Ocean Galley Seafood & Steak Express, nearing completion on Lanier Drive across from Paulson Stadium, will give the Ocean Galley chain four locations, including a second in Statesboro, its hometown.
Tucked away in a shopping center near Statesboro High School on Lester Road, the original Ocean Galley Seafood has grown loyal family customers for more than 16 years under the skilled guidance of managing partner Wayne Sircy. A foray into Dublin about eight years ago didn't last, but Ocean Galley established a successful offshoot in Claxton, the first Ocean Galley Express, in March 2008. A third successful Ocean Galley opened in Vidalia in late 2012 and has already paid off its loan.
Meanwhile, the original Ocean Galley on Lester Road has felt no lack of customers.
"Statesboro itself and all the surrounding towns - Metter, Sylvania, Portal, Brooklet, Swainsboro - everybody has been real good to us," Sircy said. "We're hidden, we're not on the main drag at all, but word of mouth kept us going and it's really what has made us."
However, Ocean Galley has been unable to get many bites from one big niche in the Statesboro market: Georgia Southern University students. They make up 2 percent or less of the restaurant's customers, Sircy said, despite ads designed to appeal to them and participation in the Eagle Express program.
So the Lanier Drive express restaurant, going into the former Don Corleone's Pizza & Pub location after extensive remodeling, is an unabashed cast to the university crowd.
"If I can't get them to come to me, I'm going to them," Sircy said, "and it's going to be a lot of handheld sandwiches, shrimp and oyster po' boys and stuff like that, and of course we're going to have our platters that made us known."
The new Express will offer smaller, less expensive versions of some meals to appeal to fast-paced collegiate customers. Although it will not have a drive-thru, the new location will accommodate customers picking up to-go orders in a waiting area lined with Georgia Southern Eagles memorabilia. It will have a dine-in area with about 65 seats, roughly half the size of the original restaurant.
Ocean Galley Seafood & Steak Express, Lanier Drive, will also offer something the other three Ocean Galley restaurants do not, beer and wine.
Sircy and Ocean Galley Regional Manager Adam Burgamy said they hope to have the Express open Oct. 25.
Burgamy, who turns 25 this month, started working at Ocean Galley as a GSU sophomore five and a half years ago and received his bachelor's degree in management with an emphasis in entrepreneurship in 2011. After showing leadership at all three existing stores, Burgamy has been awarded an ownership stake by Sircy and the company's founding partner, Michael Griffin, and is making decisions in the new restaurant's design and construction.
It will be a place "where the average college student on the average student budget can come in and afford to get fresh, cooked-to-order seafood, steaks, burgers, sandwiches, pasta dishes and feel like they're in their own environment," Burgamy said.
Wayne's tough year
The new location's opening promises an upbeat autumn note after a difficult summer for Sircy, whose home was destroyed by fire just days before he underwent a liver transplant.
About 15 years ago - a year taking over the original Ocean Galley - Sircy was diagnosed with fatty liver disease. Doctors at the time told him he might live with it for 40 years. But the disease progressed more rapidly. A gastroenterologist told Sircy if he ever looked in the mirror and saw a man he thought was dying to come see him.
Sircy made that call in autumn 2013.
After beginning the process, Sircy went on and off the list for a transplant several times before his deteriorating health moved him to the top in June.
He had been on oxygen, and oxygen bottles were awaiting removal from the garage of his family's home when he started up his motorcycle there on June 26. An interaction between heat from the motorcycle's engine and oxygen from the tanks caused a fire that quickly destroyed the house he and wife Keri shared with their three children. Everyone got out safely.
The liver transplant at Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta went forward July 5. Sircy remained in the hospital about 12 days but started feeling better the day after the surgery, he said.
He returned to work at the restaurant after about six weeks and, when interviewed two weeks ago, had yet to take another day off.
"I like what I do," he said. "I like the family environment that it makes with your customers. I've been to their houses for dinner because some of them want to cook for me."