East Austin barbecue family holds strong against neighborhood developers
When you first arrive at Sam's BBQ on East 12th Street in East Austin, you are greeted by the sweet aromas of Texas barbecue before you even step foot inside the family-owned shop.
Once inside, it's impossible not to take in the hundreds of photographs pasted to the walls. They include many photos of family and friends, plus familiar faces like former president Bill Clinton and music legend Stevie Ray Vaughn.
The owner of Sam's, Brian Mays, remembers what it was like when his father first bought the restaurant from his friend, Sam, in 1957.
"This side here was for Black folks, Spanish folks, low class income," Mays said. "We made money all night long, but as we got older, things started changing. So we got to prepare for the change too."
The East Austin neighborhood looks very different than it did back then. Now when you drive around, you'll see shiny, modern condos sprouting up, lined with glass walls, some being used as Airbnbs. You'll also see construction sites and new businesses.
"It was an old Black neighborhood then. There were 500 Black businesses over here," Mays said.
But with each hungry developer that comes his way, eyeing his property to make an offer to buy it, Mays turns them down every time – including the pretty penny offered to him in 2018.
"I think that year, they came with $5 million. And everyone's like, 'Why are you turning all these millions down?'" Mays said. "I said, 'If I don't turn it down, I won't have anything no more.'"
Now he's hoping to pass the baton to his children and grandchildren – like Lesha Griffin, who has always known Mays as her "papa."
"Personally, it was important for me to see representation. To know a Black-owned business can last for 60 years and do that. It's a big deal," Griffin said.
In recent years, Griffin helped Mays' daughter, Tameka Mays, open the Austin Daiquiri Factory connected to the BBQ restaurant. Their goal is to bring in a new crowd with their colorful, flavorful boozy beverages.
"Three years ago, we were in the middle of COVID. We were trying to find a way to stimulate traffic within the BBQ shop," Griffin said.
Read the full story and watch the video at KVUE.com.