Occupation: Owner/manager of Whitt’s Barbecue, Alcoa.
Family: Married to Teresa. They have three children: a daughter, Sydney, 18; a son, Spencer, 15; and a daughter, Schyler, 13.
If the law would let him and he had all the money he needed, Mike England’s dream home would be where most tourists in Blount County visit.
“I always said if I could buy any piece of property, it would Cades Cove, and I would put my house in the middle of it,” he says.
England, owner and manager of Whitt’s Barbecue in Alcoa, says he has always liked barbecue, especially Whitt’s Barbecue. “I’ve loved barbecue since I was old enough to know what it was,” he says.
England says Bill Dean from the Dean Family of Foods in Nashville acquired the franchise from the Whitt family and moved it into Nashville 34 years ago. “I always liked it, and I ate a lot of barbecue in other states, but always liked Whitt’s,” he says. “It was and still is very lean and very moist.”
England grew up in Middle Tennessee and graduated from Smyrna High School. When Maryville High School played his alma mater, England says he supported his new home team. “I had to pull for Maryville High School. I like what the school stands for,” he says.
England graduated from Middle Tennessee State University, and his wife graduated from Auburn. “We both lived in Middle Tennessee. She started off at MTSU but I moved to Alabama after graduation, and we got married a year later. She finished at Auburn.”
The former pharmaceutical executive who supervised sales representatives in East Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina and Georgia, says he was familiar with East Tennessee before changing careers and moving to Blount County.
“I used to travel East Tennessee for many years. I would tell my wife, if we ever move, I’d like to move to East Tennessee,” he says. “That opportunity came about for us in January of 1998.”
The England family moved to Blount County from Murfreesboro in January of 1998, and he opened the Whitt’s Barbecue restaurant in Alcoa in October of 2009. “We love Maryville and Blount County because we’re 20 minutes from UT, an hour from the mountains, and we don’t have to hit the interstate to get there. We can go through Townsend,” he says.
England says he enjoys simply spending time with his family. “We have three children. The oldest has gone off to college in Virginia, and we don’t see her as often,” he says. “The other two are in middle and high school and are wrapped up in different things like soccer and softball. My wife teaches fourth grade at Sam Houston Elementary. This area is great. It was a wonderful place to bring our children.”
Here is Mike England:
What is your favorite quote from television or a movie?
Robin Williams playing John Keating in “Dead Poet’s Society.” “No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.”
What are you guilty of?
“I’m never at a loss for words.”
What is your favorite material possession?
“A watch that my wife gave me our first Christmas together.”
What are you reading currently?
‘“Uncommon,’ by Tony Dungy with Nathan Whitaker. This book is very inspirational. It has many tips on how to develop yourself into a better person. I would highly recommend this book to anyone.”
What was your most embarrassing moment?
“When I was a sophomore in high school a bunch of guys got together and pushed me into the girl’s restroom.”
What are the top three things on your bucket list?
“To attend the finals at Wimbledon; to live long enough to see all three of our children graduate from college; to learn to play a musical instrument like a guitar or the piano.”
What is one word others often use to describe you and why?
“Perfectionist. I like everything to be a certain way.”
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
“I would like to have more patience. After all, patience is a virtue.”
What is your passion?
“My wife and three children.”
With whom, living or dead, would you most like to have a long lunch?
“My love for history would make me want to have a long lunch with Abraham Lincoln. This would enable me to better understand what it was like to face the difficult concerns he confronted during his presidency.”
If you could go back in time for a week, what time period or year would you visit?
“I would go back to the time of the Westward Expansion. This would have been an exciting time of exploring new territories.”
What is the best present you ever received in a box?
“When I was about 6 or 7 years old, I received a motorized Army tank for Christmas. That tank gave me hours of enjoyment. At the time, it seemed huge. I later saw it in my mother’s attic, and it didn’t seem that big. I guess it is all about perspective.”
What is the best advice your mother ever gave you?
“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” I still try to follow this advice today.”
Other than your parents, who has had the biggest influence on your life and why?
“My wife, Teresa. She has always been a sounding board for me and has helped me to see the other side of the coin. She is also a great balance to me for keeping our family on an even keel.”
What’s the worst job you have ever had?
I really haven’t had a job that I didn’t like. I’ve had all kinds of jobs in my life from working on a farm as a young boy, sold books door-to-door, sales and sales management for many years, and now owning my own restaurant. I have taken something with me from each experience that has helped me in my career.”
What was your favorite Saturday morning cartoon and why?
“The Roadrunner. I loved both characters, Roadrunner and Wile E. Coyote. They both had the quality of tenacity and never gave up on their goals.”
What irritates you?
“Laziness, and people who settle for anything less than doing their best in whatever they choose.”
What’s one place in Blount County everyone should visit?
“You know that I have to say Whitt’s Barbecue, of course. Seriously, I think anywhere in our county where you can enjoy the beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains is worth a visit. We are so fortunate to have these gorgeous mountains practically right in our own backyard.”
If you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself at 18?
“It’s never too early to start building for your financial future.”