasper Roundtree, 64, has always had a strong work ethic.
After serving in the Navy during the Vietnam War, and graduating from the National School of Meat Cutting in Toledo, Ohio in 1968, Roundtree spent much of his adult life preparing meat for others. He's still doing some preparing, but he does it with his wife of 44 years as owners of the new Da Dancing Pig BBQ House restaurant in Jonesboro.
He began working for years in the Los Angeles, Calif. area as a meat retailer for Safeway Stores. He moved to Lithonia, Ga. 14 years ago to start two meat markets in the metro Atlanta area.
While the store is his first venture into the restaurant business, Mr. Roundtree has been preparing barbecue for most of his life. Wearing a red-and-white, striped smock, a deep red shirt, and an Atlanta Falcon's baseball cap, Mr. Roundtree's face lit up as he described the tastiest cuts of beef.
Mr. Roundtree's knowledge and passion for meat is obvious, something he uses to his advantage, he said.
"I basically use the philosophy that if you can make a better mouse trap than your neighbor, then the lord will create a path to your doorstep," said Mr. Roundtree. "By knowing the carcass of meat, it lets you know exactly where the best cuts are from. You know exactly what cuts to use in your barbecue and how to make it palatable."
Mr. Roundtree said the restaurant takes smoked meats very seriously, specializing in the beef brisket. In addition to St. Louis-style ribs, rib tips, and barbecued chicken, side dishes, and desserts, the restaurant also offers non-traditional barbecue favorites, such as smoked turkeys and barbecued pig's feet.
"We are one of the few places you'll find that will have barbecue pig's feet," said Mr. Roundtree. "When you do them right, it's great. That will be a unique item for us."
Mr. Roundtree acknowledged the fact that they are starting their business in difficult economic times. Several established restaurants, including Harold's Barbecue in Jonesboro, have closed within the last year.
Starting his business in Clayton County did not deter him, however, and he believes the success of his business may inspire others to start new businesses.
"There is a great diversity of people who all love barbecue," said Mr. Roundtree. "To get in here in Clayton County, we can get to serve everybody. It can add something to the community.
"We had repeat customers the day after the opening," Mr. Roundtree continued. "It's a good sign that we have the right product. Instead of being sad and down about the economy, we are up and we feel like that will rub off on the county."
Mrs. Roundtree said that while the current economy is daunting, she believes customers will be drawn to the restaurant for its customer service.
"Customer service is very important," said Mrs. Roundtree. "I worked in California in Beverly Hills for years and we had to go to school to learn customer service. That's what I am all about.
"It's a little scary, but if you have the right product, treat them right, and have good-tasting food, that will be the key," she added.
"I just love to see people enjoying the taste of our barbecue," said Mr. Roundtree. "It's a highly profitable business if it's done right, priced right, and maintained right. We just try to focus on being servants of the people."
Da Dancing Pig BBQ House is located at 1489 Mundy's Mill Road in Jonesboro. For more information, call (770) 210-8844.