Founder of Corky's Barbecue, Donald Pelts, Passes Away

Founder of Corky's Barbecue, Donald Pelts, Passes Away

The founder of world-famous Corky's Ribs & BBQ, Donald Pelts, has passed away.
MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - The founder of world-famous Corky's Ribs & BBQ, Donald Pelts, has passed away.

Pelts' son, Barry Pelts, said his father died suddenly Wednesday night of a heart attack at age 72.

Donald Pelts started Corky's in 1984, which now has nine locations in four states. Corky's BBQ products are shipped worldwide via FedEx, offered in supermarkets, and are often featured on QVC. Corky's food and service has received acclaim in several national publications. National Geographic named Corky's as the best barbecue restaurant in the country earlier this year.

"He had no idea, he didn't even know how to cook an egg. His parents thought he was crazy, all he knew is he was a great people person, had a great work ethic and he just wanted to make a living, that's all it was," his son told abc24.com. "All he cared about was working hard and taking care of his people. How you can tell is go to any restaurant in the county, any restaurant in Memphis, and see if the people that are there were there 20 years ago, 10 years ago, five years ago. We have 280 employees, most everybody's been with us 10, 15, 20, even some since my dad started The Public Eye in 1974."

The news of Pelts' passing comes just after another loss in the Memphis barbecue world. Former Shelby County Commissioner and fellow barbecue mogul John Willingham also died Wednesday of congestive heart failure.

Both Pelts and Willingham passed away as cooking teams were kicking off the Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest, where both are regarded as legends.

The funeral service for Don Pelts is set for Friday, May 17 at 2 p.m. at Temple Israel, located at 1376 East Massey Road. A sign posted at the Corky's flagship store on Poplar Avenue in east Memphis states the restaurant will be closed Friday until 5 p.m.
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