The sustained success of the Ocean Galley restaurant in Statesboro is not a fluke. With a sincere devotion to his employees and clientele, owner Wayne Sircy operates a thriving restaurant that has maintained its stronghold even as the number of franchise and chain restaurants in the area continues to grow.
"I have always tried to create a family atmosphere for those that work here as well as our customers," Sircy said. "My wife Keri and I really feel like our staff is part of our family, and because of that, I think we all work very well together, and really enjoy working with one another."
Founded in 1996 by restaurant entrepreneurs from Florida, Sircy came to work at the restaurant when it opened. A year later, Sircy became a partner in the Statesboro Ocean Galley with Mike Griffin, one of its original founders.
"I started working with these guys in 1977 at one of their Cedar River Seafood restaurants," Sircy said. "I was busing tables and later became a manager. They had 17 restaurants throughout Florida. I was looking for an opportunity to get into an ownership position, and I thought going to Georgia would be great."
Fourteen years later, the Ocean Galley is holding its own as a Statesboro favorite of both locals and those coming in from surrounding communities.
"My wife and I have been going there weekly for the last several years," said Glennville resident Monty Kraft. "It has the best food, and both Wayne and Keri are like children to us. When you go in there, they take the time to talk to you, see how you are doing, and they genuinely care. We look forward to seeing them every week."
Nestled in the Statesboro Square shopping center at the corner of Northside Drive and Lester Road, the restaurant is larger than it appears to be from the front.
"We have 128 seats, and employee 33 people - 14 full-time," said Sircy. "We depend on each other, and want to provide the best possible service and product that we can."
Sircy said the economy has been very challenging, but it hasn't affected how he manages and runs his restaurant in Statesboro, and the Ocean Galley that he owns in Claxton.
"The reality is that someone can eat at home a little bit cheaper," he said. "Dining out should be an experience, it should be entertaining, not just food. That is what we try to create, a really positive, warm experience for our customers."
Keri Sircy is an integral part of the operation, and said working so closely with her husband can be challenging.
"We work very well together, but we may disagree at times and certainly have a difference of opinion," she said. "However, we do agree on one thing, serving a wonderful product to our customers."
Sircy's manager in Claxton Adam Burgamy will be graduating from Georgia Southern University this fall with a degree in management with an emphasis on entrepreneurship. Sircy has given Burgamy free rein to develop new products.
"I love to cook, and I can't develop new dishes on a college student budget," Burgamy said. "Wayne lets me do that, and we have some exciting things that we are working on. Where else would somebody let you do that, but here."
Considered a father figure by his employees, and a son by many of his clientele, Sircy was asked to do something unusual by Crystal Sowell Barnes, an employee who worked for him while attending Statesboro High School and Georgia Southern before moving to Atlanta.
"My father passed away when I graduated from Statesboro High," Barnes said. "I had been working for him for nine years when I got married. Since my father was gone, I asked him to walk me down the aisle, and he graciously accepted. He is an amazing employer and friend. It was such a wonderful place to work."
Shaneka Brown has been working for Sircy since the restaurant opened.
"I was here when we cleaned it out from the previous owner getting ready to be the Ocean Galley," she said. "This job has helped me out so much. It has helped me provide for my two sons, and I have paid off cars and gone back to school working here."
Brown said the Sircys are like family to her and her children, and her regular customers are her friends.
"I have a full time job in the medical field now, and I only work two days at week at the restaurant, because I just can't give it up," she said. "When my regular customers don't come in, I get very worried about them. I enjoy it so much, it is a true pleasure working here. It is all about how people treat you, and if they can help you, they are right there to do so."