FLINT, Michigan -- The smell of fresh barbecue, grilled bacon, and cornbread hit the second you walk inside the doors of Maude’s Alabama Barbecue
on Davison Road.
In the kitchen where I met co-owners Ron and Alissa Housley, a massive bowl of spices was being blended together for their homemade rub recipe right behind the doors. The staff was smiling and Alissa was organizing their cornbread with a hint of cayenne pepper. Burgers were being placed on the grill and orders were being intricately made.
The atmosphere in Maude’s feels like walking into your grandmother’s kitchen, filled with family, your favorite home-cooked smells, and the warm and welcome energy that only a home kitchen can provide. Maude’s Alabama Barbecue is known for specialty meats and recipes, but more importantly, they set themselves apart by the way they love and support the surrounding community in Eastside Franklin Park and on Flint’s eastside.
“We are the community and if the community doesn't take care of itself, nobody else will,” Ron Housely said. “And you got to take care of people. That's the way the world works. You have to care.”
Ron and Alissa Housley opened Maude’s BBQ in 2019 with the guidance and encouragement of Alissa’s father. Their location on Davison Road near Dort Highway was essential to Ron.
“One of the main reasons we are here is because my grandpa worked at AC [AC Spark Plug] when I was little,” he said. “I remember this corner always being just crazy busy. AC was there, Jellybeans was still down the road. I grew up around here.”
Ron’s love for cooking started at a very young age. “There was not a lot of money in the household growing up, so you had to learn to kind of make a lot with nothing.” He smiled as he continued, “So I love to cook because that’s what I had to do, to survive. You had to take the $10 worth of groceries and turn it into a week’s worth of food.”
Corey Eikamp, friend and family to co-owner's Ron and Alissa Housley, runs the grill at Maude's Alabama BBQ.
For Alissa, their restaurant holds a different and deeply personal love that goes back to her grandmother, whom the restaurant is named after. Her eyes watered, “This building is essentially one big hug from her. Just because my grandma gave the tightest of hugs. You couldn’t leave the house without her giving you a hug. And just walking in here ...,” she paused to keep from crying and said, “Looking around in here reminds me of her so much. Family is everything and it’s written above our door in here.”
All the recipes at Maude’s were collected from Alissa’s grandmother’s homemade collection that started back in Decatur, Alabama, where her grandmother was raised. Maude moved to Flint for work and helped her son raise Alissa in her home. Alissa grew up eating the recipes that she now shares with the community.
Alissa and Ron pour their heart and soul into their business, spending 80+ hours, six days per week cooking, planning, and prepping. Every Sunday, Alissa and Ron come into the kitchen to prep for the week and then host a huge family dinner. Ron laughed, “Everyones shows up at 4 p.m. and will fill the whole building and parking lot. They bring their own chairs and their masks, and we all sit outside.”
During the pandemic, the Housleys sacrificed time and money to protect their business and to ensure that the community still received the highest quality of meat even with the meat shortage. Ron recalled, “One thing that was big for us through COVID is that we wanted to keep our prices as low as possible.” Ron wanted to make sure that even with the increasing loss of jobs and shortages there would be the same quality of food with lower prices for community members. In February of this year, Maude’s returned to their regular pricing.
Josh Perry is a longtime friend and family to co-owners Ron and Alissa Housley.
The owners also work with local Flint organizations, like Flint City Tent Popup, to help provide food to families around the holidays. Ron’s favorite part of owning his business is their ability to donate and give back. “Growing up, not having any money, the Old Newsboys, that was my Christmas. I realized that the only reason I was able to eat back then was because people donated. So every year we donate turkey dinners at Thanksgiving and dinners at Christmas time. We donate food that we smoke. They're for the people that probably would never be able to get that kind of expensive meat. So now that I am in a position where I can do that stuff, that’s what we do all the time.”
Regulars walk in and out of the restaurant every day, and Alissa laughed thinking about the different special orders they make for their regulars, “There's Curtis, who always gets a four-piece chicken with mashed potatoes instead of French fries,” she said. Alissa and her husband care deeply about their business, but more importantly, they hold the relationship they have with their employees and customers above all else. “You have to care,” Alissa said.
Maude’s BBQ is open 11:30 a.m.-7:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday and is located at 2602 Davison Road. Their menu is made up of hand-picked high-end quality meats and recipes filled with love and family history. Their macaroni and cheese is handmade every Sunday by Alissa, who is slowly trying to teach her husband the recipe. They run their business based on Alissa’s grandmother’s motto, “You never leave the table unhappy or hungry.”
“We want to be a company everyone knows,” Ron said. “We don’t want to be a corporation. We are a Ma and Pa company that could easily be a household name.”