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Time was, folks thought Georgia barbecue was only about the pig. But the joints, shacks, sheds and roadhouses peppering our near-pristine coast speak to a wider palate that melds equal portions Kansas City, Memphis and Austin with the sharp tang of the Carolinas and the salt of the sea to smoke up something all its own. For this, our annual food issue, we hit the road to discover and name a dozen hot spots for our inaugural barbecue trail. Follow along our finger-lickin’ route, as we travel south to north along the coast. Research and Styling by Jason B. James & Meta Adler  |  Photography Jason B. James
A Note From Our Researchers: We know people are as passionate about their barbecue as they are about their college football. Taste is entirely subjective. And, some of you readers will not find your favorites on this list. But when we conceived of a homegrown barbecue trail, we didn’t set out to create an exhaustive survey of every barbecue joint in Savannah and the surrounding area, nor did we seek to judge which pitmaster is the best. We simply ate, then we went back for seconds and thirds to find 12 worth mentioning this time around. We included some cherished standbys and some new ones we’d been aiming to try for a while. We hope you’ll write us and share stories about some of the most memorable butts, ribs and birds you’ve enjoyed—even if they’re from your own backyard. Here’s to a drop of sauce on your pant leg.
There’s the Rub
If you take exit 29 to the outskirts of Brunswick west of I-95, you’ll find the Lee family still smoking meats at their quaint convenience store just like they’ve been doing since the 1980s. Devotees line up for their favorites five days a week, curling in and around shelves of stocked dry goods and everyday gas station fare. The menu serves up the staples, for sure—pork, ribs, brisket and chicken wings—but we’d chase after the tender, mellow half yardbird any day of the week and twice on Sundays. Gary Lee’s Market, 3636 U.S. Highway 82, Brunswick, on Facebook  
0384-1023Amen and Hallelujah
Since 2007, Griffin Bufkin and pitmaster Harrison Sapp have been doling out classic cuts and heaping sides to sate hungry purists at this former gas station on St. Simon’s Island. But it’s the ever-changing daily specials at Southern Soul Barbeque that keep Golden Islanders coming back for more. On any given day, long lines of fans patiently wait to settle in with their own smoked and griddled bologna sandwich, slathered shrimp or sweet tea-brined pork chop cordon bleu. Southern Soul Barbeque, 2020 Demere Road, St. Simons Island,  
0384-312Out of the Ashes
Pitmaster Bryan “B” Furman set aside his welding torch and picked up a basting brush to shellac heritage pigs smoked low and slow over oak- and cherry-kissed fire. His fans are legion, as evidenced by their fundraising efforts after his first outpost burned down. Now, Bryan and his wife are packing them in on Savannah’s southside, where they come first for the succulent spiced ribs and stay for a second helping of hashalacki and rice. Word to the wise: taste first, then dress your pork in a combo of the peach and vinegar sauces. B’s Cracklin’ BBQ, 12409 White Bluff Road,  
0384-752Hell on Wheels
In-the-know locals lean and chat as smoke rolls from the roadside shed garnished in graphic flames near the corner of Bull and Victory. They wait, not only for their cars to get detailed but also for the take-out-only delights from Ricky and Maureen Walker’s Trick’s Barbecue. The couple began serving their feisty fare on the weekends during winter months to subsidize the lean times when folks weren’t as apt to get their cars cleaned. Word spread, as it often does here, and soon, the Walkers were smokin’ weekdays year-round. Drop by for a car wash and stay for the smoked lamb, covered in a bark so crisp, it shatters against the tender meat inside. Trick’s Barbecue, 2601 Bull St., on Facebook  
0334-0051Beale Street Blues
Until recently, you’d have to strike out for Sandfly to get a taste of Chef Keith Latture’s smoked sausage and Brunswick stew. But he brought his Cajun and Southwestern-influenced Memphis-style ‘cue to the downtown masses when he took over the Savannah College of Art and Design’s Streamliner Diner at the corner of Henry and Barnard streets last year. Ensconced in that shiny spectacle, students, tourists, professionals and neighbors nosh on pork tamales, brisket tacos and dense, smoky gumbo, which sells out long before the lunch hour is over. Sandfly Bar-B-Q, 1220 Barnard St. and 8413 Ferguson Ave.,  
0384-584The Devil Inside
Randy’s Bar-B-Q is housed in a modest, cinder-block square, but you’ll not miss it when you drive by. The bright blue facade of this 8-year-old hot lunch spot is dotted with illustrations of ribs, chicken and one giddy piggy. On any given day, a line stocked full of neighborhood friends, downtown business folks and curious tourists tails off down the sidewalk. Barbecue buffs and loyal locals bide their time for tender ribs and chicken drumsticks slathered in a mustard sauce that finishes with a sweet salutation. Owner Randolph Frazier and manager Antwan Middleton dish out the standards, but their secret-recipe deviled crabs are the prize—ideally spiced and full of rich lump meat. Randy’s Bar-B-Q, 750 Wheaton St., on Facebook  
0384-1171Prized Pig
Like sirens of saucy seduction, Wiley and Janet McCrary beckon the sea-bound with scrumptious landlubber lures. Connoisseurs beware—you may think you’ve had the best, but the McCrarys serve up a tender tang that’ll make you slap your neighbor. One look at the trophies along the walls will tell you, but the caramelized burnt ends and smoky St. Louis-cut ribs speak mouthfuls for themselves. Exploring your options? Gobble a smoked turkey and bacon burger, prime rib or ham steak (when they’re in rotation). Then, relish your food trance on the shores of Tybee. Wiley’s Championship BBQ, 4700 U.S. Highway 80 E.,  
0384-685Sultans of Swine
The Babe was known for satisfying his many vices. His namesake off U.S. Highway 80 in Garden City, a church of gastronomical indulgence, would do him proud. This shack, run by Two Brothers BBQ LLC, smolders Boston butts, ribs and briskets too tender to keep your mitts off. Their diverse sandwich offerings are the real home runs, though. Take a swing at the Beef Brisket Deluxe, Sausage Dog or the smoked potato-based Hogzilla. With a divine Brunswick stew rounding out their lineup, these pros cover all the bases. Babe’s BBQ Shack, 525 U.S. Highway 80 W.,  
0384-075Plump Pickins'
Heading west on Highway 80, a towering sign welcomes the strumming and starving to Randy Wood Guitars, Randy’s Pickin’ Parlor, and Wood’s Kitchen—brothers Michael and Laurence Gottlieb’s new barbecue venture. The space, formerly Mac’s Place, changed keys to belt out a complex smoked meat symphony; their grand finale is a crisp homage to the pastries, cookies and breads of their youth (Gottlieb’s Bakery was a Savannah institution for more than 100 years). Chocolate chewies, anyone? On Friday nights, fans of furious pickin’ come early to savor Gullah, Creole and classic Southern cooking. Groove with some griddle mac ’n‘ cheese, shrimp and grits with fried green tomatoes and tasso ham, or a monster Muenster burger/pulled pork sandwich combo. Wood’s Kitchen, 1304 U.S. Highway 80, Bloomingdale,  
0384-722Porky in Pink
Pigs are known to fly in Hardeeville, where scads of oinky-pink charms adorn a humble, local- and tourist-favored barbecue emporium. Opened by siblings Mark and Rita Bryan in 1993, The Pink Pig smokes and spices with a Southerner’s hammy panache, bringing gastronomes to a standing ovation with staples like fried chicken, shrimp, ribs and chopped pork. Whether you take your barbecue in supple slabs or saturated shreds, lather it up in one of their special sauces, like Gullah Spice and Lowcountry Fire. The Pink Pig, 3508 S. Okatie Highway, Hardeeville, South Carolina  
0384-487Pitter Splattered
Chicken, ribs and pork smoked with hickory and mesquite? Oh my. But don’t skip the icing: Bullies BBQ encourages you to target your woodsy victuals with a full firing squad of unique sauces. In this Hilton Head Island favorite, Slow Burn, Mild Herbed and Carolina Mustard are a rousing few of the unusual suspects. The small, charming spot, papered in past patrons’ drawings and musings on life, love and meat, will make your taste buds hoot and holler. Grab an extra piece of jalapeño cornbread to sop up your Brunswick stew. Bullies BBQ, 3 Regency Parkway, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina,  
0384-519Thank You For Not Smoking
Pitmaster Ted Huffman talks straight about his meat and his politics. At Bluffton BBQ, bon vivants will always feel welcome to chew the fat among friends. A former mayor pro tem and city councilman of the town, he’ll invite guests to a slab of his fall-off-the-bone racks, which delight with a bark that crackles when bitten, or a simple pork-and-a-fork and a free beer or two. This is the spot to get your ‘Q fix while roaming charismatic Old Town. Bluffton BBQ, 11 State Of Mind St., Bluffton, South Carolina,
0384-655Take Your 'Cue
Most subcultures—food or otherwise—have a vocabulary all their own. Amy Paige Condon returns from the barbecue nation with a whole new language. Bark—A certain kind of magic happens when the rub meets low-and-slow heat. Along with melting fat, the spices, seasonings and acids are transmogrified into a dark caramel crust. It’s the authorial mark of a confident pitmaster. Burnt End—The delicacy that is the succulent point of a smoked brisket that’s been cut away and smoked a tad longer. Butt—No joke, this cut comes from the upper part of a hog’s front shoulder. Once considered a poor cut, it’s the foundation of a righteous pulled pork sandwich. Deckle—Two sections comprise an untrimmed beef brisket. The “flat” is the lean portion, and the angular marbled portion is called the “deckle.” Fat Cap—One side of a brisket (or a butt or a slab of ribs) is covered in a thick layer of fat. Do not fear the fat cap and cut it away before smoking or grilling. Fat infuses flavor and tenderness, and nearly disappears through the cooking process. You can always cut away the fat cap before you serve the barbecue. Grilling—Often used interchangeably with barbecue, there is a distinct difference between the practice of grilling and smoking meat. Grilling is the quick cooking of foods over an open, high and direct heat source, which sears the outside flesh and traps the juices inside. Low and Slow—Barbecue, on the other hand, is the art of smoking proteins and vegetables over a low (often 250° F or lower), indirect heat source—such as a fire built from clean, dry hardwoods like pecan, oak or cherry—for many hours. It’s not for folks who like fast food. Rub—A rub is the mixture of spices, seasonings, sugars, oils and acids that you massage onto the surface of uncooked protein before you grill or smoke. The rub can be the calling card for a region or the signature of a backyard barbecuer. Smoke Ring—Don’t cringe at the hint of pink below the bark; it’s just a natural part of the smoking process. St. Louis Cut—To achieve the St. Louis-style cut, the cartilage-heavy front end of the rib is trimmed, as is the flap meat near the end. The result is a super-meaty, slightly shorter, uniform rib, which achieves greater consistency when smoking or grilling a rack of them.

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The Mind of a Chef

Have you ever wondered how your favorite chef grocery shops? At the Wilmington Island Farmers’ Market you can tag along with one. Florence M. Slatinsky gets the goods with Chef Mir Ali. Photography by Angela Hopper Mir_Hopper-8966 When I agree to interview Chef Mir Ali of Lili’s Restaurant and Bar at the Wilmington Island Farmers’ Market, I’ve got visions of lamb, tender lettuce and just-picked radishes dancing in my head. But instead of succulent spring foods, the hallmarks of spring weather—thick, yellow pollen; swarming, lusty gnats; intermittent thunderstorms—threaten to dampen our excursion. Fortunately, the clouds part, the bug spray is plentiful, and the chef’s enthusiasm for the fresh harvest is contagious. Word has gotten out that the market is open for the season—and Chef Ali is back for his second year of “Shop with the Chef,” held the last Saturday of the month at 10 a.m. when the farmers’ market is open. A crowd of 20 or so shoppers are gathered, peering from beneath our hoods and swatting at gnats with the chef’s recipe for roasted pork tenderloin and carmelized vegetables. Chef Ali greets us warmly, raising his voice to be heard over the crowing roosters and barking dogs. He explains that he will lead us down the row of vendors assembled and give us tips on how to shop and what to buy. “The more you know, not just about what to put into my recipe, but about all that you see here, the more you can use what’s available and support our local vendors,” he says and then heads off. Mir_Hopper-8754
Fresh off the Farm
Ben Deen of Savannah River Farms is up first. In a drawl so thick you could spread it on a slice of fresh bread, he explains that his pork tenderloin comes from “right here,” gesturing toward the middle of his abdomen, and sits up against the baby back ribs. His farm’s tenderloins are small, generally about a pound, unlike the commercial counterparts, which come off much larger hogs who are fatted fast on a feeder diet. When asked about his pigs’ diet, he says with pride, “We’re all Genetically Modified Organism free. In the next few weeks we’ll get our certification, and we’ll be one of about three farms in the country that slaughters on site and is certified GMO free.” Chef Ali nods his head in appreciation and recounts how important it is to think about what we’re eating and how it affects our bodies. Much of what we eat isn’t natural and can adversely affect us, he continues, showing us the silver sinew that runs down all pork tenderloins and should be removed before cooking. A little fat is fine and will add to the flavor, he says, but the sinew is tough and needs trimming. Mir_Hopper-8746
Feast for the Senses
Our recipe doesn’t call for bread, but the chef can’t resist stopping in front of the aromatic loaves arrayed under the Spouses Bakery tent. Unlike just-off-the-farm eggs, which don’t require refrigeration due to their freshness, preservative-free bread should be eaten, refrigerated or frozen within three days. We sample asiago cheese and sourdough, and we shake our heads wondering how a loaf that good could survive three days in a home. We also try samples from Savannah Rum Runners Bakery, including a focaccia that we learn is eggless—a solid choice for vegans. It’s hard to stay focused on our recipe. The crowd has grown as the weather has improved. Dogs and people are stopping to chat, including a parti poodle, aptly named for his brindle coat. He barks excitedly at a basset hound waiting expectantly under a sample tray. Chef presses on toward the vegetables. We pass natural body products, locally sourced honey (much deeper in color than the grocery-store version because it hasn’t been heated and filtered), handmade pasta and savory homemade dips. I get sidetracked by the olive tapenade and have to jog to catch up with the group. The bounty of produce gets Chef Ali’s creative juices flowing. He starts throwing out ideas as he shows us each pick: basil with pine nuts and olive oil for fresh pesto, chopped radishes to perk up a salad, roasted beets or squash with some local honey and salt. His recipe calls for rainbow carrots and sweet potatoes, but as long as you chop them to a uniform size you can use any vegetables you like, he explains. Be flexible, he instructs us—have fun! I’m not sure I’ve ever had this much fun grocery shopping. It made making the dish all the more delicious.
Roast Pork Tenderloin with Caramelized Vegetables
Serves 4 to 6 2 to 3 Savannah River Farms pork tenderloins
  • Coarsely ground salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • cup olive oil, divided
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
  • 4 rainbow carrots, peeled*
  • 2 sweet potatoes, peeled*
  • 1 large sweet onion, peeled*
  • 1 bell pepper, rinsed*
  • 6 whole garlic cloves, peeled
  • Assorted fresh herbs, chopped
Preheat the oven to 400˚ F. Set aside a roasting pan. Wash and pat dry the pork tenderloins. Remove the sinew from each, then season all sides with salt, pepper, balsamic vinegar and a dash of olive oil. Set the tenderloins aside. Prepare the vegetables and dice them into equal sizes. Place the vegetables in a mixing bowl and toss with the garlic, remaining olive oil, salt and pepper. Place the vegetables in the roasting pan and cook for approximately 20 minutes or until caramelized. Add the tenderloin to the vegetables, then continue cooking for 20 minutes more or until the pork is slightly pink in the center. To achieve well done tenderloins, cook 5 to 10 minutes longer. Let the pork rest for 10 minutes before carving and serving with the roasted vegetables. Garnish with fresh herbs, such as rosemary, thyme and parsley. *Note: Feel free to substitute any hearty vegetables in season.

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Each year, you nominate Savannah’s rising stars of business and we choose the winners—but this year, we’re doing something more.  As part of our first Solutions issue, we asked each of our community-minded Generation NEXT honorees to share a memory, a mentor, a problem and a solution. Dylan Wilson is a fashion and portrait photographer based in Savannah, Georgia. He is available for assignments worldwide.

Lori Judge, 39

Owner/broker, Judge Realty Neighborhood: Historic District Those of us who have been in Savannah for a while have watched Lori grow from an enterprising young broker to the face of a progressive real estate company.  She’s had a hand in many of the city’s game-changing deals, and the accolades keep coming in, from the Georgia Trend 40 Under 40 to the Savannah Technical College Community STARS program.  Always one to pay it forward, Lori gives back via the Boys and Girls Club, the Savannah Children’s Choir and the Creative Coast, which she serves as a board member.
Who is one of your Savannah mentors?
“I continue to learn a lot from my peers, colleagues and fellow brokers.  For me, there’s not just one person.”
What was your most embarrassing early job experience? 
“You name it, it has happened.  People give me their keys for a living.”
What is your most creative way of relieving stress?
“I enjoy acupuncture, tennis, Pilates and yoga, as well as going to our family farm and spending quality time with loved ones.”
If you were on the cover of Savannah magazine what would you be doing?
“Hanging out on our farm.”
In a word, describe Savannah.
What is Savannah’s biggest problem and how should we solve it? 
“I think our problem is not having the structure to keep young students around after graduation.  This would diversify the socio-economic makeup of Savannah and grow industry.”
To meet the rest of the Generation NEXT Class of 2016, pick up a copy of the January/February issue of Savannah magazine—on newsstands now! Or subscribe TODAY >>
Join us in celebration Generation NEXT.  Buy your tickets right HERE >>

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IMG_9055   From punk rockers and police officers to palm-frond peddlers, Andrea Goto and Michelle Karner invite perfect strangers to air out Savannah’s social issues.   Photography by ANGELA HOPPER   Spend five minutes perusing social media and you will likely come to one of two conclusions.  One: nothing compares to a running dachshund dressed as a teddy bear.  And two: old-fashioned human decency has gone the way of the VCR.  Assuming the two are not related, we’re particularly concerned with the latter. We want to believe that most people are predisposed to kindness.  That we seek to do the right thing most of the time.  And that we appreciate a funny dog video more than a public flogging.  Most of all, we want to believe this about the people in our community.  And yet … For every one person publically thanking our teachers, police officers and politicians, there seem to be 20 more throwing venom-tipped darts in 140 words or less.  But where are the suggestions for change?  Where is the understanding?  Where’s the humanity? Rather than poll the public on Facebook, we’re engaging in a face-to-face social experiment.  We’re spending a few hours on a beautiful Saturday afternoon in Wright Square, inviting passersby to share a bench—and a few ideas to change the city for the better.
  IMG_8967 Anthony McDaniel and Rebekah Beumel, who have been dating for more than two years, are first-time visitors from Orlando, Florida.   IMG_9060 Angela Mosely is a native Savannahian and substitute teacher.  She has a 16-year-old daughter and a 5-year-old son.   IMG_9113Alex Holloway, and his girlfriend, Christine Bishop, are both Savannah natives.  Alex belongs to the punk rock band Ramba Ral and tends a parking booth on River Street.  Christine is an artist.   IMG_9208 James Pringle came to Savannah by way of Virginia “many years ago.”  He’s a regular in Wright Square, where he sells his palm roses.   IMG_9226 Thomas Sullivan has been a Savannahian all his life.  The former furniture store owner operates Sullivan Rental Properties.  He’s married and has two daughters. Unsure of how this whole experiment will go down, we choose our first victims carefully.  Anthony McDaniel and Rebekah Beumel are snuggled up on a nearby bench, with the look of open curiosity that only tourists have.
Savannah Magazine: What are your first impressions of our city?
Anthony: I do like that you can drink down here.  That’s a really cool feature of the city. SM: We get that a lot.  But you get used to it, then go to another city and forget.  That’s not so good.  What do you do back home? Anthony: I’m a deputy sheriff. SM: Uh-oh (laughter). Rebekah: It’s okay, he’s really cool. SM: What have y’all been up to today?  Any strange encounters? Rebekah: Everyone has been really nice.  But compared to Florida, pretty much everyone is nice.  We aren’t known for friendliness. SM: Well, we have our issues.  Crime is something we’ve been talking a lot about lately. Rebekah: Is it bad here? Anthony: To be honest with you, we saw a kid breaking into a car our first night here.  He looked in the car and put a dud key into the door, and when he saw me, he took off.  But there were police everywhere, so we just walked to the next block, told a cop, and he radioed it in. Rebekah: He’s always aware, and I’m just oblivious. SM: So you’re always safe, and he’s always in danger? (Laughter) Anthony: Exactly!  But I have to say that it feels like a safe city to me.  One thing you all do have a good control over is panhandling. Rebekah: In Orlando, people get in your face.  You can’t go anywhere. Anthony: We’re almost expected to give money, but here we haven’t been asked for money once. We think this might be our chance to ask for money, but we don’t want to tarnish their impression of Savannah. About two minutes and one brisk rejection later, we catch the attention of Angela Mosley, who’s on her way to pick up her parents from a restaurant, but—true to her Savannah roots—doesn’t mind a polite stop to chat with complete strangers. IMG_9096
Savannah Magazine: As you’re a teacher here in Savannah, what are your thoughts about our schools?
Angela: The curriculum is awesome.  The students?  I’ll say … challenging.  They’re sociable.  But they’re a good group of children.  I enjoy working with them. SM: Growing up, what schools did you attend? Angela: I went to Gadsden Elementary first, Juliette Low, Myers, Johnson for two years, and I graduated from Windsor Forest. SM: How do the schools compare today? Angela: The teachers have a lot to deal with now because it takes a long time to get the children settled.  When we were going to school, we didn’t have all that.  Whatever the teachers said, that’s what we did. The teachers need to communicate with the parents, and the parents need to become more involved.  I love it, though. SM: What do you love about it? Angela: I love working with the small ones.  The middle school ones are trying to find themselves and the high school ones already know everything. SM: What keeps you in this area? Angela: This is a nice area to raise children.  You have crime, but every place you go, you’re gonna have crime.  Atlanta is too fast, too wild for me.  But you can’t find a real nice job that pays something here.  I have a master’s degree in criminal justice.  But the school system offers me flexibility, whereas a job in criminal justice wouldn’t give me the time to go to my son or daughter’s school and do the extracurricular activities. SM: Why did you move to Pooler? Angela: They say it’s cooler in Pooler!  (Laughs.) SM: But is it? Angela: Yeah.  They got a lot.  They have the Tanger Outlets and all sorts of businesses out there.  I love it out there. SM: What do you see as some of Savannah’s biggest challenges? Angela: I hope they come up with a solution for the crime rate.  I just pray that they take control of that. SM: Lots of people are talking about it, but in your experience, is crime worse now? Angela: It’s kind of off and on.  You know, it starts up, then dies down, then it’ll start up again.  I don’t know what’s going on.  It hasn’t affected me, thank God for that. SM: Do you think the police force is doing what it can? Angela: I believe they’re doing a good job, but the community needs to learn to trust them again.  We need collaboration between the officers and the people of the community. A young man with a tennis-ball-green shock of hair catches our eye.  We hazard a guess that he’s a SCAD student, but we’re surprised to find that both Alex Holloway and his girlfriend, Christine Bishop, are native Savannahians—and easily swayed to stop and sit awhile. IMG_9184
Savannah Magazine: You’re a musician?  Tell us about Savannah’s music scene.
Alex: It’s getting bigger.  It used to be very small.  There’s more of a metal scene.  There are a lot more producers and shows.  It’s still mostly just people in houses starting their own labels. SM: Where’s your favorite place to perform? Alex: The Jinx.  But there are a lot of house shows.  SCAD students rent these huge houses we can play in.  If you’re underage, you can’t be in a bar and listen to music anymore.  When I was growing up, there were tons of venues you could be in when you were 18; you just wouldn’t drink.  They’d put an “X” on your hand.  But now, I think that the old money in Savannah is worried about lawsuits. SM: What are some of your favorite local bands? Alex: There’s this new band—I think they’re a couple of SCAD kids—called the Anxiety Junkies.  There’s Crazy Bag Lady, and they’ve got one of their production companies, Dad Joke.  Those are the people I’ve been trying to talk to, but mingling has never really been my thing.  I guess I’m more outspoken than the rest of my band members, unless they’re drinking.  Then they’re an open book. SM: (To Christine)  And you’re an artist?  Do you show your artwork in Savannah? Christine: I have a piece in Los Angeles right now.  I don’t really sell my stuff too often.  I do some painting at The Crab Shack—some of their props. SM: Alex, you must see a lot of things tending a parking booth on River Street. Alex: A lot of people falling down.  (Laughter.)  I work during the day, but ever since they made it so you can buy alcohol on Sundays, I see people falling down all over the place.  Mostly, I just spend my time reading and waiting for people to ask me the same question over and over. SM: Which is? Alex: “Is there any parking?” (Laughter.) You also see bodies getting pulled up out of the river.  I’ve seen two or three working there.  The most recent one I won’t ever forget.  When the wind blew toward my face, it was the most putrid smell.  You can’t forget that smell. SM: That’s awful.  Was it an accident or foul play? Alex: I don’t know.  But I will say that Savannah’s greatest challenge right now is crime.  One of the guys I work with, his cousin got shot right on River Street.  It’s very close. SM: What do you think a solution would be? Alex: That’s a good question.  I don’t think cops are helping any.  They’re going after small-time criminals instead of going after the bigger stuff.  But it’s a difficult question.  Maybe more cameras on the streets—with facial recognition, or where you can read someone’s body language to see if they’re up to no good.  But then you might end up with something like Minority Report. SM: So, you have a green Mohawk, or what would be a Mohawk with the right hair product.  Do you feel like Savannah is a place where you can express yourself freely? Alex: Oh, yeah.  At work, I always get the question, “So, what’s up with your hair? Can’t you pick a color?”  At my job, it doesn’t matter what I look like.  There are a lot of other workplaces where that’s clearly not acceptable.  But that’s not to say that people don’t judge me. At that moment, James Pringle parks himself on a neighboring bench and begins to fold a palmetto frond. IMG_9202
Savannah Magazine: How long have you been selling palm roses down here?
James: I’ve been doing this for quite a while here.  Going on 25 years.  I teach on Wednesdays and Mondays.  I don’t want to just leave and let this knowledge go.  I pass it on like it’s been passed onto me.  See, my grandmother showed me how to do this many years ago. The palm will last for a long time.  A rose will last for three or four days and you have to throw it away.  But the palm will last forever. SM: Do you always sell your roses in Wright Square? James: This is the only square I come to.  I don’t come to no other square and I don’t go down to that river.  I’ve been coming to this square come 10 years.  I’m retired and I have a pension.  I just do this for gas money.  I see a lot of things in this square. This used to be the hanging square.  Yeah, they used to hang ’em left and right.  They hanged a lady over there and she was seven months pregnant.  And her son is looking for her right now.  And they’d bring slaves from the river through here. See, I can see spirits, too. SM: Do you come here every afternoon? James: I come late today because I had to sing at a funeral.  See, I sing, too.  Yeah, I sing.  (Demonstrates:) “Oh, Savannah, the little city by the sea.”  (To passersby:) “Hello, ladies!  Come on over and look at James’s work.”  (Sings, ad-libbing:) “Oh, trees and flowers, growing everywhere.  Why, you come here March 17, Lord everything green.  Oh, St. Patrick, doing his thing.” (Stops singing.)  Yep, my name is James Pringle, like the potato chip.  But I don’t own the potato chip; that’s my daddy’s name, and I got to live with it. SM: How much do you sell the palm roses for? James: Just a little donation.  That’s the way I sleep—I just try to do the right thing.  My grandmother always told me that if I do the right thing, good things will come to me. But see, I ain’t never had no father in my life.  See, my father left me, my sister and my mother when we was very young, and went to take care of another family.  And many days I cried. (Singing:) “Oh, my flower.  Oh, my flower.” SM: How late do you stay here? James: Some days I’m maybe here until 8 or 9.  I might stay longer and rap with people for a while if they want to rap with me. Thomas Sullivan approaches us with his Welsh corgi, Schroeder.  They’re killing time while Thomas waits to pick up his wife from Levy Jewelers, where she works.  He seems happy to chat while Schroeder barks maniacally at the carriage horses passing by. IMG_9244
Savannah Magazine: What neighborhood did you grow up in?
Thomas: Ardsley Park area.  My wife and I live in Wilmington Park.  We moved there about 12 years ago.  It’s nice and quiet out there. SM: You never left Savannah? Thomas: No.  I started to move to Winston-Salem, but I just couldn’t find the palm trees. (Laughter.) SM: From your perspective, how has Savannah changed for the better over the years? Thomas: We have a lot of nice restaurants downtown, which is great.  The downtown has changed the most.  It used to be boarded up—River Street used to be boarded up, too.  The Telfair Museums have done a lot and the Savannah Philharmonic as well; I go to a lot of their events. SM: What still needs improvement? Thomas: They’re closing a lot of the neighborhoods downtown, and they’re moving them to the Southside.  That’s where the crime starts.  They tore down Fred Wessels, and they’re putting Section 8 housing on the Southside.  But they have to find a place for people to live. SM: What is Savannah’s biggest challenge right now? Thomas: The government.  It’s got to change.  All they want to do is kiss babies and give out liquor licenses.  They’re not doing anything about the communities where the crime is.  They’re just talking about it. SM: Will you stay in Savannah? Thomas: Yes, I have a lot of roots here.  (Turns to James) What is your name? James: My name is James Pringle. Thomas: You were married to a Watts. James: That’s right!  Emma Watts. Thomas: She’s from Savannah.  I used to be the furniture man. James: Yeah, I remember you!  You owned that furniture store.  My lady tell me about you. Thomas: I knew the whole Watts family. James: She had a stroke.  She’s at St. Joseph.  I didn’t know a stroke could mess your body up so bad. Thomas: I still see a lot of her family. James: And you speak at a lot of funerals, don’t you? Thomas: Yes, and I spoke at Elizabeth’s—your mother-in-law’s.  I spoke at her funeral over there off Waters Avenue. James: That’s right!  I remember you. Thomas: Savannah is small.  You lived on 37th and Reynolds. James: You got that right.  That was many years ago.  Yes, sir. Thomas: Yes, sir. James: You holler at me when you see me again, and come hang out with me and drink a little tea, and I’ll sing you a song. Thomas: Alright, I will.  That sounds good. Seeing this small-town connection unfold, we realize that the next time we find ourselves asking, “Where’s the humanity?” we need to look around.  We need to invite humanity in and listen to its story.  We may not always find the answers we seek, but we’re likely to find something unexpected, and—if the square is sunny and the bench is warm—those unexpected findings might include redemption and delight.

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Somewhere  in between the Stopover hangover and the Revival Fest cure, a Savannah magazine editor woke up in the middle of the night with a vision: the city’s musicians, gathered together under one roof, singing their hearts out in one giant jam session.  How better to do a sound check on the Seaport’s burgeoning band scene?  Amy Paige Condon is with the band. Photography by Geoff Johnson   Sav_Mag_Service_Jam_geoffsphotos_53 When you invite a group of people who may or may not know each other, you always hope for that moment when things click—that ephemeral heartbeat when the alchemy of connection occurs, when the mix turns to magic and the party is less gathering and more reunion. That moment arrives on a humid Wednesday night, on the corner stage at Service Brewing Co. Singer-songwriter Nikko Raptoulis strums his guitar and belts out a heart-squeezing song of unrequited love.  The words and music are spare, but hardly melancholy, as they meld with the notes of his collaborators. Harpist Kristin King plucks mightily at her strings and Dope Sandwich hip-hop artist Basik Lee improvises a beat, using only his rich baritone voice as the instrument. None of the three have ever played together before this night.  But, in this shining moment, the open-invite jam session we’ve thrown together morphs into something peerless and captivating, like fireflies or bioluminescent tides. “I’m hearing it—I’m not used to it—and I’m getting goose bumps,” Nikko later tells me, still floating even as artists pack up their strings and amps to head into the darkness.  “It’s so amazing to hear something, as a musician, that you’ve never heard.” The night is filled with many gifts: Jared Hall’s rollicking keyboard and Ira Miller’s thrashing percussion on Waits and Co.’s “Walkin’ Faithfully;” Payne Bridge’s ethereal voice blended with Rachael Shaner’s hop-scotching upright bass; Lee’s urgent rendition of the Box Tops’ “The Letter,” backed by Nicole Edge’s surfer drum riffs; the Hypnotics’ joyful garage band wail; Lyn Avenue’s paean to traditional country music. “Just listen to her voice,” Tom Cooler, the soundman behind the Savannah Songwriters Series, tells me.  He’s speaking of Lyn Avenue’s lead singer, Cc Witt.  “It cuts—just cuts!” And it does, sharp as Tammy Wynette’s paring knife.
Play That Swampy Music
When each of these parts—36 local musicians representing at least 14 different bands of varying genres—is taken as a whole, the totality of a Savannah sound begins to emerge. Just as West Memphis married funk and blues, Muscle Shoals sifted soul with Southern rock, and Athens pushed the boundaries of alternative forms, a narrative thread runs through Savannah’s tapestry of punk and metal, hip hop, bluegrass and rockabilly, folk and Americana, jazz and indie rock. But it’s hard to pick out that single thread without pulling the thing apart. That sound is a brackish undercurrent—“swampy,” as guitarist Jon Waits muses—that mirrors the convergence of black rivers with salty tidal marshes and the wide, open ocean. It takes something from everything it touches. Rich in tannins, it’s where so much life and goodness spawn, where so many ancient relics lie buried, where secrets get carried away.  Savannah’s music is as much a liquid crossroads as is her geography. Sav_Mag_Service_Jam_geoffsphotos_20
Papa Was a Stepping Stone
For decades, Savannah’s music scene seemed defined by the Great American Songbook, as constructed by native son Johnny Mercer—“Moon River,” “Jeepers Creepers,” “Fools Rush In.”  It reflected the city’s surface conservatism, even as artists like Elvis Presley passed through town and shook, rattled and rolled their way to superstardom. Then, DJs Barr Nobles and Skip Jennings began spinning the Beatles, the Byrds and outlaw country on local airwaves. Homegrown bands like the Rogues, the Trebles, Kind Dog and Topaz started playing rock covers and original tunes in school gyms and neighborhood bars. Some even toured with bigger names—a history only recently chronicled through Savannah Rocks, which continues today as a Facebook page managed by music veteran Roy Swindelle. But Savannah’s star didn’t rise on the Southern rock horizon just yet.  Not the way Jacksonville or Macon’s did, with their respective breakouts, Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Allman Brothers Band. In the 1980s, two things occurred that put a pushpin on our little dot on the musical map.  Late bassist Ben Tucker taught a jazz appreciation course at Savannah State University that inspired the creation of the Coastal Jazz Society and the Savannah Jazz Festival.  A few years later, the Savannah Music Festival—now one of Songline magazine’s Top 25 international festivals—was born. Both of these initiatives brought national and international touring artists to a town they once bypassed by on their way to Atlanta or Miami.  They also gave working musicians who made their home here the rare opportunity to open for and play with bigger acts. Sav_Mag_Service_Jam_geoffsphotos_09
Welcome to the Garden
“You can’t really get into Florida without passing Savannah, and you can’t get out of Florida without going by here, too, so we’re a good place to take a day during the week,” says Gil Cruz, who books talent for the Jinx, Susanne Warnekros’ Congress Street temple to Savannah’s musical acolytes. Seated on the patio at Foxy Loxy Café sporting a Black Tusk T-shirt and tatted arms, Gil recounts how, growing up in San Francisco’s Bay Area, he got swept up in ’80s skateboard culture and hardcore punk from the likes of D.C.’s Minor Threat.  When he moved here in the early 2000s, it was natural for him to drift toward the Jinx, then the center of the local punk and rock universe, but he credits the underground scene as much as the club scene for nurturing the local heavy metal community. Back then, he recalls, “There were always these kids in Savannah, throwing shows.  Pat Mathis [who now runs Hyperrealist Records] had a lot of house shows.  Big Gas Cycles.  O’Connell’s [before it moved down Congress] … bands that are huge now started there.” And the momentum continues. “Right now is really awesome,” he says, “because you have three huge metal bands based out of Savannah—well, Baroness is now out of Philly, but they started here.  Kylesa, huge.  Black Tusk, they’re still doing it.  They’re bringing in bands that they’ve worked with.  They’ve turned the spotlight on Savannah.  It just makes sense that it’s growing.  For a small city, it’s big.” Sav_Mag_Service_Jam_geoffsphotos_42
Straight Outta Chatham
Indeed, being small may play largely in Savannah’s favor over the long haul.  Over a round of drinks, Steven Baumgardner, Jared Hall, Kayne Lanahan, Jon Waits and I consider whether Savannah is about to hit the tipping point. Kayne, the director of MusicFile Productions and the founder of both the Savannah Stopover Music Festival and Revival Fest, believes that some of the landmark music events elsewhere have grown beyond their purpose.  “They’re ginormous—hundreds of thousands of people, and ticket prices are really high.” “We were just talking about that very thing with [New Orleans’] Jazz Fest,” chimes in Jared, keyboardist for the vivacious gypsy-swing band Velvet Caravan and music director for the historic Trinity United Methodist Church. “If you go to these bigger festivals,” Kayne says, “you could close your eyes and be anywhere.  I think when that happens, when the trend gets pushed so far, there’s a natural bounce where people are searching for things that are smaller and more authentic, and more person-to-person.  If you go to something in Savannah, you know you’re in Savannah.” Jon, a Georgia-born singer-songwriter and photographer, laments growth for growth’s sake. “It becomes more about the fact that you were there than experiencing the music.” Sav_Mag_Service_Jam_geoffsphotos_33
You Can Flow Your Own Way
Steven, who performs as Basik Lee, laughs about the time he and his Dope Sandwich crew went to a festival in Atlanta, where they attended forums to see what kind of advice could help them evolve. “They kept telling us to attach ourselves to what bigger cities were doing.”  He shakes his head.  “Instead of latching on to something, try to find your own sound.” “The whole original idea behind Stopover was to get a ton of bands in town all at once, bands that had never played here, to give them a different perspective of the city and give locals an opportunity to play with touring bands,” Kayne says.  “All of the agents thought of Savannah as a C or D market; we were not on their radar.  So, we felt like getting the bands to fall in love with the city—we knew they would—and letting them become the marketers for the city.  You never have a band come through that has a bad time.” That’s because of the local music community, says Steven, who also hosts a hip-hop night every Tuesday at the Jinx. “Literally, everybody just helps each other out.” Club owners, fellow troubadours and fans welcome artists into their homes, letting them crash on couches, loaning sound or light equipment when something’s busted or left behind, or throwing backyard barbecues so that they can take a break from the road. “I’ve had friends and artists who have left here,” Steven says.  “‘I’m going to Nashville; I’m going to Atlanta; I’m going to New York’—not realizing that everybody and their mother is going there.  A lot of the acts I’ve had come here say, ‘It’s not like this where we come from.’” The rub: Savannah’s musicians know one another well—across forms, across venues—but they’re so busy gigging, they rarely get to see one another’s shows. Sav_Mag_Service_Jam_geoffsphotos_46
Savannahian Rhapsody
Just after Isaac Smith delivers a soulful solo, Crazy Man Crazy’s four-man dance-hall rockabilly set steams up the Service Brewing stage.  Lead singer Sean “The Con Man” Conradson growls “Blue Suede Shoes” as guitarist Jeff “Lone Wolf” Neugebauer, the sound engineer for the Wormhole nightclub and bar in the Starland District, shreds his axe with the enthusiasm of Marty McFly in Back to the Future.  “Mr. Palmer on Bass” is hardly in the doghouse.  It’s a rousing segue into the final act of the night. Kurtis Schumm takes the stage—just a man and his guitar.  It’s a rare treat to see Kurtis play.  He traded Nashville in for Savannah and chords for culinary cred 11 years ago.  Locals know him best as the co-owner of Tybee Island Social Club, Fish Camp and Bó Biên Hut. “I do cook-y things now,” he says, before sliding into an original composition, “How Much.” “It’s more of a statement than a question,” he grins, just before launching into a pure-voiced and clear-noted song that surprises and uplifts the crowd. Sav_Mag_Service_Jam_geoffsphotos_02
More Than a Feeling
The year 2016 may prove a big one for local music. The state’s Department of Economic Development has made music tourism the cornerstone of its annual marketing plan, based upon the healthy direct and indirect contributions of the music industry to the state’s economy.  Music accounted for nearly $4 billion in revenues in 2011, the most recent report year. Savannah Morning News columnist and blogger Bill Dawers will pen a piece about the city’s aforementioned swamp metal scene in the upcoming “Georgia Music” issue of Oxford American magazine. Yet, even with all the progress that has been made, it still may be too early to call Savannah a “music city.” All Along the Watchtower Back in 2012, MusicFile Productions’ Kayne Lanahan contributed a post to The Creative Coast’s blog that outlined the 10 characteristics of a vibrant music scene:
  1. Supportive community of musicians
  2. Highly regarded independent radio station
  3. Respected independent record labels
  4. A DIY underground scene
  5. A broad and affordable infrastructure for teaching, practicing and recording
  6. At least one great music blog
  7. At least one prominent music festival
  8. A mid-sized venue for 400 to 500 seats to draw notable touring acts and fans
  9. A supportive municipal government
  10. Access to capital to fund musical endeavors
So, three years later, how are we doing?  Of the first seven items on that list, most have been achieved.  Especially with the addition of Graveface Records, Dollhouse Productions, The Garage Savannah, and Dawers’ Hissing Lawns blog, we have more outlets to support and promote our local musicians than ever before.  
Lawyers, Fans and Money
Of the final three items, the most critical and immediate to address is city government.  “Rational public policy” regarding alcohol and sound would “help a lot,” says Dawers, who has followed the city’s progress on both issues closely. “Little things like that would tell the creative community, especially musicians, that we are not prejudiced against them.” Competing cities, like Charleston, Athens and Jacksonville—all with strong music scenes—allow at least 18-year-olds entry into venues that serve alcohol.  Some even allow all-ages shows. “Bands are coming through and looking at how many people they can put in a club,” Dawers explains.  “You don’t create this artificial division between people over and under 21.” As more hotels are built and condo conversions occur within the downtown and near-downtown districts, more bars and nightclubs will also have to contend with noise volume complaints, which has quashed musical offerings at places like Moon River Brewing Co., Hang Fire and the Wormhole. “[City spokesperson] Brett Bell pledged at the Emergent Savannah meeting that [the city] was going to initiate a process for revising the city’s sound ordinance,” says Dawers.  “But the city has been working on a revision to the ‘chicken and beekeeping’ ordinance for four years and still hasn’t passed it.  They’ve been working on a revision to the alcohol ordinance since January 2013 and still haven’t passed it.  I would be shocked if we saw a draft of a sound ordinance before 2017.” Dawers’ observation is a common complaint in all sectors of Savannah’s musical community.  And the belief is that until those two items can be addressed, access to capital and a mid-size venue will remain out of reach. Sav_Mag_Service_Jam_geoffsphotos_51
Fight for Your Right
To Kayne’s list, we would add No. 11: a community that values its local musicians by filling seats, paying cover charges, and following them on social media. “The best way to support live music is to show up,” says Tom Cooler of the Savannah Songwriters Series, a monthly showcase of local and regional talent. “The tourism market is great,” says musician Jon Waits, “but it’s not a long-term picture for local musicians” because it has led to a unique dynamic where few establishments charge cover charges as patrons walk from place to place with go cups. “What you’re basically saying,” Kayne observes, “is, ‘The music doesn’t matter; it’s a giveaway.’” Musician and restaurateur Kurtis Schumm agrees. “Cover charges would up the ante for Savannah,” he predicts.  “There’s are a lot of great musicians here … and they’re relegated to background music.  If the city were to move to a cover charge, I think the music scene could grow that much more.  It’s a shared responsibility.” [gallery columns="4" ids="15852,15853,15854,15855,15856,15857,15858,15859,15860,15861,15862,15863,15864,15865,15850,15849,15848,15847,15846,15845,15844,15843,15842,15841"]
In the Air Tonight
For now, at our Service Brewing Co. jam session, local talents of all types gather around the stage, bobbing their heads in time with a newly discovered harmony.  A few are snapping selfies together and trading business cards—fresh collaborations in the offing. It’s hard to pinpoint whether Savannah is at the beginning—or in the middle of its beginning—as an emerging music city. But, in this moment, it feels as if we’ve gotten the sound just right.
  [caption id="attachment_15830" align="aligncenter" width="384"]View More: Photo by Teresa Earnest[/caption]
Steven Baumgardner
Steven, who performs as Basik Lee, just celebrated the tenth anniversary of Dope Sandwich Records and Tapes, the hometown label he founded with fellow hip-hop artists he met at SCAD.  His latest LP is Crazy Shit.   [caption id="attachment_15827" align="aligncenter" width="384"]View More: Photo by Teresa Earnest[/caption]  
Jared Hall
Veteran session musician, Jared is the keyboardist for the vivacious gypsy swing band Velvet Caravan and music director for the historic Trinity United Methodist Church, whose Thursday Night Opry is making sound waves city wide.   [caption id="attachment_15828" align="aligncenter" width="384"]View More: Photo by Teresa Earnest[/caption]  
Kayne Lanahan
Kayne is the director of MusicFile Productions and the founder of both the Savannah Stopover Music Festival and Revival Fest, which have put our city on the music map.  She relocated to Savannah five years ago after more than 25 years in media, advertising and marketing for the music and entertainment industries.   [caption id="attachment_15829" align="aligncenter" width="585"]View More: Photo by Teresa Earnest[/caption]
 Jon Waits
Jon is an award-winning singer-songwriter and professional photographer from Atlanta, who found his literal and musical home in Savannah four years ago.  A professional musician for more than 25 years, he now fronts the alt-country trio Waits and Co. with Markus Kuhlmann and John Pizzichemi.  


Nearly every day of the week, established, up-and-coming and visiting artists perform live shows in Savannah and Tybee Island’s restaurants, bars and clubs.  Check out the events calendars at and for weekly listings.  Consult for in-depth coverage of local bands.  Preview some of Savannah’s best music makers at  And don’t forget to support local and live music by attending shows.  Here are just a few happenings where you are welcome to listen in:
Serial Chillers
Savannah Songwriters Series 6-7:30 p.m., first Sunday of the month Johnny Harris Restaurant, 1651 E. Victory Drive   The Tongue: Open Mouth and Music Show 7-10 p.m., first and third Tuesday of the month Savannah Coffee Roasters, 215 W. Liberty St. On Facebook   Singer/Songwriter in Concert Series 6-8 p.m., first Saturday of the month (beginning in January) Wicked Cakes, 38 Whitaker St. On Facebook   Trinity Concert Sanctuary Series Historic Trinity United Methodist Church, 225 W. President St.  
The Festival Circuit
Savannah Stopover Music Festival March 10-12, 2016 Savannah Music Festival March 24-April 9, 2016 Revival Fest September 17, 2016 Savannah Jazz Fest Late September/Early October  


A Standing Ovation
Many thanks to Service Brewing Co. for the space to create a magical evening and Screamin’ Mimi’s Pizza for feeding our bodies and souls. Applause to all of the artists who shared the stage and came out to support one another: Alexis Ambrose, Black Water Choir Steven Baumgardner aka Basik Lee, Dope Sandwich Records Payne Bridges Sean Conradson, Crazy Man Crazy Tom Cooler, Savannah Songwriters Series Eric Dunn, Velvet Caravan Nicole Edge, Wave Slaves Patrick Ellington, Lyn Avenue Jared Hall, Velvet Caravan Jeremy Hammons, Train Wrecks Austin Harris, Crazy Man Crazy Andrew Hartzell, Sweet Thunder Strolling Band Larry Jones, Lyn Avenue Kristin King, New Arts Ensembles and Uncommon Collective Marcus Kuhlman, Waits and Co., Clouds and Satellites Ray Lundy, Bottle ‘n’ Cans Ira David Miller Ford Natirboff, Hypnotics Jeff Neugebauer, Crazy Man Crazy Thomas Oliver, Savannah Songwriter Series Stephen Palmer, Crazy Man Crazy John Pizzichemi, Waits and Co. Nikko Raptoulis Greg Rettig, Wave Slaves Jason Salzer Kurtis Schumm Rachael Shaner Isaac Smith Jeremiah Stuard, Co-Eds Ryan Sylvester, Hypnotics Ty Thompson, Hypnotics Jon Waits, Waits and Co. Willy Ware Tim Warren, Clouds and Satellites Cc Witt, Lyn Avenue Lu Zang                  

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  ©2015 Cedric Smith, TD 0976 Andrea Goto takes us for a wild ride in five of the hottest cars to hit our roads this season.  ¦  PHOTOGRAPHY BY CEDRIC SMITH As someone who is unschooled in all things mechanical, I bought my Mercedes because it was pretty and fast.  Like, really fast—at least compared to my previous import, which I imagined was powered by four sickly baby mice.  And so, without any consideration for suspension, grip, horsepower or other such nonsense that matters so much less than color, I bought her and named her “Rosita.” There are some arbitrary letters and numbers that indicate Rosita’s pedigree, but all I really knew is that she has four doors, four wheels and four mice on steroids who go all Hulk when I mash a little button marked “S”, presumably for “smash.” But I recently discovered that those letters and numbers on her hiney might actually mean something important.  This occurred to me when one of Rosita’s relatives blew past us like a GT.  I spotted the letters “AMG” on his backside.  Amazing Mice Gusto? After that, I started taking stock of the cars on Savannah’s roadways—cars that appeared faster and finer than my sweet Rosita.  But were they?  Since I thought a V-8 engine ran on tomato juice and an ABS system would give me a six-pack, I called on the gentlemen of the Oglethorpe Driving Club to school me on Savannah’s sexiest and speediest cars.  Each of the five skilled pilots test-drove (or shall we say drag-raced?) cars that would make James Bond weep.  With me in the passenger seat, softly whispering Hail Marys, they talked torque and traction, carbon fiber and cockpits; and I emerged on the other side with a better appreciation for fast, functional cars.  And by the grace of the Grand Prix Gods, I also emerged physically unscathed—visibly shaken, and stirred.   ©2015 Cedric Smith, TD 0575
I admit I’m nervous when I meet up with the first handler of the day, Michael Shortt, to test-drive a Mustang at J.C. Lewis Ford.  When he sticks a radar detector to the windshield and fishtails out of the lot, it doesn’t do much for my confidence.  In between astronomical accelerations through corners to demonstrate how the Mustang stays flat on turns, Shortt reminisces about the first Mustang he bought—a vintage Pantera when he was 45. “Instead of tearing centerfolds out of Playboy, I’d tear out the car ads,” he laughs, all the while keeping a sharp eye on the road.  (You see, the new Mustang is tighter, safer and more easily recoverable for inexperienced drivers—but, Shortt explains, it often gives drivers a sense of confidence they don’t deserve.) Fortunately, we don’t die as he turns the car—and my heart—180 degrees.  As it turns out, Shortt is a stunt driver and two-time SEC Champion—information I’d like to have known before I soiled a perfectly good dress. ©2015 Cedric Smith, TD 0649 Occupation:  Producer/director/writer/stunt driver Neighborhood:  Southbridge In his stable:  Mercedes E350, 450SL, Dodge Magnum Hemi R/T, DeTomaso Pantera, Ford Excursion V-10, Honda Pilot, 1970 Mustang Mach One (unrestored), plus several motorcycles Favorite Savannah road:  Highway 80 Test-driving:  2015 GT Mustang Coupe Engine:  5.0L TI-VCT V-8 Transmission:  6-speed select shift automatic Horsepower:  435 hp Torque:  400 lbs./ft.
©2015 Cedric Smith, TD 0644

Acceleration and power > “Using my 1970 Mustang Mach One with the 351 Cleveland as the comparison car to this one, I’d offer that this one feels about 500 lbs. heavier but it has a smaller, slightly more powerful engine that comes on much smoother and revs higher.”

Cornering > “I have little doubt that a modern stock Mustang GT with the proper tires would be able to pace the older race-prepped car around corners, as well as take the drivers to dinner afterwards.”

Ride > “The older version was lighter and had a heavier engine placed in the front, so it rode a bit rougher, while the new version rides a bit softer.  I remember long trips in the old Mustang requiring a few roadside stops just to walk around.”

Exterior style > “Ford has done its best after many missteps to pay proper homage to the styling of the 1969-70 Mustangs with the very basic design lines.  It’s a far more aero-friendly design with many features that give it instant recognition and reinforce its branding.”

Accouterments > “The new interior is 10 times better in every way—the fit, finish, ergonomics, materials and lighting make it a joy to drive, day or night.”

Demographics > “It’s a perfect car for the driver—man or woman—who appreciates machinery with a purpose.  If you’re required to carry a lot of stuff, this isn’t your car.  But if you’re the most important thing you have to deliver, then this is your ride.”

Savannah scene > “Taking ‘Mom’ to The Mansion on date night or parked in the car corral at the Hilton Head Concours D’Elegance.  Ideally, ‘Dad’ will partake of at least a couple of Hooked on Driving experiences to learn the capabilities of his car at its limits in a safe environment, under expert instruction.”

Vintage matchup > “Its very silhouette is a direct modern recreation of the iconic 1969-70 design—retro styling at its very best.”

Playlist > “‘I Can’t Drive 55’ by Sammy Hagar, ‘Life’s Been Good’ by Joe Walsh, ‘Hotel California’ by The Eagles, ‘Rumors’ by Fleetwood Mac and ‘Eliminator’ by ZZ Top.”

To me, this Mustang’s design and deep, throaty sound waxes nostalgia at every acceleration.  It’s the kind of car that belongs to a bad boy with a hidden heart—the guy who rolls his cigarette pack into the cuff of his white T-shirt, but still kisses his mama on the cheek.

©2015 Cedric Smith, TD 0718
Mercy, Mercedes
From there, I head over to Critz Mercedes to get behind the wheel of a six-figure, hand-built ride with Kevin Iocovozzi—which feels a bit like being the third wheel at prom with a naughty schoolboy and his date (the car, not me).  Iocovozzi initially demurs at the idea of test-driving a sedan with only 380 copies made for U.S. distribution, but he quickly becomes accustomed to the disarming 4-door beast he describes as “born angry—and will get pissed off if anyone passes it on the road.”  He strums the paddle shifters like a guitar as he takes me on a 90 mph tour through sections of the Savannah Speedway’s historic course, along Ferguson and La Roche avenues to Bluff Drive. Iocovozzi, who spent some time at the former Bethesda Home for Boys before being adopted along with his twin brother, tells me how the Bethesda boys built grandstands, equipped with rocking chairs, along some of the tighter turns of the Savannah Speedway, charging money for people to view the race.  A certified racecar driver himself, Iocovozzi knows the stories behind every inch of the raceway where the 1908, 1910 and 1911 American Grand Prize Cup was held.  By the time we return to Critz, he also knows every gear of his test car by sound and feel.  He’s reluctant to hand over the keys, and I think this might be a match made in horsepower Heaven. ©2015 Cedric Smith, TD 0755 Occupation:  Aviation Consultant and Gulfstream Specialist Neighborhood:  The Islands Current stable of wheels:  1993 Mazda RX7 Twin Turbo, 2000 Mercedes Benz E 55 AMG, and a 2016 Ford Shelby GT350 on order Favorite Savannah road:  The route of the 1908 Grand Prize race Test-driving:  2015 Mercedes-AMG C63 S Sedan Engine:  4.0L AMG V-8 biturbo engine with direct injection Transmission:  7-speed AMG SPEEDSHIFT MCT with shift paddles Horsepower:  503 hp Torque:  516 lbs./ft. ©2015 Cedric Smith, TD 0652

Acceleration and power > “This is exactly how a 500-horse, German-engineered, custom-built twin turbo V-8 should feel and sound.  It’s delivered with brutal, neck-snapping acceleration that’s not for the weak of heart and accompanied by a beautiful, raspy and sexy exhaust note—kind of like being hit with a velvet hammer.”

Cornering > “The front-end grip is confident and strong and the road feedback is excellent.  The excessive power is handily managed by AMG’s Dynamic Traction Control.  Everything firms up when you put your foot in it, and the rear end squats like a tiger ready to pounce.”

Ride > “Once planted, the car rides on rails and is actually pleasant cruising between 70 and 80 mph.  I’d love to take this car to a race track, turn the traction control off, wind it up and scare the crap out of myself.”

Exterior and interior style > “How can you notice such things when you’re dealing the Fear of God?”

Demographics > “I see my dear friend Lori Judge of Judge Realty driving this car.  She and I ride motorcycles together.  She is an awesome driver and has the courage and skill to drive this thing ‘like a boss.’  She could track the C63 on the weekends, shuttle her clients around during the week and then pick up her son at Blessed Sacrament after school.”

Savannah scene > “Anywhere—especially in my garage—but the frying pan wielded by my wife would prevent that from happening anytime soon.”

Vintage matchup > “From the big, naturally aspirated 6.3-liter (the purest choice) to the twin turbo 4.0, Mercedes has been playing around with the C63’s engine over the years.  The sound of the twin turbos spooling up in this V-8 is intoxicating and I’ll miss the rush.  My 2000 E 55 has a 5.5-liter naturally aspirated engine and 150 fewer horses.  In its day, it ruled the sedan class, but it can’t hold a candle to this bad boy.”

Playlist > “Lana del Rey singing some sultry love song and some chill techno with a nice backbeat.”

Don’t let this demure four-door fool you.  Yes, it might go under the radar at the grocery, but it’ll rupture the radar on the racetrack. To the chagrin of my husband and the amusement of my paltry bank account, this car must be mine.

©2015 Cedric Smith, TD 0835
At 28, Daniel Zeigler is the youngest member of the Oglethorpe Driving Club, which is probably why the salespeople at Vaden Chevrolet seem a little reluctant to hand over the keys to a Corvette that’s upwards of $90K. “I need a haircut,” he laughs, brushing his boyish, overgrown hair to the side. “I look like Justin Bieber.” But before a salesman can instruct him on how to pull out of the lot without scraping the car’s underbelly, Zeigler points to his pristine ’71 Stingray that’s already drawing looks in the parking lot as if to say, “Not my first time, friend.” Zeigler earned the Stingray, which he built with his father, when he promised to go to pharmacy school and take over the family’s business. “And, of course, to help people,” he adds, belying the fact that he knows every bitty bolt that goes into a Corvette and gets visible chills just talking about it.  Zeigler’s infinite respect for this machine—and, “of course,” my safety—is what prevents him from showing me its full potential. “I grew up driving on drag strips,” he admits, “but I’m not going to scare you or act like an idiot.” True to his gentlemanly ways, Zeigler keeps the ride pretty G-rated, though he does drive the car in Track Mode, against the warning of the salesman. “It takes off traction control,” Zeigler explains.  “But that’s what you say when you let your 18-year-old kid drive the car.” ©2015 Cedric Smith, TD 0911 Occupation:  Pharmacist, Medicap Pharmacy Neighborhood:  Henderson Golf Community Current stable of wheels:  1971 454 Corvette, 2007 MTI tuned Corvette Convertible, 1976 MG Midget Convertible Favorite Savannah road:  Bay Street Test-driving:  2015 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 Coupe Engine:  6.2L supercharged V8 Transmission:  7-speed manual Horsepower:  650 hp Torque:  650 lb./ft. ©2015 Cedric Smith, TD 0906

Acceleration and power > “There’s a 200 horsepower increase in the new ZO6 over the base model, and that’s apparent when force is applied to the gas pedal.  This car really puts Corvette back in the realm of supercars for me.”

Cornering > “When we talk about a Corvette’s suspension and cornering abilities, it’s usually accompanied by a light chuckle.  GM stopped that chuckle with the new ZO6.  This car is the most track-ready Corvette I’ve seen to date.  The 335-sized tires grip the road harder than my hand grips the keys.  That grip allows the car to pull enough Gs to throw someone’s back out of alignment.”

Ride > “With the ride selection dial, you can go from a somewhat smooth, Sunday-driving-quiet car in ‘economy’ mode to ‘track’ mode, where the exhaust cutouts open and you hear what you’re getting yourself into.”

Exterior style > “This car is gorgeous.  Its lines are aggressive, yet still bring the ‘classy’ the Corvette is known for.  To stray from the norm, Corvette now uses functional ducts to cool the brakes.”

Accouterments > “Corvette finally stepped up their game and did a complete renovation of the interior.  Arguably one of the worst aspects of previous Corvettes, the interior now contains creature comforts such as air-conditioned seats, active onboard navigation far superior to previous generations.”

Demographics > “The sticker price plus tax, tag and title will make this a six-figure car.  I’m sure you’ll see a bunch of men in their 50s and up owning them and driving the speed limit, but the true driver will be the adrenaline junkie.”

Savannah scene > “Hutchinson Island racetrack.”

Playlist > “Just listen to the engine notes.”

Zeigler’s passion for the Corvette’s power and precision is contagious and I secretly yearn to see what all the fuss is about from the other seat.  But when he asks if I want to take a turn, I politely decline, fully aware that just because you’ve ridden in a jet plane doesn’t mean you can fly one.

©2015 Cedric Smith, TD 0938
Deutsche Marks
Back at Critz—but this time in their BMW lot—I meet Bob Coffey, who’s wearing a stark-white collared shirt and leather loafers and looking as if he were born to drive a luxury German automobile.  The salesman senses it as well.  He practically tosses the keys at Coffey and encourages us to “have fun.” “Wow, you really trust us,” I say. “I trust how my cars perform,” he enthuses. From there he points us to “the ultimate driving machine,” and I’m a little underwhelmed to see a rather plain white coupe.  But one look at Coffey’s playful grin as he steps inside the sleek interior, and I realize that I may be in for yet another spree. No sooner are we blazing down Veterans Parkway, when my once bridled chauffeur announces that we’re going to test the brakes.  Not by slowing down, but by stopping.  On the parkway.  We drop from 75 to 0, and I feel the back of my brain hit the back of my eyes. “See how that handles?” Coffey says excitedly. I do, once my vision is restored. ©2015 Cedric Smith, TD 0926 Occupation:  General manager at the Savannah International Trade and Convention Center Neighborhood:  Parkside Current stable of wheels:  2002 BMW M5, 1995 BMW 525i Touring, 1985 Euro-spec M6, 1975 International Scout II, and a bunch of motorcycles Favorite Savannah road:  Roebling Road, Bloomingdale—it has lots of room for mistakes. Test-driving:  2015 BMW M235i coupe Engine:  3.0L BMW M Performance TwinPower Turbo inline 6-cylinder, 24-valve Transmission:  8-speed sport automatic Horsepower:  320 hp Torque:  330 lb./ft. ©2015 Cedric Smith, TD 0976

Acceleration and power >  “Straight-line acceleration seems endless, and the 8-speed auto tranny is well matched to the earlier iterations.  There’s plenty of ‘oomph’ flogging out of a turn.”

Cornering > “The M suspension is typical magic with a very comfortable ride, and it sticks like horse glue in the corners.  The steering is electrically boosted but light and neutral, and it provides a good road feel.  It stops like it was hit with Thor’s hammer—or maybe that’s just how [the writer] would describe our little ‘brake test.’”

Ride > “Very comfortable under normal way.  For 30 years, BMW has had a lock on the voodoo of combining a great ride with stellar handling.”

Style > “It’s on the same wheelbase as the 1 Series, but it looks longer, lower and sleeker.  It has semi-decent backseat leg and headroom.  It gives up two doors to the competing Audi S4 and Mercedes CLS, which may complicate lying my way into an M235i with the wife.”

Accouterments > “The interior—wild Coral Red Dakota contrasting with the Alpine White exterior—is beautifully done, but typically spare.”

Demographics > “The E46 M3 guys would not fall all over themselves for this—though it might run circles around them, and its engine sound is a good match.  I could see my geezer self in this car, sucking the doors off WRXs and G37s on my way to pick up a case of Ensure.”

Savannah scene > “It’s a beautiful car, looks assertive but not aggressive.  I’d hog [Oglethorpe Driving Club president] Jim Goodlett’s non-parking space outside Collins Quarter with it anytime.  But not at Vinnie’s: too many wheels.”

Vintage matchup > “This car is often compared to the earlier 1M, which was mainly a rocket strapped to a skateboard.  I still see the E46 M3 in its DNA, but others may differ.  To me, the BMW lineage is pretty consistent; I felt very much at home strapping into the M235.”

Playlist > “Chix, Styx and Stones.  But I bring Emmylou and Tom Petty wherever I go.”

Like the stereotype of the sexy librarian, this Beamer is deceptively saucy. Don’t get me wrong; it’s a beautiful car with all the creature comforts and then some, but until you feel what it’s really made of—the “M” being the deciding factor here—it’s hard to imagine that it can compete with the other muscle cars.

©2015 Cedric Smith, TD 1402
Snake Bite Fever
It makes sense for our last stop to be Southern Motors, where we encounter the biggest beast of them all—the Dodge Viper.  The car is intimidating just to look at and shares an uncanny likeness with the Batmobile—even more so when I meet my driver, Dow Hoffman, who has a Bruce Wayne quality to him and a history of owning Vipers.  Before we get in the car, he assures me that, as a man with a wife and three kids, he has no interest in dying, nor does he have any interest in buying this machine if he hurts it.  I didn’t know the “you break it, you buy it” policy existed with cars, but at the end of this rally, it’s clear there’s a lot I didn’t know—like what I would say and do right before I die. Thanks to Hoffman, I now know.  As we enter a very tight corner onto Truman Parkway at what feels like 100 mph, all I see before me are a cluster of trees and the white light of Heaven opening its doors. “Eeeeeeeep,” I softly whimper, completely paralyzed. I’d like to think I’d go out with a bang, throwing my arms in the air and emitting a warrior-like battle cry, but it’s probably all for the best.  Hoffman doesn’t seem to notice my mousy squeak over the engine’s thunder or the fact that we almost flew off the ramp.  “This car is screaming fast,” he says, calm and in control. ©2015 Cedric Smith, TD 1504 Occupation:  Surgeon, Chatham Orthopaedic Associates Neighborhood:  Downtown Historic District Current stable of wheels:  2012 Mercedes Benz s550 Favorite Savannah road:  Roebling Road in Bloomingdale Test-driving:  2015 Dodge Viper GTS Engine:  8.4L V-10 Transmission:  6-speed manual Horsepower:  645 HP Torque:  600 lbs./ft. ©2015 Cedric Smith, TD 1417

Acceleration and power > “The car is flat-out fast and it’s still beautiful.  It goes zero to 60 in three and a half seconds, throwing your head into the headrest when you accelerate.  It has six speeds, but you will never leave fourth gear on Savannah roads.  In fact, the car redlines at about 150 mph in fourth gear.  With a top speed of more than 200 mph, the 35 mph streets of Savannah seem very slow.”

Cornering > “Steering is very tight—it never loses grip—and you can stomp on the brakes as hard as you want at any speed and the car does not even wiggle.  With the traction control, you can’t really spin the wheels like you could before.  If you went around a tight curve with the old Viper, you would go in circles. But this is kinder and gentler.”

Ride > “The car is a beast, but a much more refined beast than it used to be.  It is faster and lighter—it’s a street-legal racecar.”

Exterior style > “There is no mistaking this car for another make or model when you see it on the street.  The wheels and tires are absolutely massive—Pirelli 355s in the rear.  Older models were available in a convertible and a coupe.  The 2015 coupe looks just as good as the older models, even a little better.”

Accouterments > “The navigation, touch screen, back up camera and leather seats are all new.  The older models had a plastic and rubber interior, a radio and little else.  It was a Dodge Caravan on the inside.  Then an Italian designer took over.  The new one is very comfortable, though the fit is tight.  I was thumbing through the owner’s manual and read the directions for installing a baby seat.  Who are they kidding?”

Demographics > “A bachelor living in a downtown apartment should drive this car.  It has one passenger seat and enough luggage room for a gym duffle and a loaf of bread.  No room for kids.  The car is not cheap, so a wife, kids and a mortgage may cramp your style.  Save your money for gas and tires; you’ll need it.”

Savannah scene > “Roebling Road, a road racecourse just outside of Pooler, in Bloomingdale.  This is a racecar.  The best place to be noticed is at the front of the line at a stoplight.  People will want to race you, but they do not stand a chance.”

Vintage matchup > “It still looks great, like Vipers of old.  This car now has 645 horsepower, which is much more than previous models.  And the old one didn’t include instructions for the baby seat.”

Playlist > “Classic rock or heavy metal only!  This is not an easy-listening car.  The opening lines of AC/DC’s ‘You Shook Me All Night Long’ come to mind.  The only problem—if it’s a problem—is that you can barely hear the radio over the engine noise.”

The Viper does not want to be driven on the street; it wants to be launched into space.  If I ever got the courage to drive this car, it would swiftly eject me from the seat out of distaste for my grocery-fetching, speed-limit-obeying conservatism.

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As "mayor" season gets underway, Annabelle Carr enjoys a cold drink and some hot topics with the first two declared contenders in the amazing race.   The deadline to file as a candidate in Savannah’s next election will have passed by the time you read these words.  Hopefully, more of the Garden’s myriad characters will have thrown their hats in the ring, and we’ll all be in for an exciting two months of grandstanding and rabble rousing.  In the meantime, I can think of no better way to contemplate this city’s future than to sit down with each of the race’s earliest contenders.  Incumbent Edna Jackson and challenger Murray Silver have been at it for months: shaping their rhetoric, building a fan base, and meeting with constituents to define the issues of the day.  I met them each on separate nights at the Top Deck Bar for an open discussion about the future—and a view of the city from all directions. Be warned: political correctness and politics do not always go hand-in-hand in Savannah, and the views expressed by the candidates do not necessarily reflect the views of this magazine. [caption id="attachment_15464" align="aligncenter" width="585"]Photograph by Jason B. James Photograph by Jason B. James[/caption]

The Incumbent: Mayor Edna Jackson

Native daughter Edna Branch Jackson has a long history in public service and a reputation for being approachable.  As a young leader in Savannah’s Civil Rights movement and the NAACP Youth Council nationwide, Jackson helped organize wade-ins at Tybee Island, kneel-ins at local churches, and voter registration all over the South.  A veteran social worker and counselor, she worked as an administrator at Savannah State University for 30 years.  Before she was elected as our first female African-American mayor in 2011, she served three terms in City Council as alderman at large, and two terms as mayor pro tem.  And, after nearly four years as the seaport’s supreme figurehead, she’s been campaigning hard for another term under the golden dome.  Her motivation?  “Unfinished business.”   Read On » [caption id="attachment_15463" align="aligncenter" width="585"]Photograph by Teresa Earnest Photograph by Teresa Earnest[/caption]

The Challenger: Murray Silver Jr.

Savannah’s mayor should be a character—a prerequisite native son Murray Silver has on lockdown.  This former rock music writer and photographer got his start promoting soon-to-be iconic bands in Atlanta at the tender age of 16.  Think Fleetwood Mac, the Grateful Dead and Paul Simon.  His book, nonfiction bestseller Great Balls of Fire: The Uncensored Story of Jerry Lee Lewis, became a major motion picture by the same name.  He earned his Juris Doctor at Woodrow Wilson College of Law and has worked as a speechwriter for Coretta Scott King, a special emissary for the Dalai Lama, and a writer and lecturer on the subject of Spirit.  But most Savannahians know him for his spirited criticisms of the status quo in local government—often voiced on his Facebook campaign for mayor, Change Savannah.  Read On »  

The Latest Challenger: Eddie Deloach

Former Chatham County Commissioner Eddie DeLoach had not declared his candidacy for Savannah’s mayor by the time we went to press with the September/October Best of Savannah issue.  But, we reached out as soon as we heard the news.  Kay Heritage stopped him on the campaign trail to ask a few questions. [caption id="attachment_15462" align="aligncenter" width="238"]Photograph by Kay Heritage Photograph by Kay Heritage  [/caption]
Savannah Magazine: Why do you want the thankless job of mayor?
Eddie DeLoach:  I came from a family that taught me if a job wasn't getting done, I had an obligation to step in and help make things happen. Right now, I don't think the job is getting done in the Savannah city government. Crime is on the rise, our money is being wasted on studies and failed projects, and no one has proposed, much less implemented, a long-term vision for Savannah. I know I'm capable for the job and I know I'll give it the best I've got, but this isn't about me; this race is about helping the people of Savannah, Georgia, get the services, protection, and peace of mind that they deserve.
SM:  What are your qualifications to represent this city—both in and out of the box?  
DeLoach:  I grew up in the Savannah area, I've owned and operated a business in Savannah, and I served as a Chatham County Commissioner for eight years. I believe my business background will help me tackle the huge amount of money that the [current] Mayor and Council are wasting, which will free up the funding in the budget to fully staff our police force and help reduce crime. Savannah desperately needs real leadership and I truly believe I'm the person for this job.
SM:  What peculiarities do you love about Savannah?
DeLoach:  I moved to Savannah when my wife and I became empty nesters. I quickly learned to love this city. I've always loved to eat with a group of friends and family and being downtown makes it easy to find a local restaurant that caters to whatever you desire. There's always a crowd to enjoy the atmosphere with you and your friends. When my wife and I moved in, it was obvious to us that everyone in the neighborhood was concerned about each other. People brought cakes, food, and all types of things when we moved into the neighborhood. When our neighbor moved out, we celebrated their time with us and hosted parties to wish them well as they moved to a new Savannah location. If you lose a dog in Savannah, people help you find your dog. They'll take the time to call around to find your dog and they'll keep it safe if they find him. I remember I once kept a lost dog for three days. I didn't know whose dog it was, but I knew the owners would show up and I wanted to make sure that dog was safe and loved. That's Savannah for you.
SM:  What, in a nutshell, needs changing?
DeLoach:  I think most of the change in Savannah needs to happen in three main areas; crime, fiscal matters, and leadership. If we set a long-term vision for this city that incorporates a serious reduction in crime and involves cutting out waste, this city will see tremendous growth. There are many things in Savannah that don't need changing; we have incredible people and incredible character, but we need a leader who is willing to tackle the tough questions so that our citizens get what they deserve.

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[caption id="attachment_15188" align="aligncenter" width="585"] DIRTTbags Reggie Smith and Debra Ellison  [/caption] Our article on the corporate citizenship awards in the May/June issue didn’t do justice to DIRTT’s civic contributions.  So, inspired by the sustainable construction company’s clever acronym, we’re Doing It Right This Time. By Amy Paige Condon Used to be that being called a “DIRTTbag” was a bad thing.  But Georgia’s Manufacturer of the Year for 2013, DIRTT Environmental Solutions, has elevated the sobriquet to a term of endearment for all who follow the company’s unwavering commitment to sustainability and collaborative philanthropy. Laura Lee Bocade, DIRTT’s relationship and business development manager in Savannah, explains that the Calgary-based company’s ethos is built upon the edict “reduce, reuse and recycle.” “There’s a better way to build,” she says.  “People watch what you do; they don’t listen to just what you say.” DIRTT minimizes contributions to landfills (saving 65 million pounds of waste in five years) by reusing as many materials as possible in designing, building and shipping their proprietary flexible interiors.  They also source as many materials locally to reduce their carbon footprint—and that includes the proteins and produce the on-site chefs at DIRTT Café prepare for the employees. DIRTT’s unused wood and tempered glass finds its way into community projects, like the East 34th Street greenhouse and a shade house at the West Broad Street YMCA, both completed with Emergent Structures—a nonprofit collective of building professionals that repurposes salvaged materials.  Most recently, DIRTT collaborated with Rives Worrell, IKEA, SCAD and Emergent Structures on a rails table competition for the Creative Coast. During lulls in the manufacturing process throughout the year, DIRTT’s employees contribute time and effort to community organizations that matter to them—Savannah Tree Foundation, Second Harvest Food Bank, Habitat for Humanity and Emmaus House, among others. “We can be part of something with our hands, our feet, our hearts and our dollars,” says Bocade. Know this, though: DIRTT’s profits are as impressive as its commitment to community.  DIRTT has enjoyed 40 percent year-over-year growth since the day it opened its doors in 2004. “The company is living proof that you can do the right thing by people, by the environment, build the best product possible—and still make money for the company, for the team, the investors and all the stakeholders.” Nothing wrong with spreading a little DIRTT around.   To meet the other winners of Savannah Magazine's Corporate Citizenship Awards, pick up a copy of the May/June issue—on newsstands now.  Or better yet, subscribe TODAY, and enjoy Savannah all year long.

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Savannah is a city of families.  Some of us came over on the Anne in 1733.  Some arrived on Jet Blue in 2014.  And if history is any indicator, many will still be shaping our culture in 2133. In honor of this magazine’s 25th anniversary, we wanted to honor the fiber of our city: the families who helped build it.  We set out to profile a few of the multi-generational dynasties that have left a lasting mark on this city.  We got a lot more than we bargained for—and we were still interviewing as this magazine went off to press. From roots to leaves, Savannah’s family trees are like our signature live oaks: the roots run deep, the branches spread far and wide—and the leaves are always green.
Photography by Cedric Smith [caption id="attachment_14926" align="aligncenter" width="585"] The Ambos Family  [/caption]
The Ambos Family
If you know where to look on Romerly Marsh, near the north end of wild Wassaw Island, you can still see the ramshackle remains of an oyster outpost.  It’s the most remote marker of the Ambos Seafoods empire, a fixture in Savannah since the late 1800s.  It began in 1870 with a waterfront restaurant in Thunderbolt and has grown into a full-scale distributor of seafood, chicken and sausage. “The business has changed a lot through the years, but we’ve always focused on the best product and service,” reflects Hal Ambos, who owns and operates this fifth-generation family business with his brother, Drew.  “That will never change.” Deep Freeze:  In 1948, Henry F. Ambos and his business partner, William Mullis, invented a method to bread and freeze fantail shrimp.  They distributed the ready-to-cook product across America, transforming the seafood industry and bringing shrimp into millions of land-locked homes. —Florence M. Slatinsky [caption id="attachment_14927" align="aligncenter" width="585"] The Bond Family  [/caption]
The Bond* Family
Pin Point Betterment Association president Hanif Haynes is a direct descendant of a slave and a sharecropper on Ossabaw Island.  His great-great-grandfather, Benjamin Bond, came to Pin Point—a tiny African-American hamlet located off Diamond Causeway—in 1897, purchasing the first lot in the tiny waterfront neighborhood.  Over the years, the Bond family helped build the community, fishing local waterways, working at the Pin Point Oyster Factory and founding two local houses of worship. “This community comes from a group of people who persevered through slavery and sharecropping and were able to purchase land for themselves and to enjoy their first freedom,” Hanif observes.  “With such a legacy, it’s no wonder the spirit of Pin Point perseveres.” My Brother’s Keeper:  Almost everyone in Pin Point is related to one another through a common ancestor: David Bond.  The Bond family tree dates back several generations and even includes U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, a Pin Point native. —Allison Hersh *We Stand Corrected: In the March/April 2015 print edition of the magazine, we listed the Bond family as the Barnes family.  We deeply regret this error. [caption id="attachment_14928" align="aligncenter" width="585"] The Minis Family  [/caption]
The Minis Family
It remains a family mystery as to what prompted Abigail and Abraham Minis, Ashkenazi Jews of German origin, to board the William and Sarah in 1733 with two young daughters, leaving London for the wilds of Savannah.  They were among the 42 Jews who left without knowing if Gen. James Oglethorpe would receive them into the Colony of Georgia, which he had founded just a few months earlier.  They couldn’t know if he would receive them—because they hadn’t asked for permission to come. After consulting with attorneys in Charleston, Oglethorpe decided not only to let the Jews stay but to grant them land.  Despite the hardship and the uncertainty of life in a colony with foreign traditions and few other Jews, the Minises thrived—and they’ve lived continuously in Savannah for 282 years. From the moment they landed, and through every successive generation, the Minises have invested in this community and been proud to be part of it.  Abraham was a farmer and merchant shipper who supplied Oglethorpe at Fort Frederica on St. Simons Island.  His widow, Abigail, raised eight children, operated a tavern that hosted many local dignitaries, and amassed huge land holdings that she passed on to her children.  She supported the American Revolution.  So did her son, Philip, who also led a failed raid against the British.  Her daughter, Judith, entertained Oglethorpe regularly. Successive ancestors invested in the first steamship, served in the military, in local government and as leaders of their synagogue and churches.  They were founding members of Congregation Mickve Israel, the Hibernian Society and the Oglethorpe Club.  They were doctors, merchants and seamen—most with an interest in business and an affinity for numbers.  Bob Minis started the investment firm Minis and Co. and later owned Carson Products, where his three children—Bobby, Henry and Peggy—were also involved before the company was sold in 1995. Call Declined:  After the Civil War, Abraham Minis and his wife, Lavinia, no longer wanted to vacation in the North.  Instead, they summered in Nova Scotia, where they met inventor Alexander Graham Bell.  Abraham declined to invest in a prototype of the telephone, saying, “I cannot invest in the hope of a solid wire being able to carry a voice.” Law and Order:  In 1867, President Andrew Johnson pardoned Dinah Minis, who was accused of treason for actively supporting the Confederacy.  Dr. Philip Minis, Dinah’s son, killed a man in a duel for allegedly making anti-Semitic remarks. True Romance:  Mary Haskell Minis turned down a proposal from her protégé, writer and artist Kahlil Gibran.  Though her husband disapproved of the emotional relationship, she edited Gibran’s work and supported him financially.  Their letters were published under the title The Beloved Prophet, and her collection of his drawings and paintings now resides at the Telfair Academy. —Florence M. Slatinsky To meet the more Savannah families, pick up the March/April 2015 issue of Savannah magazine today!  Better yet, subscribe NOW, right HERE » Our list of families is by no means exhaustive.  Share your family's story with us today—in your own words—at

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BacktoSchool Will your future graduate be able to get a job?  How are your educators preparing the next wave of Savannah's workforce.  LAURIE J. FLYNN does the math.  PHOTOGRAPHY BY TERESA EARNEST

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