By Morgan Bryce
Papa Joe’s Bar-B-Que will not return, according to former store owner Vickie Anderson.
Following a massive blaze that engulfed the building’s roof and attic in flames Feb. 5, Anderson said she decided to sell both the business and adjacent property to neighboring First Presbyterian Church of Opelika.
Anderson said her mother Betty Malley and uncle Loyce ‘Papa Joe’ Holmes purchased the building in 1978. The restaurant was originally named Big B Bar-B-Que, but switched to Papa Joe’s after Holmes’s death in the early 80s. Staying in her family for its nearly 40-year existence, Anderson said she and her son Shane inherited the business last fall. Running it in her mother’s memory, Anderson said Shane’s management and longtime involvement with the establishment helped it flourish until the fire. In the weeks and months after, she and Shane made plans to rebuild and reopen the restaurant, until his unexpected passing in early May. “The fact that he died suddenly was one of the main reasons I sold the place. He was helping me a lot, and running it,” Anderson said. “But I feel like with the church coming to us, there was a reason for it. And if anybody was going to buy it, I’m glad it was the church.”
Bill Price, FPC elder and a realtor from HomeLink Realty, said he handled the transaction, which was finalized in late September.
Price said the property consists of not only the restaurant, but the rest of the block which runs down Second Avenue and intersects Tenth Street. Following approval from the Opelika Historic Preservation Commission, the church plans to relocate the corner house to another part of the historic district, and looks to retain the smaller house for visiting pastors and missionaries.
“… We will be taking the barbecue house down. It is not considered a historical structure, but the rest of the property is,” Price said. “Our overall intent, with further details to be mapped out in a future master plan, is to beautify that entire block. It’s a sort of focal point for the city, just a block away from downtown, so we’d like to make it look a lot better than it is now.”
Price added that the development will consist of additional parking and a green space with a garden and area for church functions. A date for the restaurant’s demolition has not been set.