The owner of the Whitt’s Barbecue restaurant, located at 3516 Tom Austin Hwy. in Springfield, is branching out, literally, in order to help out the nearby Clarksville store.
Springfield Whitt’s branch owner Jeff Plank has become the co-owner of the Whitt’s Barbecue on Wilma Rudolph Boulevard in Montgomery County following the deaths in March of the restaurant owners Chip and Mitzi Barr, who were tragically killed in a car wreck.
Ricky Jennette, who owns restaurants in Cheatham and Dickson counties and is planning on building a Whitt’s Barbecue restaurant in Pleasant View, is a co-owner with Plank.
Plank said his relationship with Chip Barr began nearly 25 years after he began working in a Hendersonville barbecue restaurant.
Their paths crossed for more than two decades as both worked in the barbecue business. Plank even managed the Clarksville location several years ago, having no idea he would return to the store one day under much different circumstances.
It was March 30 when Plank learned the Barrs had been killed in a crash the previous evening.
“Once I found out about the accident, I finished opening the restaurant in Springfield and headed to Clarksville,” Plank said. “I helped to take care of the business there for the day and then shut down the store that Saturday night.”
By July 1, the Whitt’s Barbecue in Clarksville re-opened, with co-owners Jennette and Plank operating the restaurant together.
Plank, who lives in Adams, is managing to work in Springfield most mornings while commuting to Clarksville to assist in the afternoons.
Just about every day, someone will appear in the drive-through window, telling a story about Chip, according to Plank.
“He and Mitzi were both well-liked in the community,” Plank said. “Chip was a really nice guy who would go out of his way to help whomever he could. People tell me about his love for duck and dove hunting.”
The Springfield Whitt’s restaurant is known for its hickory-smoked meats, wings and sides and carries a pretty steady crowd of eaters, according to Plank.
They currently have six employees, but Plank said he’s not sure which is busier – the drive-through window or the dining room.
“One day we might have cars lined around the building,” Plank said. “The next day our dining room is full and not a single person is in the drive-through. As long as we continue pleasing our customers, I guess that’s all that matters.”
The restaurant also caters events such as weddings, graduations and business meetings. Its food trailer was recently spotted at the Threshermen’s Show, providing pork to its concession stand.
The food trailer makes appearances at the Robertson County Fair and recently provided service to the White House Americana celebration.
Plank said his family of three children have helped out quite a bit with the transition to Clarksville.
“My daughter Cheyenne is an APSU student and has put in a lot of hours during her summer break,” Plank said. “It’s a family thing. We all pitch in and do what we can do.”
While owning and managing two stores, Plank said he’s been appreciative with the assistance he’s received in getting the Clarksville restaurant up and going again.
“I had known Chip for a long time,” Plank said. “I really hated the thought of the Clarksville store possibly shutting down. When the idea was presented to Ricky and I, we decided to partner together to help out.”