By Loyd McIntosh, For The Tribune
TRUSSVILLE — Golden Rule Barbecue, one of the oldest and most historically-significant restaurant chains in Alabama, is now under new ownership.
Brian Kemp, owner and founder of Kemp’s Kitchen, recently purchased the restaurant chain, which currently includes locations in Pell City, Crestwood Boulevard in Irondale, and Chalkville Road in Trussville.
“As a long-time fan of Golden Rule BBQ, I am thrilled to announce that we have acquired this beloved brand,” said Kemp. “With our shared commitment to quality ingredients and authentic Southern style, we are excited to bring the taste of Golden Rule BBQ to even more people and continue its golden legacy of excellence.”
According to a statement released by Kemp’s Kitchens Director of Marketing Daniel Harp, Kemp will continue to operate the restaurants under the Golden Rule banner and work towards making improvements to the business while staying true to the brand’s legacy that began more than 130 years ago.
“We are not changing any of the food or any of the recipes, but we are going to look for ways to make things easier and more efficient,” said Harp. “It’s been working for 130 years so why would we change anything now.”
“We are excited to carry on the Golden Rule BBQ legacy and build upon the incredible foundation established by Mr. Mike Matsos,” said Kemp. “Our goal is to bring this beloved restaurant to even more communities and share our passion for authentic Southern-style barbecue with even more people.”
Harp said Kemp has already begun making improvements, including replacing a leaky roof at the Irondale location two weeks ago, and is already eying equipment improvements to the chain of restaurants. Harp added that the company has no immediate plans for expansion but will, instead, focus on improving the three Golden Rule restaurants in the Kemp portfolio.
The road to purchasing one of the nation’s oldest restaurants is filled with many ups and downs for both Kemp and the Golden Rule brand. The first Kemp’s Kitchen stand-alone restaurant was destroyed by a fire caused by a surge in an electrical device that started around 10:30 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 29, 2021. Less than a year later, in August 2022, the Golden Rule location on Chalkville Road unexpectedly closed after 30 years in business, announcing the news with a simple flier taped to the door.
“We regret to inform you that due to a number of issues and challenges, our restaurant will be closing its doors today after lunch,” read the statement. “We thank each of you for your patronage and support of the business over the past three decades. We know it has been a meeting spot for many, and we have been focused on providing a quality meal at a reasonable price. Thank you and God bless.”
In December 2022, the Kemp’s Kitchen & Bakery and Golden Rule brands merged under one roof, reopening in Trussville’s original Golden Rule location on Chalkville Road. Ironically, Golden Rule’s Trussville location was established in 1993 in the location formerly occupied by Big G BBQ, a long-time Trussville restaurant that was forced to close in the early 1990s following a fire.
Kemp said Golden Rule is of historic significance to the area and he is proud to be the new owner and caretaker of the brand’s legacy while preparing it for future success.
“Golden Rule BBQ has been a staple in the community for over 125 years, and I am honored to be the new owner of this cherished BBQ brand,” Kemp said. “Our goal is to build on its golden history and traditions, while also innovating and evolving to meet the changing taste and preferences of today’s customers.”
Established in 1891, Golden Rule Barbecue is the oldest continuously-running restaurant in Alabama and the 16th oldest in the United States. In 1969, Golden Rule was purchased by Mike Matsos, the owner of Michael’s Sirloin Room, who ran the franchise until his death in 2021. The Trussville location was owned and operated by Charles Matsos and Pete Derzis until December 2022.
With the purchase, Kemp adds to his cache of restaurants and food service outlets throughout the area including Kemp’s Kitchen & Bakery in Trussville and Gardendale, Ironstone Pizza in Trussville, Alpha Charlie Grill on East Lake Boulevard, and the vending service Custom Vendz.