CONYERS - The pig is back. That was what many fans of Glenn's Open Pit Bar-B-Que said after hearing that the long-time Conyers restaurant was returning.
The Yontz family operated the restaurant for 18 years in the Kroger shopping center before closing in 2005. Residents who missed the fried pickles, smoked turkey sandwiches and, of course, the pork, were excited to hear the local landmark was returning.
"I think where we've been lately over the last few years, we're just eager to get back in business for ourselves and really touching base with the community again," said Glenn Yontz Jr., who will take over running the restaurant from his father. "I miss that a lot."
His mother, Jean Yontz, said she will be around to help with the bookkeeping, but it will be her son's job to run the day-to-day operations.
The restaurant is slated to reopen in early June near the corner of Old McDonough Highway and Iris Drive, in the space that was most recently the Red Tomato restaurant.
Glenn's Open Pit Bar-B-Que first opened its doors in 1987 when Glenn Yontz Sr. took early retirement from BellSouth. Jean Yontz said at the time the market was ready for barbecue. "We were the seventh restaurant in Conyers," she said.
Over time, the place grew with the community and became a second dining room for many families. Monday night's 2-for-1 chicken dinner special developed its own group of regulars, Jean Yontz said. Rockdale County High School coach and former state Rep. Earl O'Neal and his wife made it to Glenn's almost every Monday night.
The restaurant was also known for its employment of high school students. Jean Yontz said she was particularly proud in 1989 when the restaurant had seven high school seniors on staff at once, all of whom graduated as honor students.
Jean Yontz said it has been a blessing to watch her customers' children grow up, hire some of them to work at the restaurant, witness them get married and then bring their own families to Glenn's to eat.
"They called me 'Mean Jean' and the 'Dragon Lady,' but they were my children," she said. "You have that contact with them that you don't have if you're not in a one-on-one business. I think that is a huge influence in the community."
In that same vein, Glenn Yontz Jr. has a 15-year-old son who will likely end up chopping pork just like he did alongside his father.
Glenn's Open Pit Bar-B-Que closed four years ago as a result of health concerns of Glenn Sr. and for financial reasons, but former customers would not let it be forgotten. A Facebook page was set up for Glenn's Open Pit Bar-B-Que with close to 400 fans signed on as "friends." Discussions on the site center around memories and favorite menu items.
"I was deeply touched by the response," Jean Yontz said, "and not one person has asked me why we're reopening. The only thing they want to know is when."
The building where Glenn's Bar-B-Que will reopen underwent a significant renovation when an Italian restaurant moved in after Shades Restaurant and Pub closed, so most of the work will involve retooling the kitchen.
Glenn Yontz Jr. said they will decorate the interior with some items leftover from the old restaurant, which was known for honoring the pig in various forms.
"We don't have to do much inside," he said, "but we'll definitely add some pigs."