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Famous Wilson eatery Bill Ellis Barbecue closes suddenly

WILSON, N.C. (WNCN) - The famous Wilson barbecue joint, Bill Ellis Barbecue, shut down suddenly on Wednesday night, according to The Wilson Times.

Ellis' famous barbecue and chicken restaurant traced its origins back to 1963 when Ellis opened a small structure where he sold hamburgers and hot dogs.

Ellis, whose barbecue empire had grown to include a buffet, a drive-thru, convention center and catering business on the same lot, retired in 2015. He died in late February 2017, at the age of 83 from complications due to breaking his hip.

Bill's continued to operate following his death when his widow, Tracy Ellis, took charge of operations. She hired Chris Earp to lead the restaurant operations the following summer, the news outlet reported.

“It is with much regret that we have reached a decision to close Bill’s Barbecue,” Tanya Neville said in a written statement to The Wilson Times. “Against all obstacles, we fought the good fight, but realized it’s time.”

“A couple years before Bill’s death, he was ready to move on to another chapter of life,” the statement read. “Not only was he at peace with this decision, but he was excited about stepping outside the walls of a restaurant and seeing what this world has to offer.”

The business employed 55 people - 28 full-time and 27 part-time - and all were told that Bill's was closing during an 8 p.m. meeting on Wednesday, the Times reported.

The closure includes the restaurant, catering business and their event space.

“The silver lining is, although this flagship location will close, there is certainly the possibility of franchise opportunities, and the beloved barbecue and chicken can continue to be enjoyed by millions,” Neville said in the statement. “We would like to thank each and every one of the many customers/workers/friends/family that helped throughout the years build this barbecue empire.”

Neville told The Wilson Times it is unclear what will happen with the property.

 


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