The new owners of one of South Main Street’s most well-known abandoned properties hope to transform it into one of Statesboro’s most popular dining destinations.
Sisters Mary Beth Brown and Lazar Oglesby, owners of Dolan’s Bar-B-Que in Millen and Honey Catering, recently purchased the old McDonald’s property that has been vacant since the restaurant closed more than 20 years ago. They plan to renovate the entire property and open a Dolan’s Bar-B-Que some time in 2021.
“In the beginning, our goal was to be in the central downtown district of Statesboro; however, the options were limited,” Brown said. “How many times do people drive past the ‘old McDonald's’ everyday but never really see its potential? While most people ride by and see an eyesore, we see a lot of potential with a big parking lot. We feel as though this location makes our restaurant appealing to a large customer base.”
While the building on the property, located at the corner of West Jones Avenue and South Main Street, has been left without upkeep since it closed before 2000, Brown said the inspections they commissioned revealed a solid, basic structure. Still, she said they know it will be a lengthy project to turn it into the restaurant they envision.
“We purchased this property knowing that it would require extensive renovations, but that was also part of the reason why we chose it,” she said. “After learning that this property was not a tear-down and the bones were good, we quickly began discussing our vision for the new Dolan’s. We anticipate the renovation process will take a year.”
Dolan’s opens in Millen
The first Dolan’s opened its doors in November 2015 and was the result of some brainstorming Brown said she and her sister did on the banks of the Ogeechee River.
“A favorite sandbar has been the spot where our best ideas have come to fruition,” she said. “And our talks of opening a true ‘old-school’ barbeque restaurant quickly became a reality when we purchased the property at 335 Highway 25 South in Millen.”
The name for the restaurant also came easily to Brown and Oglesby.
“It only seemed appropriate to name this restaurant after our beloved grandaddy Dolan, who passed down his passion for food, family and friends to us,” Brown said. “We modeled our brick pit after his, which is located at our family farm. That pit was used for years to smoke meat for family gatherings and many July 4th celebrations.”
Brown said she acquired her love for cooking at an early age.
“All family gatherings were centered around food and cooking,” she said. “We were always helping our grandma, grandaddy or mom in the kitchen.”
After earning a degree in hospitality management from Georgia Southern University, Brown worked for four years at the Ritz-Carlton resort in Amelia Island, Florida.
“I wore many hats at the Ritz, including recreation attendant, Princess/Pirate Club Level attendant, guest relations, personnel and housekeeping manager.”
But Brown said she knew that was not where her heart was calling her.
“I quickly realized that I missed the food industry and missed my family even more,” she said. “During that time, Lazar started her own business, Honey Catering, and her business was quickly growing and expanding.
“After speaking with her about my longing for home, she proposed a joint venture. A few months later, we loaded a truck with my belongings and made the journey back to Jenkins County. We worked together running an ever-growing Honey Catering & Cafe.”
With the success of Dolan’s in Millen, Brown said she and Oglesby began their search to open a second location earlier this year.
“It only made sense to Lazar and me to begin our search in Statesboro, where we are known and have built a reputation,” she said. “I have always been an avid follower of some of the bigger names of barbeque such as Southern Soul, Hometeam, Noble Smoke, Buxton Hall and Rodney Scott, to name a few. I hope that moving to a growing city like Statesboro will present the opportunity to further expand our name and business.”
The Statesboro Dolan’s will offer a similar menu to the Millen restaurant that has made it so popular, but Brown hopes to add a little more.
“We plan to expand our menu once open in Statesboro,” she said. “We will, of course, serve our staple items of chopped barbeque, chicken and ribs daily, but will also feature a Blue Plate Special (meat and three side dishes) to satisfy the homestyle cravings of some customers.
“We will continue to feature one to two daily specials as we did in Millen that showcase the fun and creative side of barbeque.”
Dealing with COVID
Brown said that she and Oglesby did take into account the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic that has affected every part of the nation in choosing to take on another business venture.
“While this may not be the most ideal time to start a new project, I have found that COVID-19 has not slowed down the barbeque business,” she said. “I think people have enjoyed the comfort of this style of cooking. And once we open, we will follow all guidelines put into place to ensure the safety of our customers and employees. We also plan to keep the current drive-thru structure for convenience.”
When Dolan’s Statesboro does open, Brown said the restaurant will have two main barbecue chefs and 10 to 15 employees, some part time and some full time. And she will be on site to guarantee the food and service meet the standards her grandfather instilled in her and her sister.
“When we opened Dolan's in Millen, it quickly became my baby,” Brown said. “Statesboro will be the same. I love the quiet, early-morning hours of feeding the fires, which quickly evolve into the fast-paced lunch rush. It is a true labor of love.”
Jim Healy may be reached at (912) 489-9402.