When I heard that Lee Smith of Lee’s BBQ had passed away, it was a real blow. According to Michelle Ragland, Administrator of the Buffalo and Western New York African American History Group, “[Lee] was the last man standing. It was him and Blondine from Gigi’s Soul Food Restaurant left from the 1960’s.”
Fortunately for Buffalo, Lee’s legacy is not in jeopardy of diminishing, thanks to his family that is currently running the take-out-only business.
“Hopefully the family will keep the business open,” Michelle continued. “His son was working with him for years, [who is] currently nearing his 70th birthday. In a conversation with Lee a few years ago, he advised me he opened his doors with a $50 monthly lease payment of the building for his business in 1963. On his first day he made $5, on his second day in business he made $450. The aroma of the BBQ cooking coming from the business was an attraction to the nose, and taste, that proved to be a winner for him. Lee knew his sauce was in high demand! He was approached years ago to mass produce, and sell it. For reasons of his own he never moved forward with the plan. Although the deal would have been lucrative. In fact, he didn’t offer the sauce on the side as a condiment [laughing]. As a community we are hoping the family keeps the business open!”
I’m sure that anyone who has ever eaten at Lee’s BBQ feels the same way. Lee will be truly missed, but his BBQ legacy remains intact thanks to a loyal following that has eaten up whatever has been served up… since before I was born.
Lee’s Barbecue | 1269 Fillmore Avenue | Buffalo, NY 14211 | (716) 896-8887 | Facebook