Everett and Jones owner reflects on his mother’s death from COVID
It’s been almost a year since Mary Everett, the owner of Berkeley Everett and Jones’ barbecue destination, died of COVID-19. Ask anyone who’s lost a parent, though, and they’ll tell you that the first year after the loss goes by in a whirlwind, a combination of grief and introspection.
This mix of emotions is evident in the conversation journalist and audio producer Noah Baustin had with Shamar Cotton, Everett’s son, as part of his story about small businesses along San Pablo Avenue. Cotton and his siblings are now responsible for the Berkeley Restaurant, which is part of a multi-location family business founded by Everett’s mother (and Cotton’s grandmother) Dorothy Turner Everett in 1973. This family legacy is clearly a source of pride for Cotton, but maintaining 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
Note: This transcript was created using an artificial intelligence program and was subsequently edited by Cityside staff. In some cases, it may not match the audio perfectly and contain grammar or spelling errors.
Everett and Jones BBQ
1955 San Pablo Avenue (near University Avenue), Berkeley
Employee: Hey, you can come in. OK, thanks. You’re welcome.
Noah Baustin: So if I had walked in a few years ago and your mother was sitting in front, how would she have been dressed? What could I expect?
Shamar Cotton: She certainly would have had her Everett and Jones peaked hat. She would have shades. he would have worn an Everett and Jones shirt and then… if you had looked at her, she would have greeted you and said, “Hello, how are you? If you said, “I’ve never barbecued,” she’d say, “Where have you been? I mean, I’ve only been here thirty-five years, so you’re missing out on some of the best barbecue. So it was my mother.
Employee: Number 11.
Cotton: Hello, my name is Shamar Cotton. I own the restaurant with my brother and sister. Everett and Jones barbecue here in Berkeley. Everett and Jones is a family business. My grandmother started it in 1973. It has always belonged to the family. I grew up in it.
Baustine: Can you tell me, when did your mother take over the management of this restaurant?
Cotton: I don’t know the official date, but I think it was in the 80s. She owned it most of the time it was here, about three decades.
Baustine: What was your mother’s name?
Cotton: Mary Everett. My mother was a very happy person, she loved to celebrate life. She was a very generous person, and she has always been a very Christian person.
Baustine: And how did she enjoy life? What would she like to do?
Cotton: Well, she liked to throw an annual party every year for her birthday…it was a party to collect toys for the annual toy drive she used to have.
We went to church every Thursday and my grandmother fed the homeless. So I think it was a way for my mom to carry on my grandmother’s legacy, while giving back to those less fortunate than us.
Baustine: So, when was the last of those parties she threw?
Cotton: Just before COVID.
Baustine: I’m curious, do you remember what your mother 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 beautiful hairstyles done, makeup done, earrings, nails, shoes and the dresses that always matched her grandchildren… She had them done together.
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 too, and they could turn around and have a good time.
Officially my brother and myself and my sister we took over once my mom passed away on the 24th of September when she died of COVID…so until then it was always us doing what my mother said. We just wanted to be good kids and we wanted to make our mom happy, so we took over last year.
We didn’t want to, especially not this way. We wanted mom to always be there… where she could enjoy life and her grandchildren. But we pushed for it.
It was surreal. You know, walking in, it was actually the day… actually the day my mother passed away, I came to the restaurant because we had… We still had day-to-day operations, people were still bringing supplies. So I walked in, walked to the restaurant, put a sign on the door, and just sat outside.
And I was like ‘my mom’s not here. I have to take care of the restaurant. I have to go on like this. I couldn’t believe this moment was here, especially like this.
I knew that one day, I know that all of us here on Earth are all going to come a long way. I didn’t think it would happen anytime soon, I thought I’d have my mom until she was at least 90, 100. She was only 65, so it was early.
My dream is not to disappoint them. Don’t let this be a failure. Don’t let that… Don’t let what happened to a lot of other corporate families when the matriarchs left, kind of falls away.
Keep it up, keep it simple, kiss like my grandma used to say, kiss. Keep it simple, stupid.
So, I just want to make sure that I carry on to the best of my abilities and do everything she taught me and my brother and sister. Just keep doing it.
Shamar Cotton Feature Photo: Ximena Natera for Berkeleyside/CatchLight