After 25 years of serving the people of Cleveland and Bolivar County in some form or fashion, owner Debbie (Holder) Ray said that the time had come for her to hang up her apron.
"The Southern Grill began 11 years ago and I have loved every minute of it," said Ray. "I am going to miss my customers, many of which have also become my friends."
Ray began her journey in the restaurant business as a part-time waitress at Mr. Bar-B-Que.
She worked her way up through the ranks and eventually became manager of the restaurant.
Then, as fate had it, a building owned by Billy Perry became opened at 122 North St. and a faithful partnership began.
"Debbie moved into that building on North Street that had been recently vacated and began her restaurant," remembered Perry. "Some older fixtures were already in the location but before long she had replaced them all with newer appliances."
Through the course of the next 11 years, the Southern Grill would experience its fair share of ups and down.
"In the beginning, business was really good and I was excited," said Holder. "Then in 2003 I decided it was time to expand and we moved the restaurant out to Carpenter Street."
When that building burned down in 2011 Ray said that she was devastated.
“You work your whole life for something and then watch it go up in flames,” said Ray. “I just still feel numb.
Rising from the ashes of ruin, the Southern Grill moved back to North Street and the building where it all began.
Now, almost a year later Ray said it is time for her to move in a different direction.
"I am tired of working seven days a week," said Ray. "In this business there is little time for family or anything else for that matter. I have a two and a half year old grandson and it is time that I start spending more time with him. I am just ready for a normal life."
Perry, like many other loyal customers, said that while he understands her reason for wanting to move on, he would certainly miss the time and fellowship that he shared there.
"Since she opened 11 years ago, I have eaten there just about every day," said Perry. "She is like a member of my family and I will miss the good times that we had. While I hate that she is closing the restaurant, I wish her the best in the future.