George Coleman has been in the restaurant business in some form or fashion since the mid 1970’s after working as a life insurance salesman.
Today he owns and operates George’s, one of New Albany’s longest-running and popular fast-food joints.
“I was working for Metro Life in Greenville when I fi rst became interested in the idea of owning a restaurant,” Coleman said. “The man who hired me had accounts for Sonic and kept talking about how well they did.”
After hearing his employer talk about Sonic Drive-In’s success a few times, Coleman asked him if he should go into the restaurant business. The answer he got was that he was doing just fi ne in his current position.
“I rephrased the question,” Coleman said. “‘If you were me, would you go into the Sonic business?’ He told me he would in a heartbeat.”
Coleman soon went to work at a Sonic in Clinton and trained for a week during vacation from his job. He said he returned to Greenville the next week, resigned from Metro Life and left the insurance business behind.
Soon, Coleman met with Dr. S.L. Sethi of Greenville, who would soon become his partner, and found out about a new Sonic Drive-In opening in New Albany.
“My wife and I bought a toothbrush and some diapers for our baby and drove to New Albany,” he said.
He opened a Sonic in New Albany in 1975 and ran it until 1983 when he partnered with Thomas Sappington and took the opportunity to purchase a restaurant named New Orleans Fried Chicken at the corner of Bankhead Street and U.S. Highway 15.
After four years of operating the restaurant, George decided an addition to the menu was needed.
“I thought about breakfast but I didn’t really want to do that,” he said. “Another option I had was to add hamburgers.”
The new addition soon became a popular menu item among customers.
Coleman said his hamburger is a quarter pound of chopped steak that is cooked over a flat grill and is made to order. A fully dressed burger simply features mustard, mayonnaise, lettuce, tomato, pickles and red onion. Customers can also order single or double hamburgers or cheeseburgers and add slices of hickory-smoked bacon if they wish.
“We try to make every hamburger hot, fresh and almost sloppy,” Coleman said.
Another change, this time to the name of the restaurant, came in the late 1980s.
“I was thinking about changing the name,” Coleman said. “Someone suggested calling it George’s, because whenever they talked about coming to the restaurant with friends or family, they would say, ‘Let’s go to George’s.’”
George’s relocated to its current building at 116 Highway 15 South in 2006 due to the Mississippi Department of Transportation’s decision to widen Highway 15. The building is approximately 3,200 square feet – over twice the size of its original home.
“When [MDOT] first came in, I decided that our time was up; I was ready to retire,” Coleman said. “Then everyone who worked for me at the time asked me what they were going to do. I couldn’t let them down.”
Since the move, business has remained good for George’s chicken. Patrons can get a variety of chicken items, either fried or grilled, hamburgers and milkshakes, sundaes or parfaits for desserts.
All in all, Coleman is happy with his time in New Albany. “Everyone here has always been good to me and my family,” he said.