It is no doubt that COVID-19 has turned our world upside down, especially the restaurant industry. While many owners have unfortunately been forced to close, those that stayed open resorted to new and unique ways of operation.
The Valdosta-Lowndes Chamber of Commerce and Georgia Power recognize this hurdle and commend Jessie’s Restaurant and Catering on their safe redirection by naming them a winner of the Industry Innovation Award.
“Georgia Power is proud to recognize businesses who have pivoted to find success,” shared Georgia Power’s Joe Brownlee.
Jessie’s has been in the Valdosta area for 22 years and is known for its eclectic menu items and laid-back atmosphere. They serve breakfast and lunch every day, Sunday brunch, and provide full-service catering for a variety of events, such as weddings, office parties, proms, and charity events.
Originally owned by Kim Newman, the name “Jessie’s” was inspired by her daughter. In 2009, Mikki Wills gained ownership of the restaurant and decided to keep the name. Now, Mikki has brought the restaurant a long way, especially during this past year when COVID hit.
Like every other restaurant owner, Mikki panicked and wondered how her business was going to remain open in such unprecedented times.
When asked what her initial reaction was, she replied “Fear. Fear that we would have to shut down, fear that everything would go to waste, and fear for mine and my employees’ jobs and lives.”
It did not take long for Hudson and her team to turn the fear into innovation.
Jessie’s was one of the first restaurants to offer curbside service in the community, and the response was a hit. Customers could expect the same quality of food and service from Jessie’s all delivered to them in the safety of their car.
While Jessie’s has been able to reopen with outdoor and socially distant seating in their dining area, patio and new event space, many customers still opt for curbside, take out or delivery.
After seeing how well received their changes were with customers, Jessie’s got even more creative and began offering their very own “Party Packs,” which are a fun twist on to-go meals that the whole family can get involved in. Some of their favorites were Taco Tuesday and Build Your Own Pizza.
“Parents didn’t want to go to the grocery store, so we made dinner easy,” said Wills.
While the safety and convenience of parents were recognized, Wills also thought about the children.
Party Packs were not only fun to eat but gave the kids something to look forward to helping create while they were staying at home.
“Party Packs have something for everyone,” she stated.
Wills realizes how important it is to help others in the community, especially during difficult times as these. “We are all about making the community better and working together with others to help them while they’re down,” she said.
Jessie’s has been a positive light to the Valdosta community, and a global pandemic did not stop them from giving to others in time of need. They offered boxed lunches for first responders and brought breakfast to other restaurants in the community who were facing the same difficulties as they were.
“We just wanted to share our love for the community of restaurants and businesses. We are all in this together,” Wills said.
Wills noted, “This past Easter, we fed over 70 families. We made a drive-through in front of our store and they would just sit in their cars and we would bring their meal to them.”
In addition to community service, Wills knows the value of teamwork. “My team is amazing, and they have stuck with me. We have all worked very hard,” she said.
Mikki and the entire Jessie’s staff are looking forward to the future and for new opportunities as the holidays approach. Their yearly Thanksgiving meal and Christmas party catering are still in the works, but they are still figuring out the safest way to offer them.
Jessie’s is now open for dine-in as well as outdoor dining, and you can always call ahead or place orders online for pick-up or delivery. To place an order or get some more information on catering services, please call (229) 247-4670, or visit them at 205 North Ashley Street or www.jessiesvaldosta.com.
Christie Moore, an experienced and proven non-profit professional, has been selected to serve as the new president and chief executive officer of the Valdosta-Lowndes Chamber of Commerce. The organization’s board of directors voted unanimously on Tuesday to name the Georgia native to the position effective January 2021.
In December of 2017, current president and chief executive officer Myrna Ballard announced her plans to retire in December 2020. She has been a part of the Valdosta and Lowndes County community since 1995 when she was chosen as the vice president of economic development for the chamber. She assumed the top leadership role in 1997.
“Christie brings the passion and experience the board identified as key traits required to build upon our solid foundation already in place,” according to Lee McArthur, chair of the board and partner with CCB Tech Group. “She is a leader in the chamber profession with proven results to back up her successes. I describe Christie as an innovator, team builder and most importantly a listener.”
Ballard also feels that her successor will be an asset to the Chamber team and community.
"Christie is a terrific fit for our Chamber," said Ballard. "She brings a great deal of chamber experience to the job. The Chamber staff and I feel that she is an excellent choice and we all look forward to welcoming her to Valdosta and to the Chamber."
Moore currently serves as president and chief executive officer of the Dawson County Chamber of Commerce in Dawsonville, Georgia, a position she has held since 2012. The Dawson County Chamber, under Moore’s leadership, is responsible for business advocacy, tourism marketing and economic development. One of Moore’s most notable successes has been the implementation of research-driven workforce best practices to champion local work-based learning initiatives though collaboration with the local school system, higher education institutions, and local industry leaders. Under Moore’s guidance, the chamber also successfully advocated for the passage of ESPLOST to fund a college and career academy to improve outcomes for the most vulnerable students in Dawson County. A tireless advocate on behalf of small businesses, Moore led the campaign to reduce impact fees on the commercial sector to make it easier for already existing businesses to expand, as well as, to encourage increased entrepreneurial investment in the community.
Prior to Dawson County, Moore served as the leader of the Blakely-Early County Chamber of Commerce in southwest Georgia. She earned a Master of Arts in Strategic Communication from American University, Washington, DC and undergraduate degrees at The University of Georgia with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Bachelor of Arts in History.
“I have watched the Valdosta and Lowndes County region grow in terms of business, infrastructure and influence over the past ten years,” Moore said. “I am honored to have been selected for the president’s role and to carry on the Valdosta-Lowndes Chamber’s legacy of more than a century of serving local businesses and the community. My first order of business in January will be to listen. I want to meet with members and non-members of the chamber, community advocates, regional leaders and the internal chamber team to learn what the strengths of the chamber are and what opportunities exist for the chamber to help enable businesses, nonprofits, and citizens to thrive.”
Moore is a graduate of the US Chamber’s Institute of Organization Management and a Georgia Certified Chamber Executive. She is also a graduate of Leadership Georgia, Zell Miller Leadership Institute, Leadership Dawson, and the Georgia Academy of Economic Development.
The Valdosta-Lowndes Chamber has continuously received the five-star accreditation by the US Chamber of Commerce. The accreditation program defines standards of excellence in chamber planning and performance and shows chambers how they can reach and maintain these standards. It also helps chambers measure achievement while recognizing and encouraging chamber members and staff who meet high standards of operation and who contribute effectively to the good of their chambers and communities.
Moore and her husband Michael will be moving to Valdosta in December. Her first day at the chamber will be Monday, January 4.
The Chamber board engaged The Chason Group to lead the executive search process. The firm, which is Georgia based, specializes in executive searches for chambers of commerce, economic development organizations, foundations and other non-profits.