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Ervine "Buff" Rainey chops pulled pork in his recently opened Big Buff's 92 BBQ, located in the Hope for the Inner City building at 1800 Roanoke Avenue, across the street from the former Harriet Tubman Homes. Rainey hopes to move his restaurant to Glass Street as part of the revival effort there.

Barbecue with a side of hope.

Ervine Rainey thought he was just serving up one of the South's favorite foods when he opened Big Buff's 92 BBQ, with plans to move it to Glass Street early next year.

But members of the Glass House Collective, a nonprofit focused on the revitalization of the Glass Street community, saw much more.

"Buff's is only a part of Glass House Collective's vision for Glass Street," said Teal Thibaud, director of communications.

In less than five years, the nonprofit's members want the street that now consists mostly of empty buildings, liquor stores and clubs to turn into a "vibrant commercial corridor, with filled storefronts and feet on the street," she said.

They want more residents to be business owners who take advantage of the traffic, some 10,000 cars daily, said Katherine Currin, Glass House Collective director.

Buff's Barbecue isn't just a potential new business for Glass Street, said Currin.

It is a demonstration to Glass Street residents that they can realize the dream if they just stay committed to it. Glass House is there to help.

Rainey, a Glass Street resident, is a believer.

The 43-year-old former gang member, drug user and felon overcame his past and a prison record to open his business.

He completed the 10-week LAUNCH business course taught on Glass Street, created a business plan and then opened Big Buff's 92 BBQ inside Hope for the Inner City. Hope is a Christian ministry in East Chattanooga that helps the urban poor to become self-sufficient.

Rainey said the late NFL great and Chattanooga native Reggie White was his first cousin.

The "92" in the business' name comes from White's jersey number when he played for the Green Bay Packers, he said.

Rainey will host his grand opening June 5.

It was Glass House Collective that partnered with LAUNCH to bring the program to Glass Street for area residents. Rainey was in the first graduating class that came out in December 2012.

Hope for the Inner City, located about a mile from the Glass House Collective office, is allowing Rainey to use its kitchen and building at minimum charge.

And LAUNCH, a program founded by local businessmen to teach people to become successful entrepreneurs, helped Rainey develop his business plan.

Hope is incubating the business for one year. Then Rainey plans to move into a store front on Glass sometime after February 2014.

"One less empty building on Glass Street," said Thibaud.

Contact staff writer Yolanda Putman at or call 423-757-6431.