It was comments from his son, however, that piqued his interest in the art of grilling.
“My interest was caught by my son,” said Witherspoon. “His fiancé, who is from Kansas City, Mo., has been telling me how barbecue there is different from In the south. My response was that all barbecue is the same.”
Witherspoon experienced a rude awakening upon tasting for himself what Kansas City barbecue had to offer, courtesy of his son bringing it back for him after a visit.
“I immediately saw the difference,” he said. “It’s a slow-smoked process [in Kansas City]. The quality of meat is better, and dry rubs are used, which marinate and season the meat better.”
Soon thereafter, Witherspoon traveled to the city to visit with numerous barbecue restaurant owners.
The purpose was to see if owning his barbecue restaurant was within tangible reach.
“I came away with the ambition that I think this would work in Atlanta,” he said.
In March, Witherspoon moved his vision forward when he vocalized interest in what has become the current space on Old National Highway in College Park.
The business is located in the precise location with J.R. Crickets used to be.
“When I first saw that area, I noticed it was around some hotels,” he said. “That is attractive for potential client. I also noticed that it always crowded right at the intersection near our location. From a business research perspective, it was a great location.”
Witherspoon staked claim on the space and began to create his vision — a space where residents could enjoy beef brisket, ribs, smoked salmon or tilapia, pulled pork, chicken or beef smoked sausage paired with southern sides.
Drawing from his extensive background in coaching college basketball, including coaching positions at Clark Atlanta, Grambling State and Fort Valley State universities, sport-related murals don the walls.
“There’s a four-foot mural of Michael Jordan, Bill Russell and Wilton Chamberlain,” Witherspoon said. “I have a track runner paint of about four feet tall. I wanted to present the old athlete professional heritage.”
The food, the atmosphere, the location — all are components that Witherspoon hopes will make his business a success.
Spoon’s BBQ Smokehouse Restaurant Bar and Grill is at 5040 Old National Highway in College Park.