Former Struggling Small Business Owner Counts Blessings, Gives Back to Community

November 30, 2015 | Mandy Fernandez |

image of Arlene and Denby Williams
Arlene and Denby Williams

The food line was twenty people deep outside the Arlene Williams Barbecue establishment located at 4900 Mobile Hwy in Pensacola at 1:25 p.m. on Sunday, November 15, 2015. Owners of the food service, Arlene and Denby Williams, held their third annual "Feed the Community" Event where they gave free food to all patrons between 12:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m.

Arlene revealed that she spent over 13 hours of preparation to lead up to the affair. She said her husband and she prepared 13 fried turkeys, 10 Boston butts, 6 hams, along with several pounds of green beans, rice and gravy, pasta salad, pumpkin pie soufflé and bread for customers and the community.

What sparked Arlene and Denby to put on this event again for the third time? "The only way to receive blessings is to give blessings back," she noted. "I want to give thanks to others, especially since I'm so grateful to be here sharing my food and love in the community," Williams added. Arlene Williams Barbecue has been in business since 2008 and has seen its share of struggles, including closing its former locations, slow revenue periods, and a tragedy that forced the move to their third current setting.

Despite the downs, Arlene has remained upbeat. She and her family keep faith at the forefront of the company. She caters and donates to local churches. Word has spread and her clients are referring others. Many other local small businesses volunteered to help Arlene and Denby in their efforts of this event. Donations of water and juice were provided by neighboring entrepreneurs such as Willie Kirkland, Jr. of WC Kirkland Trucking Company, Boneface Ink Tattoo Studio, The Skybox Sports Bar, and Premier Portable Buildings of West Pensacola, Inc. They quickly jumped to the aid of Arlene Williams Barbecue and are becoming a family of businesses who support each other.

Daniel Cavanaugh, a Business Growth Consultant with the Florida Small Business Development Center at UWF, has consulted with Arlene Williams Barbecue and given her business advice since 2011.  He analyzed her financials so she could open up a newest and third location. Cavanaugh stood by Arlene's side at this event to scoop out food for patrons who attended. He commented, "Arlene is truly remarkable. To see her struggle previously but now watch her thrive is my pleasure. I'm happy to be here supporting her like I've done for the past four years. This is what the Florida SBDC is about – helping small business owners grow and succeed."

Business is booming at the current location. Arlene now has outdoor seating and a welcoming atmosphere for her customers to sit and mingle, including special evenings where musicians play. The establishment sits on a busy traffic corner where parking is easily accessible.

"Many people have believed in me and helped me along the way," noted Arlene. She says she puts her heart and soul into the food she prepares. "That's why my barbecue tastes so great," she reveals: "because of the blessings and love I put into it."

Tawanna Burke was a customer present at the annual community give-back event. She said she's been eating at Arlene Williams Barbecue for three years. "I've been a customer for awhile but now I'm a friend of Arlene's," Burke said.  "Arlene is so giving and this event is not her only generosity to help our community. Together she and I are also donating our time to read at local retirement and nursing homes. We are also preparing for upcoming holiday toy drives."

In 2014, Arlene Williams Barbecue handed out over 460 meals at her give back to the community event. Arlene and Denby Williams plan to continue this tradition again next year. Arlene sees her customers and the local business owners as her "family" and will carry on by always welcoming "family" to her barbecue eatery.

Arlene Williams Barbecue is open Monday through Saturday. Visit them at 4900 Mobile Hwy, Pensacola. The FSBDC Success Story video for Arlene's Barbecue can be viewed here: