After 37 years, Dave Miles is leaving Grandy's kitchen
The last Florida Grandy's restaurantt will bid farewell to its location in Gainesville on its 29th birthday. Dave Miles has stood by this particular establishment from concrete being poured to the development of a current "fast casual" restaurant visited by thousands and loved by many today. However, after careful consideration of the financial state of the University Ave. location, on August 21, 2014, the doors will close for good to make way for a PDQ restaurant opening.
Grandy's has been a part of Dave's life since he was a 16-year-old high school student trying to earn a few bucks after school in 1977 in Brunswick, GA. As one of the original employees at that location, he started in the kitchen. By his freshman year in junior college, he was an assistant manager. Even when he went to Georgia Southern and participated in the work study program there, on weekends and holidays when he could, Brunswick Grandy's welcomed him back with open arms.
At age 22, he had a life-changing decision to make. He had already graduated in spring 1983 from Georgia Southern with a degree in journalism â€“ yes, journalism â€“ and was faced with two career possibilities: not only did the Dublin Gazette offer him a position, but so did his long-time workplace, Grandy's. Desiring to be a sports reporter, he was not sold on the reporting position offered by the DG, which was to cover municipal events. Brunswick Grandy's, however, offered him an opportunity to run his own store at a new location in Gainesville, Florida -- plus Dave would get double the salary of the reporter job and the bonus of a partnership in the next restaurant.
But what truly sealed the deal?
"I negotiated a company car...a Mazda pick-up truck. We used it for deliveries."
In January 1985, he moved to Gainesville with his wife and worked at the local Kash & Karry while the space for the new building was being approved. By August, he hung up his apron to head over to Grandy's for 29 years of ups and downs.
"We thought we were going to cater to a younger crowd. Ultimately, that didn't work out."
As the last open Grandy's in Florida â€“ there were 13 at one time â€“ and one of only 50 left nationwide â€“ there were a couple hundred at the height of Grandy's business â€“ it was a tough decision for Dave to make. While he is sad to see this family establishment come to a close and he calls it a "dying breed," ultimately he did not want to renew another 5-year lease due to declines in sales over the years that solidified the decision.
And I for one could not believe the main source of this decline in sales.
"It's the medians (on University Ave.) that were built in 2005-2006. The numbers showed that it was the access to the location that diminished sales. They dropped by about $250,000 in a year. That, and the 2008 recession didn't help."
However, the success of Grandy's for so many years was surely attributed at least in part to the unique dining experience and quality food selections. Dave claims that the most popular dish was probably the country fried steak. His personal favorite is currently the chicken tenders, which he added are prepared fresh and breaded in-house. Also, while his hands were tied due to Grandy's being a franchise, he felt that the establishment could have benefited from adding something akin to a spicy chicken gizzard dish to the menu. Apparently, there is a niche market for livers and gizzards. Who would have known?
But the highlight of working at Grandy's?
"The highlight of tenure was being able to work with my (three) kids- my 27-year-old son, 25-year-old daughter, and 18-year-old daughter."
So what's next after the doors close for good?
"I don't have any idea."