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Dozens out of work after Dawsonville Ryans closes
Employees learned they lost their jobs by notice on eatery door
Ryans closing
Employees at Ryan's in Dawsonville learned they were jobless when they arrived to work Sunday morning and found a note on the door. - photo by For the Dawson County News

Lewis Bergeron had a full calendar of tasks he needed to complete Monday morning.

First, he applied for food stamps. Then he was headed to the unemployment office in Gainesville.

Bergeron was among more than two dozen employees that arrived to work at Ryan's in Dawsonville Sunday morning only to learn the restaurant on Ga. 400 had closed down.

"We found out by the sign on the door. It was overwhelming, surreal. Everyone was crying. So many families don't know what they're going to do," he said.

Texas-based Ovation Brands, which was acquired by Food Management Partners in August 2015, released a statement in early February announcing the closing of nearly 80 "under-performing" locations.

"Since that time, we have continued to execute former management's operating plan to stabilize and enhance the performance of the company. However, based on ongoing assessments of individual restaurants, it is necessary to shutter locations for the continued viability of the brands and our employees," the statement read.

The Ryan's in Chattanooga was also on that list that included Old Country Buffet, Hometown Buffet, Fire Mountain and Country Buffet locations throughout the United States.

Bergeron said he thought the Dawsonville restaurant was safe.

"I actually drove a U-Haul truck 18 hours to Tennessee and picked up some things at the restaurant to bring back here," he said. "I had a feeling that something like this might happen to us, but management assured us that wasn't going to happen.

"A month later, almost to the day, we get to work and a U-Haul is backed up to the restaurant."

According to Bergeron, restaurant management had no prior knowledge the restaurant was closing down on Sunday.

"They found out when we did," he said.

In all, close to 25 employees are out of work.

"My plan is to pick up another job as soon as I can. I have a lot of bills, and I just put a large down payment on a second vehicle," Bergeron said.

Attempts to reach corporate management for comment were unsuccessful.

The February statement did say that employees "will be given the opportunity to apply for positions at operating stores, and we expect many to take advantage of that opportunity.

"Additionally, we will be adding staff to the operating restaurants, enabling us to provide the service levels our guests expect and deserve."

Guests that frequent the Dawsonville Ryan's, which serves as a meeting place for numerous local clubs and organizations, were shocked to learn of the abrupt closing.

Linda Moore was awakened from sleep Sunday morning when Bergeron's mom called and told her the news.

Her late husband Thomas "Gunny" Moore was active with the local Vietnam Veterans of America chapter, which has met at the eatery for many years.

Photos, banners and Vietnam veteran memorabilia decorated a back room where they gathered monthly.

Linda Moore said she was given 15 minutes to get to the restaurant and collect the group's belongings.

"I jumped up out of bed, went down and was able to get all the veterans stuff," she said. "As I was walking out, I noticed the Kiwanis stuff in the other room, so I was able to get all of their stuff, too."

She thanked Bergeron for thinking about the veterans group when he had so many other thoughts on his mind, including where his next paycheck would come from.

"Thank goodness for [him] to think about me and Gunny. I guess Gunny is still watching over us and a lot of memories there at Ryan's," she said.

Groups that met at the restaurant are now searching for locations to hold their meetings.