• Southern Palace, formerly located in Gentilly Plaza, closed in March after a non-renewal of their lease by Hull-Story-Gibson. The popular Chinese restaurant had operated in Statesboro for 17 years. Owner Huisfen Han has purchased the old Taco Bell at 224 South Main Street and has begun extensive renovations of the building to re-open Southern Palace in that location.They are hoping to be open for business by mid-October.
• The new owners of the Quality Inn on South Main have decided to not renew their franchise agreement with Manny's. However, the restaurant is open and will continue to operate under a new name which is yet to be determined. You can expect the same great menu and daily specials on food and drinks. The only thing that has changed is the name. The sign currently has been changed to display "Taste of Italian and Mediterranean Food." That is not the new name - simply a description of what type of food is being served. This is a temporary sign and will be updated once the name change is complete.
• Farmers Market Vendor of the Week: Sugar Magnolia.
Stereotypically in the South, if you hear someone refer to a man as "Bubba," you immediately have visions of "Larry the Cable Guy" and banjo music. Thanks to a new generation of southern Bubbas, that perception is changing.
Timothy "Bubba" Hunt of "Bubba San" fame encapsulates the new breed of "Bubbas." He is an innovator, risk taker and a trail blazer whose success seems to be tied into him shaking things up. At the same time, he has preserved one wonderful southern trait, a larger than life personality that everyone wants to drink a beer with.
I have known him since he came to the Boro in 1989 to attend Georgia Southern College. He impressed me the first time we met and continues to surprise me with the creativeness of his success. He has the unique entrepreneurial ability to see openings and opportunities in segments of the market and capitalize on them.
Bubba grew up in Hinesville and worked part time in a pawn shop there. When he came to Statesboro, he started working at Gallops Pawn while attending GSC. After working in the market for a few years he convinced his brother Tommy to give up his career in the HVAC field, move to the Boro and open a pawn shop. In 1992, they opened Security Pawn on Vine Street in Statesboro.
"It took all of our resources to open the business so we actually lived in the back of the store. Thank goodness there was a shower in the building," Bubba said.
The next year, they opened their second location on Zetterower Avenue and changed the name to Pawn City. They continued to grow the company and brought in childhood friend Bobby Coble in 1998 as general manager of the stores. Bobby was managing two Food Lion grocery stores and brought with him the growth and management experience they needed to take the chain to the next level. Bobby focused on growing the company rapidly. They now have seven Pawn Citys, located in Statesboro, Claxton, Glennville and Jesup. Bobby, along with regional manager Eric Hood and their team run the Pawn City Company. Tommy Hunt now owns Tom's Pawn Central with locations in Metter, Swainsboro, Lyons and Waynesboro.
Bubba saw an opportunity in the used car market and launched Car City in 2003. He ran Car City day to day until he sold it last year to Patriot Auto Sales. During that 10-year span they sold nearly 3,600 cars.
Part of his success involved tremendously creative marketing. For Pawn City, they created the "Gold Man," who quickly became a household name. Then he created "Bubba San" promoting Car City. Both of these became viral before any of us even understood what viral meant.
After selling Car City, Bubba immediately began looking for another market segment he could enter. After months of looking at different opportunities, he decided to obtain his real estate license and joined the Coldwell Banker Tanner Realty team earlier this year.
With great name recognition already, Bubba has taken the real estate industry by storm. He has injected the same successful energy that has worked in his other businesses, which includes leveraging relationships coupled with targeted, creative marketing.
An example of this is the partnership he has negotiated with Georgia Southern athletics, which will allow him to once again have a presence at their home games. You will see him on the sidelines launching Coldwell Banker T-shirts from his now famous T-Shirt cannon. Of course, each T-Shirt will have a cartoon drawing of Bubba. This sponsorship also includes the designation as the official realtor for GSU Athletics. A deal that two local realtors walked away from before Bubba accepted.
"In business branding is everything. What better way to build a brand than to align myself with one of the best brands in the state - Georgia Southern athletics," Bubba said.
You will see this branding on his mobile billboard that includes his picture, the GSU logo and the words, "Buy from me and move for free."
Each client of his gets free use of the large truck to move into their new home.
I asked Bubba if we will be seeing a unique marketing icon like "Bubba San" or the "Gold Man" anytime soon. His reply, "Stay tuned."
Bubba is married to Kim and has two children Madelyn, 14, and Matthew, 11.
"Kim met me before I was successful. She has been my constant cheerleader for me and all my crazy ideas," he said.
Please email DeWayne at firstname.lastname@example.org or give him a call at (912) 489-9499.