The cafeteria line is gone and a new name will soon take the place of Danny’s Restaurant. But the menu and many of the dishes will be, if not the same, very similar—from the banana pudding to the yeast rolls.
Danny’s owner, Danny Phillips, recently sold the business lock, stock and recipes to Dawn Powell, owner of Dawsonville’s Papa’s Place Family Restaurant.
Those doing the cooking, and serving up the dishes at Papa’s Place in Dahlonega will also be familiar to many of Danny’s regular customers. Powell has kept on the entire staff.
Though there will no longer be a cafeteria line of choices, many of the same items will be available with the daily specials.
“I went down and ate at the Dawsonville Papa’s Place,” said Phillips. “They have a good variety of meats and vegetables. It was real good. She’ll do well here.”
Danny’s has done well there also.
HOT GREASE KNOW-HOW
Phillips opened Danny’s Restaurant Sept. 1, 1978.
He was a cook in the Army, but, he said, that was not really a help when he opened the restaurant.
“In the Army you cooked for 400 or 500 people, and it was their way, not yours,” he said. “I did learn some things, though, like how to tell how hot grease was in the field without a thermometer.”
(For the curious, you throw a piece of white bread in the grease and its color will tell you if it is too hot or just right.)
But Phillips had always worked around food, first in the grocery business with Grady Butler beginning at the age of 14, and later as manager of the Tasty Freeze.
“I was just a young kid with a dream for a business of my own when this property came available,” said Phillips. “I had a slick tongue—and no money— but I was able to buy it. It was Eugene Moore’s Mucho’s back then.”
At that time he and his wife, Bea, had 4-year-old son Kevin and Sabrina had yet to be born.
First named “Danny’s Burgers,” when he remodeled in 1988 he decided to put in a cafeteria line. The idea turned out to be a good one. Over the years Danny’s grew a steady return customer base, with folks who often came every week to lunch on their favorites. Among his best sellers were roast beef, turkey and dressing, yeast rolls, banana pudding and cobblers.
“Thursday [roast beef and turkey day] was the biggest day, other than Sunday,” Phillips said. “But everybody had their favorite day.”
Danny’s was not on the market when Powell’s partner [Larry Huff] approached him about selling the business.
“I didn’t get excited when Larry approached me,” Phillips said. “But they were looking for a place and it just kind of worked out. This kind of opportunity doesn’t come around every day.”
Phillips didn’t tell his customers right away that he was selling the restaurant.
“I kept it quiet for two weeks before I told my regular customers. Nobody believed me. I think I shocked the whole town,” he said. “People would ask me when I was going to retire and I’d say when I was 80 or when this old body makes me. Well, retirement came a little earlier than either one.”
He did, however, talk it over with his family and let his employees know about his plans. Some of those employees had never worked for anyone else other than Danny.
Brenda Loske started as a dishwasher. It was her first job, she said. She retired in November, not long before the business sold.
Loske didn’t remain a dishwasher long. During a snow storm right after she came on board, she was the only employee to show up for work.
“There Danny was trying to cook and wait on tables, and he asked me to fill in as a waitress. After that I got promoted to waitress,” she said, and continued to move up in position and pay.
“I worked with Danny over 30 years,” she said. “He took me under this wing and taught me a lot. I always felt like he was the father I never had.”
And just like fathers and daughters everywhere they would “fight like cats and dogs, but always made up,” she said. “I stayed because he made me feel good. I watched his kids grow up—they were about the same age as mine. I love his family and Bea. I’m going to miss them all—and the other employees and customers.”
Danny did take a year’s retirement in 2011, after selling the business, but not the property, to a man who wanted to give restauranteering a try. When it didn’t work out Danny took the opportunity to do renovations and went back to work, making meals for the community.
“Danny’s a workaholic,” Bea said. “He worked seven days a week for a long time. The last three years he started closing at night instead of serving three meals a day. I don’t know how many hours he worked. He could do anything in there—he could do it all. And he was faster on the grill than anybody his customers have told me.”
A FAMILY ENTERPRISE
Bea never worked in the restaurant—with the exception of one day when Danny was short-staffed and asked her to be the hostess. She didn’t want to “interfere” with his business, she said. “It wouldn’t be good to have two bosses. We each did our own thing [she was in banking] and supported each other. That worked for us.”
Kevin and Sabrina worked there during their high school years, and some during college. Kevin became his “right-hand man until he was about 30,” Danny said. He has been working with his father again for the past several years, and will continue to work with Powell when she is ready to open.
Powell is relatively new to the food service industry.
“One of the first things the employees asked me was how long I’d been in the restaurant business,” Powell said. “I’ve been in my own retail business forever, but my daughter [Katlin] and I opened Papa’s Place in Dawsonville six years ago, at Katlin’s request.”
Katlin loved her grandfather, and encouraged her mother to fulfill his dream.
Powell’s father, Frank Lippolis, “was a great lover of people and food,” she said. “He always wanted to do this—have a restaurant. That’s where the name Papa’s Place comes from.”
Photographs of Powell’s family adorn the walls.
“We want to encourage people to sit down and eat together around the table. That was important to my dad. Today, that’s a lost art,” Powell said.
Powell “like[s] to be in the background,” she said, so she acts as general manager while her daughter is “front of house,” taking care of hiring/firing, scheduling, ordering and inventory, customer relations and anything to do with what happens in the restaurant proper.
“We’re excited to become a part of Lumpkin County. The people can expect to be given the same great service and same great food they are used to getting here at Danny’s,” Powell promised.
As for Danny, he said Bea is “tickled” that he is retiring.
“I think she’s been waiting on me to retire a good while,” he said.
He’s not sure what he will spend his time doing. He plans to “just take it easy and figure out what I will do. I would like to travel some, and play with my grandkids.”
“We both like to travel,” Bea said. “We’re very close and we like to do things together, especially with the family. I think we’re going to have a good time.”
It won’t all be fun and games, however. Bea is busy making a “honey-do” list.
“All those years of working so many hours, there are lots of things around here that need doing,” she said.
Despite keeping busy with home maintenance projects, grandchildren and travel, Danny is going to miss seeing his employees and old customers and friends. They have allowed him to live his dream of having his own business and providing for his family. They have become a second family to him over the years.
“I truly thank this community for the support they’ve given me all these years. All my regular customers, employees … I’ve grown really close to most of them. I couldn’t have done what I’ve accomplished without them,” he said.
Customers will have a few more opportunities to see Danny. He will be around for several weeks once Papa’s Place opens.
“I want to see her [Powell] get off to a good start,” Danny said.