He opened up his own barbeque shop last fall in Register. He has, over the past year, expanded his catering business and collaborated with other local business owners.
Now, Travis Phillips, known as "Shug, the Painted Chef," is doing something a little bit different from just catering - he will open a wedding venue in Claxton in early November.
The venue actually already has a name: Hames Hall. It is a striking, Greek Revival-style home that has 6,000 square feet space, is fully furnished and sits on 25 acres of land.
Phillips did not just come up with the idea to open a wedding hall out of nowhere. For him, it was years in the making.
Getting the venue
As Phillips explained it, every wedding vendor/caterer thinks about having their own venue at some point.
"I've catered for nine years, and I'm always going to somebody else's venue and catering, and you always just think about having your own venue," Phillips said.
He had been looking at places for a while, but when he first saw Hames Hall in February 2017, he knew he needed to jump on the opportunity.
"This is (appearance-wise) a wedding venue," he said. "But this place has been a private residence since 1950, since the year it was built. Not a lot of people know about this place other than Claxton people."
Phillips submitted an offer, and the real estate agent for the property said that another offer had been accepted.
"I assumed it was a done deal, because anyone that could get this house for what I offered on it the first go-around, it would be a steal," Phillips said.
In late May, the real estate agent called him and told him the buyer had backed out, meaning the property was back up for sale.
"It is valued at about a million dollars, but got it below that price because the sellers were looking to get rid of it," Phillips said.
Interestingly enough, a Savannah-based church owned it before Phillips bought it. In 2015, the church donated it to a homeless shelter, the Union Mission.
"The Union Mission owned it for two-and-a-half years, so I actually bought this place from a homeless shelter," Phillips said.
Right now, Phillips is in the process of having people clear out the landscaping around the house.
"I started out a list and a timeline to know what I needed to do first...you just can't jump in and do everything at once," Phillips said. "There's a order that I wasn't really thinking about. I just needed it done. And then I was told the order (by contractors)."
Vision for the venue
Phillips likes that he will be offer to combine several features at his venue that he likes from other venues.
When it opens, Hames Hall will include a swimming pool, an area to set up buffets and an ice machine.
"I want to get back to some of the more elegant, old-fashioned type of weddings, to where
people did want to get married at a plantation, and they did want to get married on the front steps, and they did want to be able to stay at the house," Phillips said.
As well, Phillips' daughter, Allison Phillips, will be moving from Nashville, Tenn., to run the wedding venue.
At first, Travis asked past associates of his to send him resumes. However, when Allison visited her father in August for her birthday, he showed her the house.
"She actually mentioned it to me, and I didn't think anything about it, because I didn't figure she'd move back into a small town to do anything about it," Phillips said.
A few weeks ago, Phillips called his daughter and they confirmed her moving down to the area.
Allison Phillips has grown up in the Statesboro area, but has lived in a few other places in Tennessee.
"If you talk to my parents, they'll always say that I'm trying to leave, but home keeps pulling me back," Phillips said.
She has had an ongoing intuition that she would move back home to help her father with his business as it grows, but did not think she would be relocating this soon.
"I'm excited to come home just because family is there. I have a lot of friends wherever I have lived, but there's nothing like a support system like your family, the ones who know you the most," Phillips said.
Phillips emphasized that the wedding hall have helped Travis craft his own rules when it comes to business.
"He kind of did things the way he saw them, and in a way that made sense to him," Phillips said.
She and Travis both have one business-related thing in common. Neither of them have run a venue before.
Travis Phillips said, "The only advice I told her is I didn't want her to read a book on how to manage a wedding venue. I wanted her to write a book on it, and figure out."