If there’s one lesson J&J BBQ taught its Bradenton community after Hurricane Irma, it’s that food is more than a meal.
Jason McKinney, who works with father, Johnny, and brother and sister Jerome and Jessica, says there are two ingredients that make their BBQ so special:
“TLC and the J&J BBQ sauce.”
They decided Monday afternoon to stop cleaning up their own yards so they could start feeding their neighbors. The word spread by social media.
“We know a lot of people were out of power, a lot of restaurants are closed,” Jessica McKinney said.
The line grew almost immediately. It stayed steady for hours, filled with people who had been stuck eating whatever they remembered to buy.
“Skittles and peanut butter,” one man said. “Mix them together.”
Most of those in line had been without electricity all day. That line stayed 4-dozen deep for hours.
“We were OK until this morning when we had all spoiled food and no new food,” a mother said.
J&J BBQ figured as much, so they decided to do what they do best. But lest you think this is a business all about a buck, remember - they survived this hurricane, too.
“I’ve been up for almost three days trying to get my house prepared,” Jason said. “Last night was a rough one because of the wind, it kept me up all, night. I’m tired but I can do it.”
The McKinney family names all being with J – but like Jason said – it’s really about the T, L and C.
“Whatever happens, it doesn’t matter the outcome. It matters how you feel about it. You can’t help the weather, all you can do is get prepared for it,” he said.
And prepared they were, not to help themselves, but to help others. Since 1979, J&J BBQ has served Bradenton.
They set up outside 3 Keys Brewing, which decided to open as well, offering free ice, water, electricity and air conditioning. Jeff and Kathy Douglas own the brewing company.
“We originally came in because we didn’t have power at home,” Kathy laughed. “Then, once we were here, we decided to give everyone a place to go.”
While the Douglas family served cold beer, the McKinney family served warm food – for hours until long after darkness settled on SR 64. That’s because they know better than most that food is not just a meal. It’s about the hope that comes with knowing someone, anyone, cares.
“People got to eat. They have to have good food. I love to help people,” Jason said.