Mysterious notes taped to entrance doors told people a simple truth.
“Golden Corral is officially closed. Thank you for your business,” papers dated May 12 read.
Many customers were surprised when they drove up to the long-standing Golden Corral Buffet & Grill Monday evening expecting a dinner meal.
Baldwin High School alumnus Leroy Hill, former NFL linebacker with the Seattle Seahawks, was one of three professional football owners that took over the local establishment as of April 7, 2011.
Hill told The Union-Recorder back in 2011 owning the restaurant was part of giving back and providing economic growth to the city.
At the time, James Butler of the St. Louis Rams and Tye Hill of the Detroit Lions were the other partners.
According to the eatery's corporate office, Butler owned the Milledgeville franchise under YBE Milledgeville, LLC.
Together with Leroy and Tye Hill under the YBE umbrella, the group also owned Golden Corrals in Oxford, Ala. and Centerville, Ga.
Butler didn't return a phone call by press time Tuesday.
The Providence Group Professional Sports and Entertainment was involved in the Milledgeville restaurant's management after the 2011 purchase.
Providence Group's Travis Kelly said Tuesday his team no longer managed the restaurant.
“About a year ago, the players decided they wanted to take over the management of the business,” Kelly said. “I heard of the closure but didn't know if it was true. We worked with a lot of those employees over the couple of years we were involved, so that's sad news. The restaurant business is a difficult one, so you have to make sure you have the right operations in place. If you don't, it can spiral out of control pretty quickly.”
The Milledgeville Lions Club and other local civic organizations previously held monthly meetings at Golden Corral.
Local Lions Club President Paul May said the group had to reschedule this Thursday's meeting.
“We didn't get any kind of advanced notice at all,” May said. “It was quite a shock. It would have really been a shock if someone didn't see it. It would be disappointing to drive up and be locked out.”
The club did salvage its flag and plaque, while a cleaning and moving team worked Tuesday.
The Lions Club president said the Golden Corral experience wasn't great lately.
May did say the prices and buffet choices were ideal for clubs.
“The real problem we had was it was just so noisy,” he said. “Sometimes you could hardly hear our speaker. We were looking to relocate.”
May said Milledgeville lacks any good private club meeting locations “where someone can have a reasonable meal.”
For now, the Lions Club will gather at IHOP.
Priscilla Randall, president of the Civitan Club of Baldwin County, first heard of the news when contacted by the Union-Recorder Tuesday.
“I was shocked,” she said.
For 18 years, Golden Corral operated at 1913 N. Columbia St.
Several citizens reacted to the closure on the Union-Recorder Facebook page. Comments were mixed.
Some said the food quality and prices weren't where they needed to be.
“It has been going down for a while,” Terrie Burris Lingold said.
Others will miss Golden Corral.
“That's one of my children's top picks for places to eat around Milledgeville. I want more businesses to come to Milledgeville, not to close down,” Abbi Bufford Hradecky commented.
Charles Pennington's Facebook comments were “sad” and “always enjoyed visiting there.”