For the Love of Melvin's BBQ

The roles played by the sweethearts of Melvin’s BBQ, are primarily supportive, but not inconsequential to David Bessinger. “My Mother, Betty and my wife, Debbie are not just the backbone of our family, they are the backbone of Melvin’s BBQ”.

Melvin and Betty met on a blind date in the summer of 1958. “I don’t know if it was love at first sight, but I thought…. I would like to be married to that man.” A few months later they were engaged and on February 7, 1959, they were married in the First Baptist Church, in North Charleston.

avid Bessinger and his wife, Debbie Bessinger, of Melvin’s BBQ, on their wedding day, May 25, 2013

Before Betty knew it, she was at home with 2 children. “I was at home alone with the children most of the time. It was important to Melvin to be seen by his customers,” says Betty.  Long hours for Melvin at the restaurant (18-20 hours to be exact) often meant lonely hours for Betty at home with the kids.  “Melvin would not get in until 2 or 3 in the morning most nights, and I waited up for him, mostly because I was a scaredy cat.”

For years, Betty worked in the home. “But one day, I got called in to help in the office.” Melvin was swamped on the front end of the business, and he needed someone to maintain the back end. I was 60 years old when I went to work for Melvin. I was terrified. I did not know what I was doing.” After a while, Betty had the office in ship shape and she ran it that way for ten years.

By that time, David was following in his Father’s footsteps.  Betty was concerned that David would never see a day of rest. Many Sundays Melvin was called in and could not go to church.  She did not want that to be the case for their son, David. “I wanted him in church on Sundays.”

Since 1991, Melvin’s BBQ has been closed on Sundays.  Betty says, “And do you know, Melvin’s BBQ was more profitable than it was when it had been open 7 days a week? The Lord provides. We have so much to be thankful for. We really do.”

Like Melvin and Betty, David and Debbie, met on a blind date. And, in recent years, they too have learned to work together for the family business. With five children, thoughts of college tuition were looming, and Debbie needed to go back to work. At that same time, David’s office manager retired. Debbie followed in Betty’s footsteps and found herself facing the same challenges David’s Mom had faced years before.

Like Betty, Debbie had to acquire new skills under pressure. “It was truly a learning curve.  I had taught school for years, but I had never worked in an office,” says Debbie, “It’s not just your family’s livelihood, but the new boss you are trying to impress is also your husband. You don’t want to let either one down.”

Neither Betty nor Debbie need fear on that account. David could not be more proud. “There is no question, that my Mom and Debbie- they grew the business. There are just not enough hours in the day. If not for their dedication and hard work, Dad and I would not have had the time we needed to invest in the business. Not to mention, how it brightens my day to walk in the office and see my wife’s beautiful face. She takes the edge off, you know. And, my Mother did that for my Daddy.”

The admiration is mutual. “David is so creative and industrious. He sees the big picture for Melvin’s BBQ and he knows how to make every aspect of the business work together. I have so much respect for him as a businessman now.  I admire him more than ever.  And David has been affirming of my contributions to Melvin’s BBQ,  which makes me like coming to work!”

When asked what Betty learned from working for Melvin, she says, “I never knew anyone more generous than my husband. Melvin believed in sharing his blessings, and I loved him more for it.”

The Challenge of working with your spouse has the potential to strain any marriage. But in Melvin David Bessinger’s family, a little wind does not bend the tree, it only makes the roots and the hearts stronger.

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