Kenneth Ware always knew he wanted to own a business. But what business — and how — that was the question.
And then there was Backyard Barbeque. Founded in 2018 by his father, Archie, Ware joined childhood friend Michael Toney to take over the Woodcleft Avenue establishment just as the coronavirus pandemic took over.
Using the skills he picked up from the Johnson & Wales Culinary School in Rhode Island, Ware worked with Toney to create not only as popular eatery in Freeport, but one that has captured the attention of statewide business leaders as well.
Backyard Barbeque is the very first recipient of the Minority & Women’s Business Award from the Business Council of New York State. It earned that distinction thanks to a nomination by Assemblywoman Taylor Darling, shining above 35 other mom-and-pop eateries to take the prize.
“So, this was the first year that they gave this award out,” Ware said. “It was good to win the award because it made us feel like the things that we do in the community mean something. We give back a lot, so it was a very fun experience.”
The Minority & Women’s Business Award was created as part of the Business Council’s commitment in the promotion of economic growth and prosperity, as well as the idea that opportunity should be extended to all employers, regardless of race or creed.
The award recognizes the history and achievement of minority, women and LGBTQ businesses.
For Backyard Barbeque, a lot of these accolades come from how the restaurant persevere through the pandemic, said Heather Briccetti Mulligan, president and chief executive of the Business Council.
“It is truly an honor to shine a light on the many remarkable businesses across the state that are led by hardworking individuals of all races, colors and creeds,” she added, in a release.
Ware spent the most of his career as a chef in Manhattan. Since taking over Backyard Barbeque, he picked up a number of awards, including a Herald Long Island Choice Award, last spring.
And now their business is growing at the Nautical Mile commercial center. Opening up just two doors down is a new offering from the duo — Backyard Slices — just last month. Offering pizza has allowed Ware and Toney to expand their offerings from beyond barbecue.
Even more, the two are working to keep business coming — even when the weather cools off. Sure, the Nautical Mile might be more popular in the spring and summer, but there’s nothing stopping customers from showing up in the winter, too.
To help make that happen, Backyard is offering turkey and Thanksgiving dinner bundles next month, and will collect donations to help those not-so-fortunate during their annual community event in December.
It’s then Backyard Barbeque hosts its annual toy drive, using funds donated to their restaurant year-round by patrons to purchase toys for young people just in time for the holidays.
“A lot of these communities and surrounding areas are low income,” Ware said. “We know how it feels to wake up on Christmas and not have anything under the tree. One of our main missions is to give back because we receive a lot of support from the community.”
Last year, Ware and Toney decorated their large front windows with snowmen and Christmas trees. They neatly packed their booths, tables and chairs against the front wall, making room for a vending wagon with a popcorn machine at the main door, and a shining Christmas tree at the opposite end of the room.
Various wrapped presents encircled the tree, waiting to be ripped open by visiting children.
In all, some 500 toys were given away last year. Ware hopes to top that come Christmastime this year.
“We are just going to continue doing what’s best,” Ware said, “and that is serving the local community.”