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Checkers nearly back on board
Building in place, February reopening possible
The new, modular Checkers drive-thru restaurant building is in place on Northside Drive East at Buckhead Drive, but paving remains to be done. A mid-to-late February opening is possible. - photo by AL HACKLE/Staff

After disappearing from Statesboro 32 months ago, the popular Checkers drive-thru restaurant brand is re-emerging here, this time a little farther out Northside Drive East, between the former Payless ShoeSource store and the KFC at Buckhead Drive.

The new Checkers modular building with the familiar red, black and white tile pattern is in place. Work, such as preparations for paving the drive-thru and parking area, continues under general contractor Tippins-Polk Construction. Valerie Babb, managing member of StarrChex Georgia, which owns the Statesboro franchise, said the restaurant here may be ready to open by mid-to-late February.

Among the people looking forward to that reopening are Babb and her husband Stan, who together developed the new location, and StarrChex Georgia operating partner Danny Linderman, as well as at least half a dozen employees who worked at the previous Statesboro Checkers and are slated to return.

It closed May 1, 2017, through no fault of the employees or management.

“We’ve wanted to come back over the past two years much more quickly than has happened,” Babb said. “But yes, we just love the town of Statesboro, the people – our employees there were awesome, and the customers – so we just have great anticipation about reopening. We can’t get there soon enough.”

Managers returning

The franchise owners had operated a Checkers drive-thru restaurant at 418 Northside Drive East, in front of the Southern Square shopping center, for 22 years when the property owner, Hull Property Group, did not renew the lease. As announced in 2017, after the Checkers team vacated the property, the little drive-thru structure was torn down and a larger building constructed to house Aspen Dental, then new to Statesboro, and the new AT&T store.

“It was a great restaurant for us, so we didn’t want to leave at the time,” Babb said.

Dija Wardlaw, who started working at the Statesboro Checkers when she was 16 and still in high school, had worked there almost 20 years, including 10 as the location’s manager, when it closed. StarrChex Georgia kept her on as s district manager in the Savannah stores, and she will now be returning.

Other returning members of the Checkers Statesboro management team include Charlise Powell, Charneighsha Joyce, Jaqui Williams, Aquario Kearse and LaToya Johnson, Babb stated in an email.

New design

The new Checkers building is a modular one, which Babb said arrived in four sections on three trucks in December. It measures 970 square feet. Compared to the previous, tiny 575-square-foot structure, that’s about 70% more room for employees to prepare the burgers, hotdogs, wings and sandwiches and pour the soft drinks and Slushies.

In addition to the drive-thru, the layout features three outdoor picnic tables and a place for walk-up service.

Unlike the old Statesboro location, the new one will have two drive-thru lanes merging to a single service window, instead of a dual drive-thru with two separate windows.  The Checkers-Rally’s corporate website calls this a Model 4.0 building.

“The concept is that, because you can streamline things better internally with just one, that it is actually faster,” Babb said.


Family tradition

Her father, Bernard Dixon, now 91 and retired, had invested in McDonald’s franchises before he became a Checkers’ franchisee in the early 1990s. He launched nine Checkers restaurants, including several in the Savannah area and the one here.

Joe Dyer opened and originally managed the Statesboro location.

Over the years, one of the Savannah locations closed and a few of Dixon’s other Checkers were sold to other owners. Linderman, who had been Dyer’s first hire, bought Dyer’s portion of the company. More recently, Dabb bought her parents’ and sisters’ portions in StarrChex Georgia.

StarrChex Georgia now owns four Checkers locations besides the one about to relaunch in Statesboro. Two are in Savannah, one is in Hinesville, and the other is in Waycross. Apart from her partnership in the StarrChex Georgia franchises, Babb with her parents and sisters own six Checkers in Louisiana through a separate company called StarChex LA. 

No date-certain

With paving remaining to be done, Babb noted that all the recent rain has caused some delay. She did not make a definite prediction of the opening date but only provided a target range.

“We’re looking at some time in February,” she said. “It won’t be the first part of February, so mid-to-late February.”

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