SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - A celebration last weekend of some of the deepest roots in Thunderbolt was more a reflection of what has grown from them.
“My brother decided he was going to open a sports bar and my dad jumped onboard. Of course, I was the little one, I was only 21 at the time,” said owner John Henderson.
That was a lifetime ago for John Henderson and Coach’s Corner, which has gone from being a place to watch a game to a part of so many lives, an acorn to an institution, that started modestly 30 years ago this week.
“We had three TVs, very limited kitchen equipment, a meat slicer and a hot dog machine. By the second week, we’d gotten a big screen, we’d gotten new kitchen equipment Fry Daddies, and we went to Sam’s to get wings.
That started the menu expansion that helped Coach’s grow into a family spot.
But another spark came later that first year, when the Braves went from worst to first and Henderson was suddenly the crazy guy sleeping in a tee pee in front of his bar.
“Who would have thought that first year we opened what would happen? A tomahawk goes on a pole. Then a bet goes to the World Series and a tee pee is erected, and what really was being funny turned into something of an institution.”
Coach’s would keep evolving over time, into a central part of the community - often holding fundraisers for folks in need.
“I came from my father who was always a giver. It’s in my blood, it’s in my family’s blood. And we’ve been very fortunate to be able to use Coach’s for those kinds of events.”
And last year, shifting gears to become a place where neighbors could find food and supplies as the pandemic shut down sports and bars.
“I did do it for the community, but I did it to stay alive. We’ve been through four hurricanes or five hurricanes, an ice storm, many other power outages, and we never closed. We open up, we stay open. That’s how we do it.”
What Coach’s does has changed constantly during the last 30 years.
Now, you’re as likely to go there for a concert as a college football game. But you are also likely to see the same people and the same passion for the business that have provided sports, food and fun since 1991.
“Think about 30 years, we’ve seen kids grow up. Two generations almost. The kids I saw grow up are having kids now. A lot of people that work here have worked here for 30 years. We’ve seen some come and go, some of my best friends are gone. Some of the people who helped build this place, John Hodges, my dad. It’s sad, but their memories are still here and we keep the memory going for them.
Last weekend was just the start. Henderson is planning a year-long celebration of Coach’s 30th anniversary and he says more local fundraisers than he has ever run before.