Click on a family member below to learn more about them.
"Big Joe" Bessinger - Founder
Born in 1891 in Orangeburg, S.C., "Big Joe" was one of 12 children. He married Jenorah Thomas at the age of 21; she was 14. He farmed throughout his life in the midlands of S.C. In 1933, he invented the Golden Secret Recipe BBQ Sauce, and in 1939, opened the Holly Hill Café in Holly Hill, S.C. After the Depression forced him to close, he went back to farming until Melvin returned from WWII. In 1946, Big Joe and Melvin opened "Eat at Joes." Big Joe passed away in 1949, but his legend lives on.
Melvin Bessinger - Founder and CEO of "Eat at Joes", "Piggie Park Drive-Ins",
"Bessinger's BBQ & Burgers", and "Melvin's Legendary Bar-B-Que"
Farmed throughout his childhood years on their 100-acre farm in Orangeburg, S.C. Started in the restaurant business in 1939 with his father at the Holly Hill Cafe.
Landed on Omaha beach D-Day 2 in 1944 and came home a war hero.
1946: opened the famous "Eat at Joe's" restaurant in Holly Hill, S.C.
1948: Melvin land on Main Street in Holly Hill, S.C. His younger brothers, (with the help of Melvin's mother) ran the restaurant while he attended and graduated from The Citadel in 1951 in Charleston, S.C.
1961: opened his first Piggie Park Drive-In, followed by another in Orangeburg and one in Beaufort, S.C.
1970: opened Bessinger's BBQ & Burgers and sold it in 1990. In 1982, he and his son David, opened "MELVIN'S LEGENDARY BBQ RESTAURANTS."
Today Melvin’s stores are run by longtime managers who stay true to Melvin’s vision and standard. Mehdi Rahimi has more than 25 years with Melvin’s and Betty McKinley has more than 30 years. Michael Lynam: 8 years; Brenda Haworth: 7 years, and the Famous Pit-Master James Young since 1955!
Betty Prine Bessinger - Co-Owner/Secretary of Melvin's Bar-B-Que.
Stephanie Bessinger Williams - Treasurer of Melvin's Bar-B-Que
Born in 1962 in Charleston, SC and daughter of Melvin and Betty Bessinger, Stephanie graduated from The University of Georgia during the era of The Great Hershel Walker! She has been married to Terry Williams for over 16 years and is the mother of five children. She started in the Bessinger restaurant business at age 12, when Melvin was the founder and CEO. Growing up as the owner's kid was not the cushy job one might think. Steph was a cashier, waitress and onion ring cook, but didn’t join the family business as an adult. Today, she is a member of Bethsheba Baptist Church in Gainesville, Georgia. She and her family still love real BBQ and order Melvin's on-line at www.melvinsbbq.com weekly. In her spare time, she loves horseback riding, Georgia football, basketball, baseball, soccer, boating, snow skiing and driving fast!
David Bessinger - Co-Owner and President of Melvin's Legendary Bar-B-Que
David became the manager of Bessinger's at 14, the youngest 3rd generation Bessinger to do so. He went to college in 1978 and returned in 1982 to run the Bessinger's restaurants. At 23 in 1983, he opened his own Melvin's in the Citadel Mall, in 1984 in Mt. Pleasant, and in 1985 at James Island. The passion and love of Real BBQ that Melvin had, has been carried on into David's blood.
Now he's a 3rd generation Chief Pit-Master, Co-Owner and President of Melvin's Legendary Bar-B-Que! He continues to follow his Grandfather Joe and his father's ways of hard work, quality food, cleanliness in the stores, and most of all service in a non-alcoholic restaurant.