Charlie Staples Bar-B-Que Restaurant Changes Hands

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – After nearly 50 years, Charlie Staples has sold his landmark barbecue restaurant and is retiring.

Casey Pitts and his wife, Dr. Tonia Farmer-Pitts, are the new owners of the restaurant and takeout at the corner of Belmont and West Rayen avenues, on the edge of downtown.

The Pitts are the owners of Pitt Boss BBQ and Gamers Lounge at 2077 Elm Road in Warren. Pitt Boss closed after a fire last summer and will not reopen. 

“The owner [of the building] decided not to rebuild,” Casey Pitts said.

Founded in 1974, Charlie Staples Bar-B-Que has a New Orleans French Quarter décor. It has long been known for its Southern-style barbecue and its catchphrase: “There’s a cup of love” in every batch.

Staples said it’s “wonderful and a blessing” to retire.

“After 50 years, it’s also bittersweet, but because of Casey, it’s more sweet than bitter,” Staples said. “I feel very good about [Pitts taking over].”

The restaurateur, who was a regular on local television advertisements for years, summed up his thoughts with a football analogy.”

“My wife [Marge] and I started off in our end zone,” Staples said. “We advanced to the 50-yard line, all ground game, no passing. Casey now has a new set of downs with 50 yards to go.”

Staples will come to the restaurant for a while to help with the transition. Then he plans to more actively pursue his other passions – hunting and fishing.

“I love deer hunting and fishing,” he said. “I go to [a friend’s] ranch in Texas for deer hunting every year or so, and I love it.”

Casey Pitts and Staples have known each other for years.

“We both sell barbecue,” Pitts said. “We have different styles, but the same menu items.”

He did not reveal what he and his wife paid for the business and building.

The new owners said the restaurant will remain the same familiar place. They will keep the name and its menu the same but will also add items from their former restaurant over time. The staff of 12 has been retained.

Charlie Staples Bar-B-Que is located at the corner of Belmont and West Rayen avenues in Youngstown.

Since the pandemic, Charlie Staples has operated as a takeout-only restaurant, with the dining room closed. Pitts said that will continue, but patrons will also be able to bring their food to the dining room or the lounge to eat.

If the difficulty in finding employees that is plaguing the restaurant industry eases up enough, he will consider returning to a full-service, sit-down dining room with waiters.

Pitts is planning a few changes, the biggest being the introduction of an esports gaming room.

Esports is a relatively new form of video gaming in which teams or individual players can compete with others, even if their opponents are in other locations.

“Esports enthusiasts can look forward to a novel gaming and dining environment,” Pitts said. His restaurant is on the edge of the Youngstown State University campus, next to several student apartment buildings.

The theme will be reflected in the restaurant’s name, which will be Charlie Staples Bar-B-Que and Pitt Boss Esports Lounge.

The Pitts also purchased the Charlie Staples line of bottled barbecue sauce that is currently sold in area retail stores and online.

One thing that is likely to change is the dining room décor, with its French Quarter vibe that includes faux balconies and a bright mural on one wall.

Pitts intends to paint over the mural to give the room a more neutral vibe that would fit his plan to rent the room out for parties when possible.

Staples encouraged the decision, and any other Pitts is planning. 

“The French Quarter theme was my vision,” Staples said. “Casey now will give it his vision.”

Staples originally opened his barbecue restaurant as a small storefront on Belmont Avenue, a few blocks away from where it now stands.

He purchased the current building, which had been used for light manufacturing, about 20 years ago and completely renovated it, including the addition of a foyer and a balcony on top of it that was once used for additional dining space.

Pictured at top: Charlie Staples and Casey Pitts shake hands in front of the French Quarter mural inside the barbecue restaurant.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.