Concluding our Black Family Series with a deeper dive two things raised by Michele of Brownstone Expressions, Legacy and Generational Wealth. As an entrepreneur just starting out she is hoping to not only lead by example to future generations, but also leave something her daughter and nieces could take over. In that same spirit, I couldn’t help but think about a Long Island Family I know very well, The Barnett’s and their family owned business, Royal Rib House. With Black History Month and Women History Month back to back it felt like a great time to take a deeper look at the data on family owned businesses and learn more about the history of the Barnett family business.
A 2019 Forbes article found that while more than 30% of all family-owned businesses survive into the second generation, only 12% will still be viable into the third. Carol Barnett represents that 30% group in the second generation as she inherited Royal Rib House from her mother after her passing in 1989. Carol shared that while she helped out with the restaurant while her father was still alive, once he passed away as their only child she became more involved in the day to day operation of the Royal Rib House. She came from parents who had strong entrepreneurial spirits especially her dad who owned a taxi stand and several restaurants in Brooklyn and North Carolina before opening Royal Rib House at 303 Halsey Street in Brooklyn.
Following in the footsteps of her parents Carol continued the family legacy of the permanent fixture of Royal Rib House. With the help of her husband Ted who retired as the CEO of the Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation to work alongside Carol. They continued serving the Brooklyn community and beyond delicious soul food. Both saw firsthand that running the restaurant was hard work, sometimes working 12 to 16 hours a day. They shared in what was extremely labor intensive work, “hard on your body.” It was something well worth it for them during the 43 years they were open. Their takeout establishment was a community staple and a family atmosphere. Patrons were often found running into friends they hadn’t seen in a while and the Barnett’s recalled relationships built with long time customers.
Job creation, strong work ethic and customer service are a just a few of the benefits Royal Rib House offered the community and taught their three children Joell, Jason and Jordan. In fact, their youngest daughter Jordan spoke about how working there impacted her life, she said it taught her: “Family looks out for each other and selflessness”, in that when her family needed her to step in and work at the restaurant even as an adult she did. As business owners and employers Carol and Teddy were not only able to cover the cost of college education for their children, but also employ people in the community who were employment challenged. As employees each of their children earned a salary and were entrusted to run the register, to learn secret family recipes as well as the day to day operations of running the family business.
When asked about legacy the Barnett’s had this to say:
“We created this business from scratch. When I say legacy, we built up a standard with our good service and good food. We built a reputation. We perfected this business. We had strong employee retention. We enhanced and expanded the family’s bbq sauce, with two more flavors to put out.” For this Black Family their children are also part of their legacy, especially their son Jason who has the same formula for the food product and through his work at the family business has become a great chef. Their daughters Joell and Jordan are good cooks as well.
Although Royal Rib House closed its doors in January 2020, their imprint on the Bed-stuy Brooklyn Community will be remembered for generations to come. In the words of Jordan Barnett, “if there is something you are going to think about in terms of Bed-stuy, it is the Royal Rib House and my parents because they were a community staple for 43 years.” Generational Wealth for this Black family goes beyond money being passed down and is about entrepreneurship, family protected processes, recipes and products like Calvin’s barbeque sauce being passed down from generation to generation.
The Barnett Family and Royal Rib House legacy and generational wealth will continue to grow with Jason Barnett as one of the family members leading the charge. He is on the verge of opening up his own business in Brooklyn in the same spirit of Royal Rib House with expanded offerings in terms of menu options and dining experience. Mrs. Barnett said she will continue to support their black family legacy by imparting more culinary expertise to Jason. Jordan expressed aspirations to run her own trucking business as well and Joell is well on her way with various business endeavors.
It took a village and entire family to continue this Black family’s legacy and family owned business, Royal Rib House. I look forward to seeing what entrepreneurial endeavors are birthed from the third and fourth generations of this Black family.