Each morning, Edward Miller, or Mr. Dollars as he’s known to family and friend, wakes up just after the sun rises, gets ready then heads to Off the Bone BBQ restaurant to unlock the doors for the day.
He’s the first one in and the last one to leave late at night, the typical schedule of a business owner. A weekly work schedule with little sleep is nothing to complain about. It’s actually the bright side of his labor of love – owning his own restaurant. Joshua Mundy and Tony Hurse are part owners as well.
“I already knew my vision. I knew that I had a great product because God has been good to me. When God gives it to you, then you don’t have to worry about it. I’ve come a long way with God,” said Miller.
Off the Bone at 708 Monroe St. opened up for business at the former King Fish building across from Kroger in October. Despite the owners not spending a dime on advertising, the restaurant stays busy with long lines of customers throughout the day placing their orders for pick up or dining in.
Daily, he says he’ll go through about 40 slabs of ribs. On the weekend, at least 100 slabs will make their way into the hands of customers. Also on the menu, are smoked turkey legs, fish, pork chops, white beans, turnip greens, desserts and more. The extra-large smoker in the back of the building stays loaded with chicken quarters, slabs of ribs and turkey. For those dining on a budget, Miller proudly boasts of the 99 cent barbecue menu.
“My whole thing was a 99 cent menu because everyone says McDonald’s and Wendy’s is all that. I said I wanted to do BBQ 99 cent menu. This is history. People don’t understand. This is history,” added Miller.
And it’s doing well so far. Miller says it’s a popular item that customers can’t get enough of.
It seems Nashville can’t get enough of Black-owned businesses like Off the Bone. According to the Greater Nashville Black Chamber of Commerce, there are more than 14,920 black-owned businesses in Tennessee and the list is growing.
From the grass lot to the store front
The journey to getting his own store wasn’t one that was easy or full of a series of success stories. It was one Miller says was full of strain, struggle, disappointments and setbacks.
It all started three years ago at Munchy’s at the corner of Jefferson St and 18th Avenue near Fisk University. Miller, who had dreams of owning his own restaurant one day, was working there as a cook. Munchy’s went out of business and closed, yet Miller’s dreams remained the same. Desperate for his next gig to keep money in his pocket and food on the table, Miller took matters into his own hands. He was known for his famous smoked turkey legs. He set up shop, without a permit, in a grass lot near Munchy’s and began serving smoked turkey legs. He would also go to the Elks Lodge on Saturdays to serve the turkey legs. They were an instant hit.
“I remember he would stand down there with that dirty white T-shirt. He was working hard. He had all that grease on him, tired as all get out, trying to figure out how he was going to get those turkey legs out,” said long-time customer Vanetta Green.
Shortly after, he began renting a trailer on Jefferson St. for $1,200 a month. He brought his kids in and taught them how to run the business. Business was good but not good enough, according to Miller. He had his sights on more. He and Mundy went to the same church. They talked about the closing of King Fish and what that could mean to their plans of adding an economic surge to North Nashville and finishing out Miller’s dream. A few conversations and business meetings later, they opened the current store front.
“It really kicked in the other day. At first it hadn’t dawned on me. You know how something just kicks in? The other day it dawned on me that God made a dream come true,” said Miller.
State Pen to Pulled Pork
Before he had big dreams, his life read somewhat like a nightmare. Instead of food, Miller was once serving up cocaine and marijuana to those that would buy from him. He was big time and living the good life full of fast times, fast money and everything he wanted at his fingertips. But he was a Robin Hood of sorts. Beginning in 1996, the Preston Taylor homes native would roll out his big grill and have a community-wide cookout for the entire housing project unit. Hundreds would come out to have fun and dine with Mr. Dollars. Every holiday, he would feed the community. He still does to this day. This is how he taught himself to cook.
“I used to have big picnics. That’s how I taught myself to cook. I would never hire anyone to cook. I would just do the cooking. I just wanted to learn I wanted to out-cook my momma. She never cooked on the grill. She used to boil their meat. I said I want to cook it off the grill. I feel like I’m great and it’s because of God that I’m great,” he said.
A few stints behind bars and then a trip to the state penitentiary in 1998 were enough to wake him up so he could straighten out. Miller said he turned his life over to God and has been walking according to what God has said ever since.
“You’ll always get caught up on drugs because God doesn’t want no drugs on this earth.”
It’s not uncommon to hear Miller walking through the restaurant talking about God or giving him praise. He as a sign in the front of the store that encourages employees to give God credit as their boss, not him.
Off the Bone is open 11 a.m. – 8 p.m., Monday-Thursday and 11:30 p.m. – 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.