Randy Nessmith, owner of R.J.'s Grill, announced Sunday that he has completed the sale of his restaurant to local entrepreneur and restaurateur Stacy Underwood.
The sale of R.J.'s Grill to Underwood means that the restaurant will not close on Sept. 4, as was announced last week. Underwood is well established locally in the restaurant industry as the owner of Uncle Shug's Chicken Barn in Statesboro, Uncle Shug's Bar-B-Q Place in Brooklet and Ronnie's in Savannah.
"This has been the craziest five days of my life," Nessmith said. "When DeWayne Grice's story announced through the Statesboro Herald my decision to close the restaurant on Wednesday, I had no idea the firestorm that would ensue. It is very humbling to learn the impact R.J.'s has had on this community and how so many of you were
determined not to simply allow a landmark like R.J.'s to go away. Many of our loyal clients and friends reached out to me through hundreds of visits, calls and posts on social media.
"However, DeWayne not only reported my decision but led an effort locally to connect me with potential investors and also to Stacy, the eventual buyer of R.J.'s," Nessmith continued. "I never dreamed that we could identify a buyer and put a deal together in five days, especially when two of those days were Saturday and Sunday. We did, and I could not have selected a better person to succeed me than Stacy Underwood. He will breathe new life into everyone's favorite local Statesboro restaurant."
Since the story announcing plans to close the restaurant was posted on the Statesboro Herald's Facebook page, it has been shared more than 1,000 times and garnered more than 200 comments from followers. Many have shared memories made at R.J.'s over the past 35 years - prom dates, family and class reunions, marriage proposals, baby showers and more.
My wife, Lori, and I held our rehearsal dinner there, and it was the place where we announced that we were expecting our daughter, Edie Grace, to our family and friends. For most of us, it is what we remember eating at Grandmother's house was like. Great food is only part of the reason we all go to R.J.'s; it is one of the few places in town where the owner and staff greet you by name.
The list of landmarks here are dwindling, including the loss of Bunny's, Webb's Nic Nac Grill, Franklin's, Craig's Deli, Snooky's and, most recently, The Soda Shoppe at Medical Center Pharmacy. We can't become America's Greatest Community by continuing to allow everything that makes us special to simply disappear.
The shares, comments and utter shock since the announcement is symbolic of everything great about Statesboro. Thankfully, there are business leaders in our community that share these sentiments and are willing to step up. The effort to keep R.J.'s alive is not only remarkable but a restoration of a commitment to keep traditions alive throughout the community.
"Randy Nessmith has set the bar high for everyone in the restaurant industry in our community," Underwood said. "I have always admired him and the way he operates R.J.'s Grill. We have been friends for many years, and I look forward to working with him to make this transition as smooth as possible. I have no immediate plans to change anything.
"Hopefully, the entire staff will stay in place, and all of you who have been so faithful to R.J.'s, from hosting meetings and events on-site (or) allowing them to cater your events or meetings off-site to making it your choice for breakfast, lunch or dinner, will continue to support R.J.'s Grill.
"My son John is a junior at Georgia Southern University and has interest in the restaurant business," he continued. "This expansion is a natural evolution for our family and business. We are excited to open this new chapter in our lives and thank each of you who have supported our restaurants and your commitment to continue supporting us. You, our customers, are the real key to our success."
The structure of the deal encourages Nessmith to stay involved in the restaurant, mentoring and consulting Underwood and the management team.
Darron Burnette, Brad Sheffield and the entire team at Sea Island Bank worked tirelessly over the weekend to see the deal through.
To read the full interview with Nessmith, click here.
DeWayne Grice may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (912) 489-9499.