Well before daybreak on a recent Wednesday morning, Glen Gulledge undertook an almost daily ritual — stoking the fire outside Byron's Smokehouse before going inside to tend to the slabs of meat and links of sausage that would fill plates and bellies throughout the day.
Gulledge helped open Byron's Smokehouse in 1989 at an old Dairy Queen location just up the road from the smokehouse's current spot on Opelika Road. He opened it, along with his siblings, Barney and Regena, to give his father, Byron, something new to do after he retired from Uniroyal.
"He was always known for cooking barbecue, so we decided we were going to get him into the restaurant business," Glen said.
After moving into the new location, Glen took the leap into offering breakfast about 20 years ago with the help of his high school friend Tony Holland, who was cooking breakfast at several places around town at the time.
"I ran into him one time and I told him, 'Why don't you come down here and look at my building and see if you think we can do breakfast down here,'" said Glen. Tony came down and helped set up Byron's to serve a breakfast that typically leaves his building packed with loyal customers to this day. Glen also said one of his longtime employees, Joe Tripplet, also deserves a lot of credit for the business' success.
"He deserves a lot of credit for a whole lot of stuff that's gone on up here," said Glen.
Glen said that he hated that his father, who died in 2016, wasn't around to see him receive a Mayor's Lamplighter Award in October.
"He was always the barbecue man that was always known for his cooking and his barbecuing, and he taught me," he said.
Glen was one of six recipients this year of Mayor Ron Anders' Lamplighter Awards.
"Today, I call Byron's a satellite business," said Anders at the State of the City Address in October. "You have to drive around the building two or three times to find a parking spot for breakfast. But it's not just the food; it's the culture, the feeling you get when you enter the building — it's Auburn. He's Auburn to his core. The memorabilia on the walls as well as the cap on his head signals his allegiance. But it's more; it's his work ethic. All of us are sound asleep as he is starting his day, starting the fire, brewing the coffee, preparing the breakfast while planning for the lunch customers. He does all of the work every day."
Anders also noted Glen's generosity to nonprofits, area schools and to his family and friends, especially Holland, who worked alongside Glen for years before becoming disabled after suffering heart problems. Glen stepped in and helped him get qualified for Medicare and took care of him until he got up to speed. He also moved him into an apartment nearby Byron's and still helps support him financially.
"He takes care of his friends, his family," said Anders. "He takes him on holiday with his family, vacations with his family. He takes care of his living arrangements. His living assistance supports him financially. And just as significantly, he picks him up every Sunday morning and takes him to the breakfast.
"He loves his family and shows all of us what commitment really means."
Receiving the award means a lot, said Glen.
"I'm very honored for what Ron did for me," he said. "It may not be a lot to a lot of people but it meant a lot to me."