Filed Under Food

Scatter's Barbecue

Before Hot Sauce Williams and Beckham's B&M Bar-B-Que ruled the east side, Scatter's Barbecue was Glenville's home for ribs, shoulder sandwiches, and fries soaked in Scatter's notable barbecue sauce. Herman "Scatter" Stephens, born in Birmingham, Alabama on June 1, 1920, moved to Cleveland in 1934 with his family. He graduated from Central High School in 1938 and attended West Virginia State College. After his college years, his family assisted in opening Scatter's Barbecue in 1952. It was not unusual to find his relatives, such as his mother, Emma Ricks, and aunt Nancy Stephens, in the restaurant assisting Scatter during the early years of the restaurant.

Located at 931 East 105th Street in the heart of Glenville's lively strip, Scatter's Barbecue was known for its shoulder sandwiches, where the meat was so tender it would "fall off the bone." The restaurant's walls were covered with framed portraits of prominent African Americans of the day, many of whom Scatter befriended, such as Sugar Ray Robinson and Count Basie. While Scatter's clientele included notable celebrities, many regulars were from the Glenville area. It was common for students from Empire Junior High School, located down the street, to stop by after school for a sauce-soaked paper bag of fries.

Scatter became an entrepreneur, owning not only a restaurant, but several businesses under the umbrella of Stephens Enterprises Inc. Herman "Scatter" Stephens owned Stephens Cigarette Service Inc., a cigarette and bowling machine servicing company, at 933 East 105th adjacent to Scatter's Barbecue, and the Silver Dollar Lounge. The lounge hosted his annual grandiose birthday parties, for which he issued an open invitation to "the world." By 1967, Stephens Enterprises expanded to include Stephens Real Estate, Stephens Vending Co., and the Lucky Bar. Scatter was a notable high-roller in Glenville, where he was known for having the latest Cadillacs, as well as a world traveler. In the summer of 1967, Scatter accompanied the Count Basie Orchestra to Europe for their tour. Since Scatter knew Count Basie, he was able to assist Cafe Tia Juana in booking jazz shows, featuring acts like saxophonists Eddie Lockjaw Davis and Sonny Stitt.

On September 10, 1967 at 2:30 A.M., tragedy struck when Scatter was shot in his Stephens Cigarette Service/Vending Co. store by a white assailant with possible mob ties. After being shot twice, Scatter stumbled out of the store and tried to escape to his barbecue restaurant, where the gunman followed him and shot him three more times.

Scatter's funeral took place September 21 at East Mount Zion Baptist Church. Some witnesses recalled the funeral being among the largest in the neighborhood in decades, with 3,000 mourners attending and traffic backed up for blocks. The funeral was just as impressive as his life; Scatter was buried in an $8,000 copper casket and the procession included 63 Cadillac Eldorados. Some of the attendees were rumored to be Sugar Ray Robinson and Joe Louis, who were able to slip out without being photographed.

Scatter's family ran the restaurant years after his passing, eventually closing in 1983. Though the only remnant of Scatter's Barbecue is the intact building, Scatter's legacy is still cherished in the Glenville community to this day.

Audio

Shoulder Sandwiches Clara Nelson describes Scatter's unique barbecue sauce that made its sandwiches so delicious. Source: Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection
Two Black Cadillacs Leo Martin and Scatter's nephew were sitting across the street from Scatter's Barbecue when they noticed two Cadillacs drive up and a few men get out, go into Scatter's establishment, and shoot Herman "Scatter" Stephens. Source: Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection

Images

Scatter's Barbecue, 1954 Scatter's Barbecue opened in 1952 at 929 E.105th St., where Scatter's relatives assisted in managing the barbecue restaurant. The restaurant was sandwiched between the Twentieth Century Tavern and the Silk Top Barber Shop. When the Silk Top Barber Shop closed, Scatter opened a cigarette and vending company in the location, where it would be convenient for him to go back and forth between his businesses. When Scatter was murdered, he was shot in cigarette and vending company store, stumbled out and walked to his barbecue restaurant, passing out on his restaurant's floor. Source: Cleveland Public Library Photographic Collection
Stephens Enterprises Ad, 1964 After the success of Scatter's Barbecue, Herman "Scatter" Stephens expanded his business ventures to include a cigarette and vending service company, a realty company, and the Lucky Bar and Silver Dollar Lounges, which hosted music and events. Every year, Scatter would hold a birthday party open to the public, which would usually take place at one of his lounges. Scatter's parties were known for the towering cakes as well as the live music. Source: Call and Post, May 30, 1964
Scatter's Remodeled Storefront, 1967 Initially Scatter's storefront was located at 931 East 105th Street, with a couple of modest signs advertising "Scatter's Red Hots Barbecue." As Scatter's Barbecue grew, he took over the rest of the building in the former Silk Top Barber Shop and opened his cigarette & vending service and realty companies at 933 East 105th. As the years progressed, his signs expanded to cover the brick front. Source: Call and Post, August 26, 1967
Scatter Serves Sugar Ray, 1953 Herman "Stephens" Scatter was well known not only to the Glenville community, but had close ties to celebrities as well. Scatter was known as a good friend to Count Basie, to the extent that he accompanied Count Basie and his orchestra on their European tour. Scatter was also friends with professional boxer Sugar Ray Robinson. In this photo, Scatter went to Sugar Ray Robinson's dressing room before a boxing match to deliver some fresh barbecue ribs. The photo became a part of an ad campaign with the Call & Post to promote Scatter's Barbecue. Source: Call and Post, June 27, 1953

Location

Metadata

Julie A. Gabb, “Scatter's Barbecue,” Cleveland Historical, accessed June 30, 2022, https://clevelandhistorical.org/items/show/654.