On its last day in business, Snooky’s was busy from 5:30 a.m.
Prior to the usual 6 a.m. opening time, a church group had met for a last devotional breakfast at the restaurant. By 7:30, the place was packed with many of the regulars who nearly lived there, as well as occasional patrons stopping in to savor memories with grits, eggs, coffee and commemorative T-shirts.
For the breakfast crowd, at least, the parting need not be completely final. A portion of the Snooky’s workforce is heading to nearby RJ’s Seafood & Steaks, which will begin offering “Snooky’s Breakfast at RJ’s” beginning Monday.
It cannot be quite the same for regulars such as general contractor Tim Peabody. He and his friends said, with some justification, that Snooky’s Restaurant was Peabody’s office.
“I probably do as much business here as I do in my real office,” he said.
Now 63, Peabody has been a regular at Snooky’s since it opened 41 years ago. With construction slow in recent years, he confessed, he would spend “two, three, four hours” there some mornings.
“But you know, I’ll pick up a job – somebody will say ‘I need to get something done,’ while I’m here,” Peabody said. “And it’s a good way to start the day. You come in here and have some good fellowship.”
His brother, Mauri Peabody, who lives in Atlanta, was also there and said he will miss the restaurant, having visited many times over the years. On the final Saturday they shared a round table with other regulars such as Donald NeSmith, Arthur Howard and Garland Nessmith.
Members of this group described how Snooky’s owner Bruce Yawn would allow them to bring in leftovers from neighborhood barbecues, or homemade cakes and pies, and share them at their table. At times, the Snooky’s kitchen staff even cooked meals to order after patrons brought in the ingredients.
That some people ate at Snooky’s virtually every day of their lives – but preferred to bring their own food – was part of the years of good-natured ribbing that simmered thicker than the grits.
“Bruce has always said that this would have been a good place for a restaurant,” joshed Donald NeSmith. “He talks about how much take-in business he did,” added Peabody.
Nearby at the counter, Yawn kept busy operating the cash register while holding his emotions in check. He smiled while customers around several tables stood and sang “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow” circa 8 a.m. Then he looked a little glassy-eyed and said, “They’re trying me.” The spontaneous chorus did seem to originate with the group that had just been interviewed.
“It was time”
When customers asked how he was feeling, Yawn said he would miss the place but “it was time.”
He has sold the building and parking area to Alpharetta-based Glenn Ridge Development, which plans to build a shopping center with a CVS Pharmacy and other retail space at the corner of Fair Road and Tillman Road. As previously reported, the developer has obtained a total of six neighboring parcels, including the current Andrews Klean Corner, two office buildings, a tanning salon and two apartment buildings. Andrews Klean Corner owner Eddie Stephens plans to use the Snooky’s building, which isn’t slated to be torn down, as an interim site for the dry cleaning business until a new one is built next to CVS.
The deal will allow Yawn to retire. He and his father, Vivian D. “Snooky” Yawn, opened the restaurant in 1971, and Bruce’s brother Bobby was also involved for a number of years. Originally on the opposite side of the Fair Road intersection, Snooky’s relocated to the present building in 1977. Snooky Yawn had retired from the business years prior to his death in 2002, but bequeathed it a memorable name.
Bruce’s wife Carol and other family members were present during Saturday’s breakfast time and shared some of the restaurant’s history.
Carol Yawn, who retired in 2008 after 21 years as counselor at Statesboro High School, said she was involved only behind the scenes at the restaurant but felt bittersweet to see Saturday arrive. The Yawns’ three children, Jeff, Nancy and Susan, also have careers away from the restaurant, but it has served as a frequent gathering place for them and the Yawns’ nine grandchildren.
“I’m very happy for Bruce. He’s worked very hard and I’m very pleased for him, but I will miss the people, miss it as a meeting place for seeing family and friends, definitely,” said Mrs. Yawn. “It’s going to be a real, major adjustment for our whole family.”
The restaurant’s 12 employees are also facing an adjustment. As a farewell gesture, Yawn divided all of Saturday’s sales, as well as the tips, evenly among the employees.
Round the corner
Five of them, including four waitresses and a cook, are making the transition to RJ’s. With only Sunday to rest or prepare, they are scheduled to begin serving “Snooky’s Breakfast at RJ’s” Monday at 6 a.m. RJ’s owner Randy Nessmith said this will be the first time in its 30 years of operation that his restaurant has offered breakfast.
Operating initially as a separate crew, the former Snooky’s employees will serve breakfast from 6 a.m. till 11 a.m. Monday through Saturday.
Snooky’s manager and head waitress Alice Chastain is one of those who are “going round the corner” to RJ’s. After 16 years at Snooky’s, she described Saturday as sad.
“They say it’s just a building and we make it what we put into it and everything, but we’ve made some really nice friends and we consider them all family here,” Chastain said.
“Change is different, but it will work out,” she added. “We’re going to take our menu and our waitresses and our cook and go over to RJ’s and we’ll just do over there what we’ve been doing over here.”
Some, but not all, of Saturday’s regular customers were members of the venerable SnookPac. The self-described “tongue in cheek,” Snooky’s-based political action committee had met Friday morning for a final roll of the dice – which was SnookPac’s way of deciding who picked up the check. A full-page ad from the group, bidding Snooky’s “Thanks for the Memories,” then appeared on the back of Saturday’s Herald.
Indeed, as the ad proclaimed, Georgia Southern Eagles football coach and real-life legend Erk Russell “held court at the round table” for years. Many politicians also visited Snooky’s over the past four decades for face-to-face meetings with Statesboro’s movers-and-shakers, as well as ordinary folks.
Snooky’s closed for business at 2 p.m., its usual Saturday closing time. Staff and family members planned to gather for cake, ice cream and photos before calling it a day – and 41 years.