Sammons Restaurant closes after 60-plus years of business

Published 9:23 am Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Star Photo/Curtis Carden Denise R. Sammons, CEO of Sammons Restaurants, Inc., announced Monday that the company, which serviced Elizabethton for over 66 years, is officially closed.

Star Photo/Curtis Carden
Denise R. Sammons, CEO of Sammons Restaurants, Inc., announced Monday that the company, which serviced Elizabethton for over 66 years, is officially closed.

Being a staple in the community since the 1950s, one eatery known before as “The Hole In the Wall” decided to close its doors.
Sammons Restaurants, located on 2020 West Elk Ave. in Elizabethton, announced Monday they are no longer in business, according to a press release issued to the Elizabethton Star from Sammons Restaurants, Inc., CEO Denise R. Sammons, after serving their last customer on Saturday, Aug. 13.
“We’re just so overwhelmed with all the support we’ve received from the community,” Sammons told the Elizabethton Star Monday in a phone interview. “It has been a very emotional day. Just going through the Facebook posts and comments and seeing people just share their memories about the restaurant.”
Denise shared the stories provided by the public, including one from a member of the military who posted online, talking about his experiences of visiting the restaurants for a little piece of home.
“He said that when he would come back home, he would stop by to get a hot dog because it reminded him of home,” she said. “He went on to add that he was saddened by the decision but appreciated the restaurant and said it became a core identify and hallmark of the community. Just hearing those stories and knowing how this restaurant impacted the area means so much and we appreciate everyone who has supported the restaurant.”
Denise will focus her time on SOZO Life & Wellness, a nutritional practice based out of Elizabethton, which has grown since its birth in 2012. While the growth of the business has been successful, the CEO decided that she wanted to close out the family business while the brand is still highly successful.
Denise did add the she would love to see someone continue the Sammons Restaurant name moving forward. The brand has been on the market for sale since 2010.
Monday’s press release issued from the company added background and words to the public. Included is the letter in its entirety:
“After being continuously operated for more than 66 years, in Elizabethton, by three generations of the Sammons’ Family, it is with deep pride, sadness, and hope that the current Sammons Restaurants Incorporated CEO announces the closing of the business, better known as “Sammons’ Hot Dogs” by many friends, patrons, and the community. The closing is effective immediately, having served their last customer last Saturday night, August 13, 2016.
The seed for Sammons Restaurants was planted in 1950 by Doran S. Sammons, the grandfather of the present shareholders, Denise Sammons and Debbi Sammons Maupin. Sammons began in historical downtown Elizabethton serving a unique hot dog and a “trade secret” chili to the hundreds of plant workers and farmers that shopped and conducted business daily in downtown. These “locals” knew the business as “The Hole in the Wall.” As businesses and customers abandoned the downtowns of America, Doran Sammons, in 1978, moved and expanded the business to a full “fast food” menu by relocating to a modern “drive-through” facility on Railroad Street, joined by granddaughters Debbi and Denise. Even though it now offered a full fast food menu, Sammons Restaurant continued to be famous for the original Sammons Hot Dog.
In 1987, Doran and Richard Sammons expanded the Sammons Hot Dog concept into a second location on Veterans Parkway (US 19-E). The business continued to grow and change as the third generation of the Sammons’ family, Denise and Debbie, joined their father and grandfather in the ownership of the business.
In 1999, Debbi Sammons stepped out of the day-to-day operations, becoming a silent shareholder, leaving CEO Richard Sammons and COO Denise Sammons as majority shareholders. Sammons Restaurants Incorporated built a new store on West Elk Avenue in August of 2000, in the Rio Vista community of Elizabethton. To streamline the operation and management of Sammons Restaurants, Richard and Denise consolidated both stores in June of 2015. The Welk Elk location and “state-of-the-art” facility allowed Sammons Restaurant to continue to steadily grow. This past fiscal year was the most successful in the company’s history, and its last day of operation saw the business experience one of its largest business days in its entire history!
Not only did Denise Sammons grow professionally as the mind and force behind the modern Sammons Restaurants, but she grew personally and intellectually. Sammons Restaurants had given Denise a broad perspective on the nutritional taste and habits of a busy customer base. This experience led her to investigate and inquire into the impact of these “taste and habits” on the health of her customers. That inquiry led to her deeper involvement in nutrition as a path to health and healing and her spiritual conviction that true physical and mental health was a result of eliminating pathogens, emotional and environmental toxins while supporting a healthy lifestyle with proper nutrition, not modern chemicals.
Denise expanded her nutritional knowledge base by attending numerous integrative medical conferences, personally studying under one of the world’s top integrative doctors, Dr. William Lee Cowden MD, and pursuing a doctorate in naturopathy. She became a member of the Academy of Comprehensive Integrative Medicine and formed her own nutritional practice, SOZO Life & Wellness, located on 106 Rogosin Drive. Just as Sammons Restaurants continued to grow under the leadership of Denise, so SOZO grew exponentially with a client base expanding throughout the United States, even into Indonesia.
As two highly successful businesses competed for her time and attention of the past few years, it became clear that a decision was quickly approaching. Ephesians 5:15-17 says, “therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men, but as wise, making the most of your time … but understand what the will of the Lord is.” … she prayerfully considered ‘How to be obedient to God’s calling and make the great impact positively to others?’. Having observed the amazing impact of nutritional support during her father’s struggle with coronary artery disease and Alzheimer’s, Denise’s commitment to her family and the family business had been replaced with a passion to serve the health needs of America, and indeed the world, through the nutrition and her nutritional practice: SOZO Life & Wellness.
The personal decision for Denise, as between SOZO Life & Wellness and Sammons Restaurants, had been made. But that decision begged another, how best to deal with the family “business” that had so long been part of the history of the community and the family. There was no fourth-generation to carry on the family business name and after a grueling decision process, Denise decided to close the family “business” and seek a purchaser or lessee of the physical restaurant location and dedicate her entire passion, time and attention to SOZO Life & Wellness. The Sammons family concurred with her decision.
It is with great hope that Denise takes the next step in her life. In doing so, she wishes the next owners, Sammons’ employees and her beloved community that has supported the Sammons family so generously for nearly 70 years the greatest success and extended her thankfulness to them.
While she is filled with pride and the contribution the Sammons family has made to Elizabethton, charitable organizations, and mission agencies worldwide through “Sammons’ Hotdog Stand,” and she has great hope in the new direction her life has taken, she is equally saddened by the decision. However, she feels that the best way to preserve the reputation of the Sammons family “brand” is to close out the family business while that brand is highly successful and honored by the community. But she emphasized that she will miss the many employees that have contributed so much to the success of Sammons Restaurants over these many years.
As we close, the Sammons family, the past and present, want to extend to their employees a huge and heartfelt “THANK YOU!”

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