Betty Sexton Has Opened a Barbecue Restaurant in Richmond

Posted by Monica Hoel
Betty Sexton is ready to Smohk the competition.

After teaching English for 32 years, she has placed her MLA Style Manual on the shelf and has turned to an entirely new venture: she has opened a barbecue restaurant in Richmond called Smohk. Betty says she couldn’t resist being an English major when she chose that name. “If you look up ‘smoke’ in the dictionary that’s the phonetic spelling!”

She and an old high school friend from Radford, Roby Williams, opened the restaurant four years ago in the section of Richmond called Scott’s Addition. “It was once a scary industrial neighborhood, but now it’s Richmond’s playground – filled with restaurants, breweries, and distilleries. And there is a lot of housing being built here.”

She and Roby had had a conversation about how frustrating it was to go to a restaurant, spend a lot of money, and feel like the food was just “okay.” They wanted to find a restaurant that would serve the food they loved – southern, made-from-scratch, and reminiscent of the way their moms cooked. So, they decided to open one themselves.

The two knew absolutely nothing about starting a restaurant. “We didn’t even know enough to know what to ask!” But they made some friends in the business and were on their way. And though their beginning was slow, they have persevered, learned from experience, and now they’ve got cars lined up down the alley to pick up to-go orders.

In fact, carry-out was their salvation.

During the pandemic they saw a lot of restaurants close because they focused so completely on sit-down patrons. Betty and her crew moved quickly into almost exclusive carry-out model and found it was just what the business needed to weather 2020.

Now that things have relaxed a bit with Covid restrictions their catering business is increasing and they have more customers who eat in the building, but they still do mostly carry-out orders. “A lot of our customers come by to get food and take it to one of the breweries nearby.”

Betty says it may seem unlikely that someone who majored in English and French would find herself suddenly in the restaurant business, but she is quick to point out that Emory & Henry gave her more than an academic background. “I came to Emory & Henry so lacking in self-confidence. But four years with our wonderful faculty members gave me confidence and a voice that I had never had. And it is that same self-confidence that has enabled me to go from 30 years of teaching on to something completely different. It all stems from Emory & Henry, and I’ll never forget that.”

You can enjoy a conversation with Betty in the WEHC-FM archives: https://archive.org/details/OntheDuckPondWall/Betty+Sexton.mp2

  • Betty Sexton
    Emory & Henry Class of 1987

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  • <div class="lw_news_image"><span class="lw_item_thumb"><a href="/live/news/191-marsha-wagoner-kayaking-into-the-sunset"><picture class="lw_image"> <source type="image/webp" srcset="/live/image/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/0,0,3200,2400/1727_IMG-4387.rev.1513886589.webp 1x, /live/image/scale/2x/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/0,0,3200,2400/1727_IMG-4387.rev.1513886589.webp 2x, /live/image/scale/3x/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/0,0,3200,2400/1727_IMG-4387.rev.1513886589.webp 3x"/> <source type="image/jpeg" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/0,0,3200,2400/1727_IMG-4387.rev.1513886589.JPG 2x, /live/image/scale/3x/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/0,0,3200,2400/1727_IMG-4387.rev.1513886589.JPG 3x"/> <img src="/live/image/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/0,0,3200,2400/1727_IMG-4387.rev.1513886589.JPG" alt="Marsha Wagoner at Farmer's Hardware in Sparta, NC." width="345" height="225" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/0,0,3200,2400/1727_IMG-4387.rev.1513886589.JPG 2x, /live/image/scale/3x/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/0,0,3200,2400/1727_IMG-4387.rev.1513886589.JPG 3x" data-max-w="3200" data-max-h="2400" loading="lazy"/> </picture> </a></span></div><div class="lw_widget_text"><h4 class="lw_news_headline"><a href="/live/news/191-marsha-wagoner-kayaking-into-the-sunset">Marsha Wagoner: Kayaking into the sunset??</a></h4><div class="lw_news_summary"> After 80 years in business, Farmer’s Hardware in Sparta is saying goodnight. <a href="/live/news/191-marsha-wagoner-kayaking-into-the-sunset" class="link-with-arrow gold">Keep reading</a></div></div>