The date has officially been set for the closing of a true icon in Statesboro's business community. Snooky's Restaurant is slated to serve its last meal on Feb. 18, just one day after the property on which it sits is scheduled to be sold.
Snooky's owner Bruce Yawn has mixed emotions about the anticipated closing of the restaurant that he and his father founded 41 years ago.
"The time is right for me to retire, to leave the business where I have spent the vast majority of my life for the last four decades," Yawn said. "You just know when it is right. I don't have any regrets, but there is a sense of sadness. It isn't uncommon to have the third generation of a family that has eaten with me all of these years come in to eat. I consider my customers to be my friends, part of my family."
Yawn's property is one of six parcels involved in a major redevelopment of the northwest corner of Fair Road and Tillman Road. The properties that are being sold to Glenn Ridge Development in Alpharetta house Snooky's, Andrew's Klean Corner, two office buildings, a tanning salon, and two apartment buildings.
This past June, a zoning map amendment of 3.345 acres from HOC (Highway Oriented Commercial) to CR (Commercial Retail) was approved by the Statesboro City Council to allow for a combination of the parcels and the development of a shopping center to contain a CVS Pharmacy and attached retail space.
Even though there will be extensive demolition associated with the redevelopment, Yawn's restaurant is not going to be torn down.
"Many folks have asked me why I just don't continue to run Snooky's," he said. "Like I said, it's just time. There are interim plans for the building, and then after that, the new owners will decide if they are going to lease it out to someone else, but it won't be I."
Those interim plans involve Eddie Stephens, owner of Andrew'sKlean Korner.
"We are going to move our drop off/pick up business into Snooky's when our building on the corner is demolished," he said. "This is a wonderful location for us, and I certainly want to continue to operate right here while they are building our new location next to the CVS. We have no intentions of leaving this area."
For anyone familiar with Snooky's the question begs, where is the "Snook Pack" going? Where will those loyal customers who have been having their coffee and breakfast there for years gather?
If it is up to Randy Nessmith, owner of RJ's Restaurant on South Main Street, it will be at his restaurant.
"We have never served breakfast, and it just seemed like a very good opportunity with Bruce retiring," he said. "We are going to call it Snooky's at R.J.'s and we are going to open our front two dining rooms for breakfast, Monday through Saturday with a buffet on Friday and Saturday mornings. Customers will see the same familiar faces serving coffee that they saw at Snooky's. "
Nessmith said it will be an adjustment in that he is used to eating breakfast at Snooky's two times a week himself.
"I have been doing a lot of thinking and planning, and am very excited about it," Nessmith said. "I want everything to run smoothly and orderly, so I really don't know how much time I will have to hang out so-to-speak."
Yawn and Stephens are optimistic that the redevelopment of "their" corner will lead to further redevelopment in the area, and on South Main Street in particular.
"Sometimes an area needs a shot in the arm, and this may very well provide that," Yawn said. "I am hoping that it will help. I think people will be amazed with the final product."
While it may seem to many that this has been a fairly quick process, Yawn said interest in his property began 10 years ago.
"I was contacted in 2001 about selling this property, and I told them I wasn't interested," he said. "I was only 55 years old, and wasn't ready to retire. Then we would talk on-and-off again, and nothing really came of it until last December, in 2010. That is when the deal was put together, and it has taken 14 months to get to this point."
Yawn said he had a hunch when he graduated from the University of Georgia and returned to Statesboro.
"My father was an owner in Webb's Georgia Fried Chicken," he said. "Dad and I decided to open a full service restaurant in 1971, and we called it Snooky's after my father. I told my dad that we really needed to cater to the college community. I remembered when I was at Georgia, I went to places that liked doing business with college students, that were nice to us. That mentality served us well for all of these years. On any given day, you can walk into Snooky's and see a number of students, and I am very proud of that."
Yawn spoke very plainly about the impending sale of his property.
"The reality is, no deal is done, until the closing has happened," he said. "So, we are scheduled to sell the property on the 17th. I am looking at this way, the 18th will either be our last day, or our grand re-opening."