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commUNITY spotlight: Remembering Lee's BBQ owner, Lee Smith

Owner Lee Smith provided opportunity to people, many of whom lived in the neighborhood. He was an east side entrepreneur.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — For years, a section of Fillmore Avenue in Buffalo, New York was all about Lee Smith. 

Lee's Barbecue, Lee's Lounge, and Lee's Car Wash.

Owner Lee Smith provided opportunity to people, many of whom lived in the neighborhood. He was an east side entrepreneur. In 2002, Smith did a story with Channel 2 News and discussed soul food.

When the discussion focused on ribs and how they should be prepared, he was not going to bend.

"They gotta be done with charcoal," he said with a smile.

"Gas grills, they don't taste right," when they are cooked on that type of cooking unit.

Lee's BBQ attracted people from all over the area. When natives would move away, many would come home and make the Fillmore Avenue restaurant a first stop for food.

Smith took pride in cooking ribs slowly on charcoal and using his secret sauce. "Eighty percent of the ribs is good sauce," he said, standing in the kitchen of the takeout barbecue restaurant.

His car wash for years was always busy and the lounge was a place where people would gather to mix and mingle.

Lee loved people according to friends who knew him well. He loved helping everyone and he did it by providing jobs.

Some of the homes nearby on Fillmore were purchased by Smith.

Today, if you drive by Fillmore Avenue and Fougeron Street on the East Side of Buffalo, you will see his name still on buildings.

Lee Smith died at home in December 2021. He was 88 years old.

He leaves behind a wife, three sons and one daughter.