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Community rallies for business owner

POSTED: May 16, 2012 4:00 a.m.
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Gordon Pirkle and AC/DC frontman Brian Johnson listen to instructions before filming a television show at Thunder Road USA in 2010.

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It could be weeks, if not months, before the historic Dawsonville Pool Room reopens as its owner works with the state to resolve tax issues.

In the meantime, the local community is rallying to bring back its favorite eatery as soon as possible in support of Gordon Pirkle and his dedication to Dawsonville.

"I would do anything for Gordon," said Michelle Everett, a local mother and former Pool Room employee. "I can't say enough about how much I love and respect him."

Like many others who commented on a social media page created last week called "Save the Dawsonville Pool Room," Everett's first job was at the restaurant.

"I graduated high school and bought my first car [while] working for him," she said. "Then I graduated college ... while working full time during the day and going to school at night."

When Everett's husband died a few years ago, Pirkle took trays of food to the funeral home and her house at no cost.

"He gives and gives," Everett said. "When he reopens, I plan to offer to go work for free to help him rebuild his business, because I care about him that much."

Sara McCollun also worked at the Pool Room as a teenager.

"I got pregnant when I was 18 and was working two jobs," she said. "Gordon knew I needed money so he would let me come in and work when I could. Without that job I don't think I would be where I am today: A college graduate raising my daughter."

McCollun is organizing the Miss Thunder Road pageant that will be held in late July or early August to benefit the Pool Room.

Volunteers are also planning a car show and motorcycle ride for the cause.

Grandson Michael Garrett Jr. said the family is overwhelmed by the show of support from the community, though not surprised that so many have recognized his grandfather's commitment to Dawsonville.

"He is such a community-serving man and he gave so much to this community," he said.

Over the years, Pirkle has supported local charities, sports teams, weddings, funerals, the fourth grade classes and can often be found giving to nearly anyone needing help, according to his family.

"If you weren't personally helped by him, you at least know someone that was," Garrett said. "He's just an amazing man. He taught me that giving means so much more than receiving, because you get so much better blessings out of it, and you can see that by the support this week."

During the busy lunch shift May 9, state Department of Revenue agents showed up, ordered everyone out and padlocked the door to the Pool Room.

According to the levy notice posted on the restaurant door, the seizure stems from nearly $84,000 in unpaid taxes and fees.

"It really upsets me, because the Pool Room and Dawsonville mean so much to my Papa. He's our centerpiece and he's the centerpiece of Dawsonville," Garrett said. "He is what we need in this community."

Karen Reece, Pirkle's daughter-in-law, felt so strongly about the situation that she set up one of two accounts at local banks to collect donations for the Pool Room.

"I believe that what the government is doing and the way they went about it is 100 percent wrong," she said. "He's been dealing with this issue for a couple of years, attempting to get it straightened out."

Pirkle said he had been working to settle the state tax debt.

"The last time we heard from them, they said we were down to about $30,000 we owed," he said. "I think I could do that amount myself, but not with the doors closed."

Pirkle said he's since been asked to provide tax documentation for the last 20 years and may owe an additional nearly $80,000.

Pirkle knew he had a lot of friends, but said he has been astonished by the calls, words of encouragement and support.

"Not only from here in Dawsonville, but from other states, too," he said. "It's just overwhelming."

As of Tuesday afternoon, Reece said close to $1,000 in donations had been deposited in the Pool Room account at First Citizens Bank. The total donations at United Community could not be confirmed.

 

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