By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski
Bryce Jones was a precocious teen at Northwest Christian School in Phoenix. He was the student body president and actively raised funds for charity.
When he graduated, he persuaded his semi-retired parents to embark on a business venture with him: owning a Shane’s Rib Shack franchise.
Bryce and his father, Jeff, are the third proprietors of the restaurant located in Happy Valley Towne Center. The acquisition was a logical move.
“They opened, I believe, in 2006,” Jeff says. “We’ve been eating here since the day before they opened, during their training. We tried some of their peach cobbler and every entrée they had.”
Shane’s Rib Shack became a familiar place for the family, who also owns Charley’s Philly Steaks in the Deer Valley Towne Center. They hosted their business meetings at the barbecue joint and heard, one day, it was for sale.
“We started checking into it, looked over the books and everything else, and we decided to go for it,” Jeff says.
Bryce says he was interested in investing in Shane’s Rib Shack after trying Shane Original Barbecue Sauce, created by owner Shane Thompson’s grandfather, Dewey “Big Dad” Brown. It’s a blend of sweet tomato and tangy vinegar with a kick of black pepper. The fall-off-the-bone ribs sold Jeff. It didn’t hurt that Clint Eastwood’s character in “The Mule,” Earl Stone, visits Shane’s Rib Shack.
“It’s the only place I knew around to get quality ribs and pulled pork as well,” says Jeff, who grew up in Tennessee. “The baked beans are great, too. This is my go-to for fried okra. Yes, fried okra was actually what drew me in before they even opened. I saw fried okra and I started pulling on doors.”
The entrées and side dishes are fresh, not just heated and poured out of a container.
“It’s all made from scratch to give it Shane’s personalized flavor,” Bryce says.
The signature dish is the ribs, hence the name of the restaurant, but the pulled pork sandwich is just as popular.
“The Big Dad is probably the most frequently ordered,” Bryce says of the signature, slow-smoked, hand-chopped barbecue pork ($6.99). “Everything is good. That’s why I say to try the Shack Sampler.”
The Shack Sampler features baby back ribs, chicken tenders and pork or chicken barbecue ($14.99).
Jeff says business is flourishing at Shane’s Rib Shack in 85085 and at the Glendale store, which is owned by Toni Stork.
“The opportunity doesn’t arise much to work together, but there’s a consistency of quality of product,” Jeff says. “That’s what’s really important to us with this. The franchisees have consistent quality, no matter who’s in the kitchen, no matter who’s at the register. It’s a consistent environment you come back to, time and time again.”
The family has owned Shane’s Rib Shack since November 4. Charley’s Philly Steaks has been under their umbrella for three and a half years.
“We’ve been blessed,” Jeff says. “In that time, we’ve almost doubled the sales.”
He says the secret to the family’s success is investing in the staff; the Joneses offer employees a SIMPLE IRA.
“We take care of them and we cross-train them,” Jeff says. “That’s what we emphasize. We don’t have anybody who can do just one thing. Everybody needs to be fully trained from front of house to kitchen. They might not be a head chef or a master chef back there, but they will have the capability and the understanding of how it should look and how it should be done.”
The family barbecue restaurant goes further than sharing entrees. Photos of Thompson and his family adorn the walls.
“It’s a big family environment,” Jeff says. “That’s what we mean by the family culture. We don’t see Toni very often, but we know she’s there for us and we’re there for her.”
Bryce says he made the right decision to go straight into the family business after high school.
“It’s been extremely fun learning from the staff and learning from everybody around and just doing what I can to continue to make life better for them,” Bryce says.
Jeff and his wife, Tanya, are proud of their son. They have two other children: Lexi and Parker.
“He did a lot at Northwest Christian. He was student body president and did a lot of fundraising for a program important to one of his teachers.
“He really did show a business aptitude before he had a business to be in and really did a lot with that. He’s the reason we did this.”
Shane’s Rib Shack, 2501 W. Happy Valley Road, Phoenix, 623.581.3704, shanesribshack.com/phoenix.