Beloved Henrico County barbecue restaurant closes after 85 years of business

Henrico County

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — A beloved barbecue restaurant is closing its doors after 85 years in Henrico County.

After Friday, the doors at Dunn’s Drive In Barbecue on Mechanicsville Turnpike is closing its doors after operating under three generations. 

“It’s coming to an end… a little sad,” said owner Stuart Martin, who bought the restaurant from his mother, who bought it from his grandfather. Martin’s grandfather started the business out of a gas station in 1935 when a customer told him, “‘Mr. Dunn, you’re a good mechanic but you’re in the wrong business’,” Martin said. 

Martin took over the drive-in barbecue joint in 1986 and continued to serve up customer favorites. 

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“I always get a barbecue with slaw,” said customer Madeline Byrd. 

Customers like James “Smokey” Taylor have been visiting Dunn’s for their whole lives. “We used to come over the bridge and come over here to Dunn’s Bar-B-Cue,” Taylor said. 

Martin decided the time was right to step away.

“It’s coming to an end… a little sad,” said Dunn’s Drive In Barbecue owner Stuart Martin. The location will close its doors after 85 years in operation, spanning three generations.

“My wife has done it for 40 years and it’s taken its toll,” he said. 

Shirley Crawley has worked at Dunn’s for five decades. She said during that time she’s gotten to know generations of customers. “I’ll miss the customers and I’m going to miss it here, getting up, coming to work,” Crawley said. 

For Martin, too, it is a bittersweet ending. “It served this community for a long time. I was happy to be a part of it,” he said. 

Martin said one of his employees has expressed interest in taking over Dunn’s Drive In Barbecue in the future, so there might be a chance for the restaurant to come back in business one day.

Meanwhile, a new barbecue restaurant will be taking the place of Dunn’s on Mechanicsville Turnpike. The new owners tell 8News they will open in about a month and will try to keep the essence of the original restaurant. 

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