Blue skies and sunshine on an unseasonably warm autumn day provided the perfect backdrop for the grand re-opening of Hecky’s Barbecue, 1902 Green bay Road. A ribbon-cutting ceremony, music, and gift bags that included face masks embossed with “Hecky’s Barbecue – It’s the Sauce!” and cupcakes decorated with the restaurant’s logo were all in tribute to the late restaurateur and civic leader Hecky Powell. The event, with remarks from Mr. Powell’s wife, author Cheryl Judice, and Mayor Stephen Hagerty, took place outside of the restaurant that Mr. Powell founded at the same location in 1982.
Ms. Judice thanked those in attendance for joining her and her family and the Hecky’s staff for the grand re-opening on what would have been Mr. Powell’s 72nd birthday.
“I can think of no better tribute than to re-open the restaurant on his birthday” she said.
She told the crowd spread out on the sidewalk at the corner of Green Bay Road and Emerson Street that she did not anticipate having to complete this task without her husband. Laughter erupted when she said, “But at least in one way, that was a good thing. He never would have agreed to close this restaurant for more than six weeks to accomplish this task. I have every confidence that he would be very pleased with the results.”
Mayor Hagerty noted that Mr. Powell built Hecky’s Barbecue from the ground up in front of a street that is now called Hecky Powell Way.
“He’s looking down and he’s smiling. Because this is Evanston, right here, and there would be a lot more people that would have come out today if we weren’t in the middle of a pandemic,” said Mayor Hagerty.
More than 50 people attended the event, which was held outdoors. Masks were required.
“To be able to be here despite the coronavirus pandemic … and the fact that it’s a beautiful day out – it’s like a crowning on the day. It’s a n honor and a privilege. It feels good to be here in the midst of community. This is community, this is Evanston. This is E-Town. This is what it’s all about,” said lifelong Evanstonian and diversity consultant Gilo Logan.
Dr. Logan said he is Mr. Powell’s second cousin. “My dad [retired Evanston Police Chief Bill Logan] is his first cousin. So my dad’s mother and Hecky’s father were sister and brother. And their parents came from Muscatine, Iowa, together to Evanston in about 1905,” said Dr. Logan.
“Hecky was a larger than life person in the City of Evanston. It was partly Hecky’s ribs. But it was also that Hecky did so much for the community, for young people. But you can’t beat his ribs. It’s the sauce,” said Evanston resident and Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky.
Mr. Powell founded the WE (Work Ethic) program, which provides mentoring, scholarships, opportunities for Evanston teens to participate in work study programs and pair with professionals in like fields.