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Statesboro Inn makes history

President Bush relaxes, eats lunch at Inn during Oct. 30 campaign stop in Bulloch

    The Historic Statesboro Inn and Restaurant lived up to its billing two weeks ago, when it served as a host for the first  visit of a sitting president to Statesboro. The inn on Sou th Main Street was the White House's choice for President Bush to have lunch and do a television interview.
    The president came to town in support of congressional candidate Max Burns on Oct. 30 and the Statesboro Inn earned an indelible spot in the history of Bulloch County.
    Inn owner Tony Garges admits a visit from the president of the United States was unimaginable when he and his wife Michele put the inn up for sale a year and a half ago.
    "Michele, our daughter and her family, and I had run the inn since Michele and I bought it in 1993," Garges said. "My daughter and her family moved, and Michele went to work for Ogeechee Area Hospice as coordinator of inpatient services. It was more than I could do on my own."
    The inn had been on the market for about six months when Garges struck a deal with Atlanta native Denman Dubose to purchase a 50-percent interest in the inn this past January. Dubose met Garges through a friend who was working at the inn.
    "My mother owns a large catering company in Atlanta, and I grew up helping her," Dubose said. " When Tony found out that I had catering experience, he would ask me to help him out on occasion, when he had a large event to cater, which I did."
    Dubose knew the Gargeses were trying to sell the inn, and as time passed he became more interested in it.
    "Tony and I just kept bouncing around the idea of me buying a half interest in the inn and becoming his business partner," Dubose said. "We talked about it for several months, and the timing was such that it worked out."
    With Dubose officially on board this past January, renovations of the inn began.
    "We have replaced all of the carpets including the bedrooms and hallways," Dubose said. "We have replaced every mattress and done a lot of painting. For those familiar with the inn, you will see that a lot of new furniture has been added as well."
    One of the most notable changes may be the addition of a new chef and the return of food service on  Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.
    "With the exception of the Sunday brunch, the restaurant had been closed for the last year and a half or so," Dubose said. "Now, with our new chef, Tim Barry, we have been able to open back up at nights during the latter part of the week."
    Having a new chef proved providential two weeks ago. Dubose said the president's staff did not bring a chef with them and the inn was asked to prepare the president's lunch.
    "They gave us a list of foods that the president would like to order from," Dubose said. "Without going into detail, none of choices were difficult to prepare."
    Dubose said, in the end, the president ordered a cheeseburger.
    "It was so wild that day that I can't even tell you if the president had French fries or not with his cheeseburger, but I do know that he had a cheeseburger," Dubose said. "I also know that he is a big fan of peanut butter."
    Dubose said the biggest compliment bestowed upon him and the staff of the inn was not the handwritten note sent from the president within hours of him leaving the inn, but instead, it was the amount of time that Bush stayed there.
    "We were told that he would be here for approximately two hours from twelve until two p.m.," Dubose said. "He was so comfortable and seemed to be having such a good time that he stayed until four. His staff kept looking at their watches saying, 'Mr. President, we have a plane to catch.' You know, he really seemed to be enjoying himself."
    Phyllis Thompson, director of physician relations at East Georgia Regional Hospital, said the warmth and friendliness felt by visitors when they come to the inn is the reason that she books her visiting physicians there for overnight stays.
    "When we are recruiting a new physician, I always put them in the Statesboro Inn when they come to interview," Thompson said. "They have always been so accommodating since many of our physicians will arrive late on a Friday night."
    Thompson said during the interview process she doesn't always have time to sell physician recruits on the community.
    "When you are interviewing someone you tend to focus on just the medical aspect," Thompson said. "When the conversation remains in that vein, you don't really get the chance to relax and tell them about Statesboro and the quality of living here."
    "Tony and Michelle have been wonderful representatives of Statesboro," she said. "They have always taken the time to tell our visiting physicians about the community and what it has to offer. They have been tremendous good will ambassadors."
    Tim Chapman, director of the Averitt Center for the Arts, sends all of his visiting performers to the Statesboro Inn.
    "Performers love staying there, and Tony and Michele have always been very good stewards of the arts," Chapman said. "They have given a lot 'in-kind.' We have been very blessed to have their help."
    Garges's new partner said it is important to continue that tradition of supporting the arts in the community.
    "We have things on the right track, and plan to continue helping the art community whether it is the Averitt Center or the university," Dubose said.     Dubose said he was glad that so much updating and enhancement of the facility had been done prior to the president announcing his visit.
    "To be honest, had we not been doing all of this to the property, landscaping included, I don't know that he would have come here," he said. "Everything just seemed to work out."
    "President Bush was a very nice guy," he said. "In all of the commotion, I could tell he had a lot on his mind. But, with everything that was going on around him, you could see that he was enjoying himself and was comfortable. That is still the biggest compliment we could have received."
    The Historic Statesboro Inn and Restaurant is located at 106 South Main Street in Statesboro's historic district. The facility includes three separate buildings which house 16 different bedrooms, a banquet room, and a restaurant.

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