End of an Era: Johnny Harris closes May 28

End of an Era: Johnny Harris closes May 28

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - This Memorial Day Weekend may mark the unofficial beginning of summer, but for one family and their thousands of dedicated followers, it will mark the end of a nearly century long run.

The old Johnny Harris restaurant will close its doors after dinner Saturday. And that is already cooking up a flood of emotions for its patrons, and a questionable future for an area that already sees traffic as bit "over-done".

"I'm sorry to see it closing but I know that all good things come to an end sometimes," said Phyllis Hardman, Johnny Harris regular.

Hardeman and her friends have the only booth at Johnny Harris that is reserved. You'd probably do the same thing if customers had been coming in since 1939. In fact, this is one of the few restaurants in all of Savannah that can come close to having customers as loyal.

Barbara Crow's grandparents dated here. Friday, the menu knows her by heart.

"Had the crab au gratin and then had some of their coconut cream pie. Usually I get the trifle," said Crow.

And then there's Mary Hollis. She finally got the cookbook, signed. Her memories of coming here were often more like coming home.

"We'd eat in the kitchen. And meet everybody in the kitchen. That was the best part for me was to be in the kitchen," said Hollis.

Saturday night, the plates here get stacked, the aprons get hung and the memory making officially ends.

"Perhaps the saddest part about losing the Johnny Harris restaurant building has nothing to do with the folks finishing up their meals inside, but for the rest of us who are going to have to deal with the traffic nightmares here on Victory Drive once this new shopping center goes in here. In fact, even the Metropolitan Planning Commission will find solving that one, tougher than an old steak."

So much along this stretch of Victory has already given in to progress.

"When we moved here it was all azaleas and palm trees and it was beautiful. And it was busy but it was still quiet.  And that's gone and it can never be reclaimed," Hollis said.

The city isn't even sure yet what to do when the streets are traveling with a few thousand more cars an hour. It is, for many who loved this restaurant and its location, insult to injury.

It's probably solvable but it won't happen for ten or so years down the road to get it straightened out so. In the meantime, it's going to be hectic," said Lori and Ken Scriven.

Back inside Johnny Harris, the last meal here for a couple of 60-year-old patrons, turns a bit philosophical.

You go over to Europe and things are 2,000 years old and they're still standing. But, we tear things down," Hardemon said.

For those who want the memories at least, to continue on, the owners are holding on online auction of furnishings, artwork and other restaurant memorabilia from June 13 through the 22.

Interested parties can preview the items online. They may also visit the restaurant at 1651 E. Victory Drive on Wednesday, June 15, Saturday, June 18 and Tuesday, June 21 between the hours of 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. to see the items first hand. A portion of the proceeds from the auction will go to local charities.

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