It’s been almost a year since Mary Everett, the owner of Berkeley barbecue destination Everett and Jones, died of COVID-19. Ask anyone who’s lost a parent, though, and they’ll tell you that first year after the loss passes in a whirlwind, a combination of grief and self-reflection.

That mixture of emotions is evident in the conversation journalist and audio producer Noah Baustin had with Shamar Cotton, Everett’s son, as part of his report on small businesses along San Pablo Avenue. Cotton and his brother and sister are now in charge of the Berkeley restaurant, part of a family-owned multi-location business founded by Everett’s mother (and Cotton’s grandmother) Dorothy Turner Everett in 1973. That family legacy is clearly a source of pride for Cotton, but upholding it also brings immense pressure, he said.

“Over 40 years later, we’re still here and I’m third generation,” Cotton told Nosh reporter Elise Proulx in 2021. A year later, they still are. — Eve Batey

Please note: This transcript was created using an AI program and was then edited by Cityside staff. In some cases, it might not align perfectly with the audio, and might contain grammatical or spelling errors.

Mary Everett. Courtesy: Shamar Cotton

Everett and Jones Barbeque
1955 San Pablo Ave. (near University Avenue), Berkeley

Employee: Hey, you can come on in. OK, thank you. You’re welcome. 

Noah Baustin: So if I had walked in a couple of years ago and your mom was sitting in the front, how would she have been dressed? What could I have expected? 

Shamar Cotton: She definitely would have had her Everett and Jones visor hat on. She would have some shades. he would have had an Everett and Jones shirt on and then… if you looked at her, she would have greeted you and said, “hello, how are you doing?” If you if you said, “I have never had the barbecue” she’d be like, “where have you been? I mean, I’ve only been here for thirty five years, so you’re missing out on some of the best barbecue out.” So that was that was my mom. 

Employee: Number 11.

Cotton: Hi, my name is Shamar Cotton. I own the restaurant with my brother and sister. Everett and Jones Barbeque here in Berkeley. Everett and Jones is a family run business. My grandmother started it back in 1973. It’s always been family owned. I grew up in it. 

Keenan Hawkins, an Everett and Jones employee, prepares dessert at the San Pablo Avenue restaurant. Credit: Ximena Natera, Berkeleyside/ CatchLight

Baustin: Can you tell me, when did your mother take over running this restaurant? 

Cotton: I don’t know the official date, but I think it was some time in the ’80s. She owned it for most of the time it was here, like three decades. 

Baustin: What was your mom’s name? 

Cotton: Mary Everett. My mother was a very happy person, she loved celebrating life. She was a very giving person, and she was always a very Christian-oriented person as well.

Baustin: And how did she enjoy life? Like, what’d she love to do?

Cotton: Well, she loved to throw a yearly party every year for her birthday… it was a party to actually collect toys for the annual toy drive she used to have. 

We used to go to a church every Thursday and my grandmother used to feed the homeless. So I think that was one way my mother wanted to keep my grandmother’s legacy going, as well as just giving back to those that are less fortunate than we are 

Baustin: And so when was the last one of those parties that she hosted?

Cotton: Right before COVID.

Baustin: I’m curious, do you remember what your mom wore that night? Like what she looked like? 

Cotton: Like a little princess, a little Disney princess. She always had a custom dress. 

Of course, she had her beautiful hair made, had her makeup done, earrings, nails, shoes and the dresses always matched with her grandkids… She had them all made together. 

Mary Everett and son Shamar Cotton. Credit: Shamar Cotton

And she always made sure they twirl because my daughters like to twirl, turn around like they’re princesses, like they’re dancing. So she always had it where it was a long dress for them as well, and they could spin around and have a good time.

Officially, my brother and myself and my sister, we took over once my mom passed September 24 when she passed from COVID… so up until then it was always we just did what my mother said. We just wanted to be a good kids and we wanted to make our mother happy, so we took over last year. 

We didn’t want to, especially not this way. We wanted mom to still be here… where she can enjoy just, life and her grandkids. But we’ve got thrust into it. 

It was surreal. You know, walking in, it was actually the day… actually the day my mom passed away I came to the restaurant because we had… Still had still had day-to-day operations, people still bringing supplies. So I walked in, walked to the restaurant, put a sign on the door and just kind of sat outside.

And I was just like “my mom’s not here. I’ve got to take care of the restaurant. I got to keep this going.” I couldn’t believe this moment was here, especially like this.

I knew one day, I know we all here on Earth, we’re all going to go some way. I didn’t think it was coming any time soon, thought I had my mom till she was at least 90, 100 years old. She was only 65, so it was early. 

My dream is basically don’t disappoint them. Don’t let this be a failure. Don’t let this… Don’t let what happened to plenty of other families of businesses when the matriarchs are gone, it kind of just falls. 

Just keep it going, keep it simple, KISS like my grandmother said, kiss. Keep it simple, stupid.  

So I just want to make sure I keep it going to the best ability that I can, and do all this, that she taught myself and my brother and sister. Just keep going.

Featured photo of Shamar Cotton: Ximena Natera for Berkeleyside/CatchLight