He may not have invented Kansas City barbecue, but Ollie Gates is a major reason why it is renowned across the globe.
Gates’ entrepreneurial journey started humbly, by working in his parents’ Ol’ Kentucky Bar-BQ at 19th and Vine. Following college and a stint in the Army, Gates returned home inspired to make his own mark in the barbecue world. He started off with a single Gates Bar-B-Q, but applied the efficiency of his military training to the business, along with a unique commitment to customer service. Gates Bar-B-Q now has six locations, 200 employees and a state of the art training facility known as Rib Tech.
In addition to his success as a restaurateur, Gates has given back to the community in many ways, including his service with the Enshriners and as president of the Kansas City Board of Parks and Recreation.
At his induction into the Entrepreneur Hall of Fame, Gates’ friend and fellow Kansas City Board of Parks and Recreation member Anita Gorman shared an anecdote that illustrates one of her fondest memories of her friend.
At a holiday gathering for the Park board, Gates entered the room filled with hundreds, only to be stopped by a staff member requesting his attention.
“Tell them I am busy and to call me later,” Gates replied. The staff member then called out, “but Mr. Gates, it’s your mother!”
Gates took the call, and left the event the second it ended. As Gorman drove home, she spotted Gates at a Christmas tree lot, retrieving a tree for his mother.
“What I saw was a man who, for all his success and renown, remembered the lesson of the Ten Commandments: Honor thy father and thy mother,” Gorman said. “I have always felt lucky to live in Ollie’s town.”
To see videos, view artifacts and learn more about the Entrepreneur Hall of Fame inductees, visit the Hall on the main floor of the Henry W. Bloch Executive Hall for Entrepreneurship and Innovation.