Mayor signs proclamation honoring local barbecue pioneers
By Lorne Chambers
Last week, during the monthly meeting of the St. Andrew’s Rotary Club at Bessinger’s Barbecue on Savannah Highway, Mayor John Tecklenburg came to the podium to talk a bit about the Plan West Ashley meetings that have been taking place over the last several months. However, after a few moments he shifted gears suddenly.
“It’s National Barbecue Month, so I have brought with me today an official proclamation … In honor of National Barbecue Month, the City of Charleston wishes to recognize one of it’s oldest and best barbecue joints,” said Tecklenburg.
“Now therefore John J. Tecklenburg, mayor of the City of Charleston, in conjunction with National BBQ Month do hereby proclaim the month of May 2017 as Bessinger’s BBQ Month,” the mayor read before presenting the signed proclamation to Michael Bessinger, who along with his brother Tommy Bessinger now run the business that their father Thomas Bessinger Sr. founded in 1960. However, Bessinger’s Barbecue can be traced back as far as the 1930s in South Carolina when Thomas Sr.’s father Joe Bessinger created a legacy that lives on at Bessinger’s Barbecue, which has been a West Ashley institution for decades.
“My father has done so much for the city, not wanting or expecting any recognition, so for this to happen now I believe it was touching for him since he isn’t one to seek out the spotlight,” said Michael. “He is the greatest and most humbly modest man I know and all I want to do is make him proud. I want to hear his name echoed for many years to come in America’s greatest city where he laid the brick for the BBQ scene.”
With all the fuss over all the new barbecue places popping up around Charleston, the Bessingers have quietly and consistently been doing what they do for 78 years. “It honestly gives me fuel to keep pushing,” said Michael about receiving the proclamation from the City of Charleston. “My father and his father built the legacy and I have been doing this for 28 years now. I have seen a lot of changes throughout the years and I see a lot of Charlestonian mom & pop businesses not getting the respect or recognition they deserve. With all of the new big time restaurants and investors coming to monopolize the industry, this is something that cannot be taken away.”
Michael says the proclamation is currently getting framed and will be hung in the restaurant. “It will be a reminder that this proclamation would never have been possible without our team,” he says. “Our staff is key to our success and without them, our customers would not have had a place to come to for 78 years and some are still coming back since the 40’s and 50’s. How awesome is that?”
In speaking to the Rotary Club, Mayor Tecklenburg commended the Bessinger family and their team for their commitment and service over the years. “I’d like to thank Bessinger’s BBQ for their family-like service, authentic presence in the West Ashley community, their delicious BBQ, and encourage citizens to enjoy some local BBQ this month,” he said.