Gates Bar-B-Q | In 1946, George W. Gates left the railroad industry to pursue his dream of owning and operating a family restaurant. In the beginning, he pooled his resources and opened “Gates Ol’ Kentucky” at 19th and Vine, the first of the successful chain now known as “Gates Bar-B-Q.”
He relocated to 23rd and Charlotte in 1949 as the neighborhood’s population changed, but by 1951 he had returned to 19th and Vine to fulfill a lifelong ambition of opening a bar in the same building as the restaurant. Unfortunately, in 1951, a devastating fire destroyed his building, and from then until 1957, he operated out of 24th and Brooklyn.
George Gates persisted despite setbacks and is now known for serving delicious barbeque with the same signature flavor. In addition to the original location on Brooklyn Avenue at 24th Street, a second restaurant was opened at the corner of Twelveth and Highland in 1954.
For the Gates family, 1956 was a watershed year. There was a rebranding to “Gates & Son’s Bar-B-Q” because George Gates’s son Ollie is now a key player in the company. Ollie gained a deep understanding of the industry by working there during his free time between high school and college. Ollie, who had studied building construction in college and obtained essential instruction at the US Army School of Engineering, decided to open a barbecue restaurant/lounge at 31st & Indiana under the name O.G.’s.
The BBQ oven, the traffic flow layout for both customers and employees, and the architecture of the lounge all benefited greatly from Ollie drawing upon his wealth of college and military background and experience.
His mother and sister ran the Gates restaurant on 12th and Brooklyn for the following nine years while Ollie ran “O.G’s” on 31st and Indiana, both when he was still a teenager. In the meantime, Ollie had already begun planning a new architectural style for the future Gates Bar-B-Q restaurant, which would eventually debut in 1970 at 1411 Swope Parkway. In 1972, a second store with the same concept opened in Leawood, Kansas.
Rapid expansion saw the first Kansas City, Kansas, site open in 1975, followed by an Independence, Missouri, outpost the following year. People from all over the metropolitan area became regulars at these eateries, but more importantly, two major milestones had been reached: (1) the myth that Kansas City could support only a handful of barbecue restaurants had been dispelled, and (2) barbecue had been elevated to a respectable industry.
In 1975, we decided to start selling our sauce in supermarkets in response to rising consumer demand. considerable people replied positively right away, while others showed considerable hesitancy to stock something they thought may offer dubious investment returns. Due to the company’s doggedness and widespread popularity, Gates Bar-B-Q Sauce was quickly carried by every major grocery chain in the metropolitan area.
Our contemporary Gates Commissary, from which we ship all across the country, opened in 1984, and distribution of our sauce and spices began the following year.
In 1994, a second site, at Linwood and Main Street, was opened in the heart of Kansas City. Gates was founded in 1966, and in 1996 the company celebrated its 50th anniversary. In 1997, the company’s corporate headquarters moved to a newly rebuilt facility at the southeast intersection of Brush Creek and Paseo. Concurrently, on Emanuel Cleaver Boulevard, a brand-new restaurant was constructed from the ground up.
Arzelia June Smith Gates, the matriarch of the family, passed away on March 17, 2005, leaving behind her husband Ollie, their son, and their daughters Winifred and Gwendolyn. Winifred Gates passed away in 2007.
Our red roof and “Struttin Man” in a full tuxedo and top hat are iconic features of Gates Bar-B-Q, a family-owned business and Kansas City institution. Our signature is the seamless integration of high-quality cuisine, lightning-fast, individualized service, and an enthusiastic “HI, MAY I HELP YOU?” from every staff member.