Residents fondly remember Southern Skillet: Roswell icon could soon be torn down

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ROSWELL, Ga. – For Roswell, few locations are as much of an icon for old-town Roswell as the Southern Skillet restaurant. Despite the fact the restaurant closed in 2011, it still holds sentimentality for the residents who would eat there daily. The building is planned to be demolished this year to make way for a supermarket.

With its iconic frying pan logo, the Southern Skillet opened in 1980 at 1035 Alpharetta Street, just a stone’s throw from modern Canton Street and City Hall.

Almost since it opened, residents of Roswell would meet there on a daily basis. Since the restaurant closed in 2011 – just a few days after New Year's Day – the group of about 30 people moved to Slope’s BBQ on Crossville Road.

“We all regret it’s not still here,” said Jack Ridgeway, one of the members of the Skillet Folks, who meet every Friday at the barbecue joint. “What a great gathering place it was.”

Sitting at a long table in the back of Slopes and expanding as needed to adjoining tables, the Skillet Folks have recreated what life was like at the Skillet – every day they would all sit at a long table for breakfast and lunch and catch up on the local gossip and news.

“It was a great gathering place to find out what was going on,” said Roswell Judge Maurice Hilliard, a regular at the restaurant.

His wife, Joan, agreed.

“It was a great place to see each other,” she said. “It was a great gathering place after church on Sundays.”

For 10 years, Jack Benson would hold a Christmas Party for the group at the Skillet. He still holds it, only now it takes place at the Roswell Masonic Lodge.

“It was like an old home,” Benson said. “Since they closed the Skillet, we’ve bounced around.”

For now, the group enjoys Slopes, which is another of Roswell’s staple restaurants.

“You always knew someone would be there,” said Lee Taylor. He and his wife, Wanda, played music every Friday night for years, often meeting the regulars during the day.

“It was Roswell’s hangout,” Taylor said. “When new people moved in, they could come in and feel like family.”

Penny Fonner waitressed at the Skillet for 27 years and got to know many of the regulars.

“It was an icon. Everybody thought it would be there forever,” she said. “It was a community of people, really. They’d do breakfast and some would stay and some would do errands and come back.”

Fonner found out the Southern Skillet was closing the weekend of New Year’s Eve 2011, just a few days before it finally shuttered its doors.

“I called to check in that we would be open and they told me Sunday [Jan. 2] would be our last day,” Fonner said. “My whole family, my daughter and her boyfriend all came over on Sunday to see everybody and say goodbye.”

The Skillet still stands close to the intersection of Green Street with Ga. 9, but its days are now numbered. While the structure may soon be gone, the community it inspired will continue on.