UPDATED — John “Jetman” Thien wants to sell his Jet Bar-B-Q after 32 years in business.
Thien turns 65 next year and has a project in mind.
“I want to write the history of barbecue in (Wichita).”
In fact, he already has the opening line for the book.
“In the beginning there was Adam. That’s right, Adam’s Rib.”
Thien wants to tell the story of Adam’s and Rudy’s and R&S Barbecue, among others. Of course, Jet Bar-B-Q is a big part of that story. Thien likes to say he was the first white person to sell barbecue in Wichita.
The restaurant has been in the 1928 old firehouse No. 8 building at 1100 E. Third St. for 16 years. Thien leases the 4,500-square-foot space, which has a drive-through down the middle of the firehouse.
These days, Thien operates the business for lunch only on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. He calls that making his candy and cigarette money.
He also caters and is known for the 1959 fire truck, which he calls a trolley, that he takes to events (available for parties, weddings and “corporate kumbaya”) and gives tours in around the city.
Thien hopes someone can take the business to the next level, which he thinks would be using the building for event space.
“The fire station would make an excellent banquet facility,” he says.
Thien says the barbecue would accompany that nicely.
“I think the brand name has a lot of years behind it and a lot of respect.”
Thien says he’s “too old to take it to the next step. I’m too tired. I’m too ugly.”
If the business doesn’t sell, Thien says he may auction it along with his equipment and the fire truck. That probably wouldn’t be for a year, though Thien says he could sell sooner.
“You know, when the right person comes by.”
Thien says he’s made “more friends than money” with the business.
He says he’s willing to offer his secret ingredient to the Jet Bar-B-Q buyer.
He quickly adds, “Does that sound conceited?”
Thien doesn’t want to work at the business on a day-to-day basis, but he wants to offer moral support, training and public relations for the restaurant.
“I want to be the Colonel Sanders,” he says of his role.
“I think they will be making a mistake if they don’t keep me. … I mean, KFC did not get rid of the Colonel.”