Johnny’s Bar-B-Q says farewell to longtime co-owner Ronald Dunn

W.C. Mann

Ronald Dunn, in what has been his natural habitat for more than 30 years

CULLMAN – In 1983, Gary Wiggins needed a partner to help him run his family’s business in Cullman.  He reached out to his cousin Ron, and thus began a new chapter in the story of local institution Johnny’s Bar-B-Q. On Saturday afternoon, the page turned again.

Ronald Dunn, who has been co-owner of Johnny’s for 34 years, recently announced his retirement; Saturday, Apr. 22 was his last day.  He graciously took a little time out of his final lunch rush to sit down with the Tribune and talk about what was and what is to come.

“My aunt and uncle Aleta and Troy Wiggins purchased Johnny’s in 1963 from Johnny Graves, the original Johnny.  They had it for 20 years until 1983, when Uncle Troy got sick and had to retire.  At that time the only child, Gary Wiggins, was working here, and he needed someone to go in business with him so it wouldn’t work him to death.  He asked me.

“We were first cousins; we were raised like brothers.  Our grandmother always lived with one of us, and helped raise us.  Any time school was out, we stayed together.  We grew up like brothers, fought like brothers and loved like brothers.  I was fortunate and blessed that they thought of me to bring into the business.”

What’s next?

“Gary and I have been partners for 34 years,” said Dunn, “and I am ready to, as King Solomon says in Ecclesiastes, ‘have a blast while you last.’  I’m just ready to simplify things and maybe do some traveling.  We got a travel trailer and want to do some traveling.  We’re selling our house, trying to downsize to a smaller place.”

The other half of the “we,” by the way, is Ann, Dunn’s wife of 23 years. The couple has four children and four grandchildren.

What’s next for Johnny’s?

Dunn explained, “My cousin Gary will continue working here, and we brought his son Josh Wiggins in the business a few years ago. Gary and Josh are going to continue the tradition of the great service and the great food, and they’ve got the catering business now. They’re just going to expand.”

What do you want people to remember about the last 34 years?

“It’s just like a family here,” Dunn related.  “You can go work at these big chains, and you’re just a number and a name; but if you come to work for Johnny’s, we treat you like family.  We remember the golden rule: treat people like we want to be treated.

Any advice for Josh as he steps up?

Dunn did not hesitate: “Expect the unexpected, and treat people like you’d want to be treated."

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