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Minority Owned Business Spotlight: J. Gumbo’s

Quick! What’s the “J” in J. Gumbo’s stand for?

“Joe?”

No.

“John?”

No.

“James?”

No. Come on, guess better.

“Jehosophat?”

Now you’re just being silly. I’ll tell you. It stands for “jockey.”

“Jockey? Like the underwear?”

No, like the guy who rides on a horse in the Kentucky Derby.

“That makes no sense.”

It will in a minute.

This is just one of the tidbits of trivia stored in the brain Richard Upton, owner of the only original Cajun restaurant in Central Ohio, J. Gumbo’s, which is located at 39 E. William Street in downtown Delaware.

Voodoo Chicken, White Bean Chili, Etouffee, Red Beans and Rice, and Jambalaya, it’s all right there at the corner of Wiliam and Union streets.

How original is the Cajun and Creole cuisine at J. Gumbo’s? It came from the secret recipe book belonging to the grandmother of the restaurant chain’s founder, Billy Fox Jr. Believe me, no one wants a Cajun grandma upset because you screwed up her recipes, so you can make bank that the food at J. Gumbo’s is pure Louisiana.

So, how in the name of Joe Burrow did J. Gumbo’s escape from Louisiana and land in Delaware County?

A number of years ago, Billy Fox Jr. headed out of Gran Coteau, Louisiana, to find fame and fortune as a thoroughbred jockey. (You see where this is going, right?) When he did, he also brought along two pots and granny’s recipe book.

He did well as a jockey, but the recipe book brought him more success than any nag going off at five-to-nine. After his racing career ended, Billy started the Louisville-based J. (Jockey) Gumbo’s.

When Richard was looking to make a career change, he and his father-in-law drove to Louisville to discuss franchise opportunities with Billy. A deal was struck and Richard opened the Delaware location in 2012.

Part of Richard’s plan was to have a place where he could serve delicious Cajun food, hire individuals with disabilities, and offer a separate training program to teach people with disabilities such soft-life skills as manners, counting change and personal interactions. Throughout his 12 years of running J. Gumbo’s, Richard has a been a passionate advocate for people with disabilities.

Richard said that 60 percent of his business is carry-out and 40 percent dine-in at the 25-seat restaurant. He also offers an extensive catering menu. To view J. Gumbo’s local options, visit: www.jgumbos.com/delaware. You can check out the Facebook page at facebook.com/jgumbosdelawarecounty. Or, call them direct at 740.368.9494. J. Gumbo’s is open Tuesday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

They advertise that J. Gumbo’s entrees come in serving bowls “as big as the bayou.” I don’t think that’s really true. I looked it up on the Internet, and some bayous go for miles and miles, and the bowl will sit neatly on the table with plenty of room for their locally baked bread. The bowl is big, but I think the whole big as the bayou thing might be a marketing ploy.

Here’s another thing you need to know about eating at J. Gumbo’s. Richard is a great guy – affable and talkative. Loves his customers. However, if you sit down for a bowl of delicious jambalaya and he happens to be there, and he tells you that he’s going to give you the Reader’s Digest version of how he got into the restaurant business, go ahead and order another bowl of jambalaya, maybe two, because Richard is a good story teller and even the abbreviated version of his stories takes a while.

By: Robin Yocum

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