Don't reach the logical conclusion if you saw former restaurateur and trendsetter Gregg White this past Tuesday, standing outside the Flower Pot Florist on Gay Street. Handing out fliers about their St. Patrick's specials. Dressed in a leprechaun suit.
White was just doing a favor for a friend—he's not destitute, or even receiving any pay for his costume-character gig. Most days, he's working full-steam ahead on a project that involves restaurants and recycling, and happy with his decisions to sell first La Costa in October, and a couple weeks ago his two Nama Sushi restaurants and Eos Catering. "I sold for different reasons than the economy," notes White. "I always wanted to do a green business, and when this opportunity arose, and I had a buyer, it just made sense."
Gale Huneycutt, president and CEO of VolCue, operator of six Puleos restaurants and a Krystal, is chief manager of Nama LLC, which made the purchase from White. The group quickly hired Holly Hambright, who was already chef for Eos, as operations manager for the whole Nama/Eos confab.
"It was a completely friendly sale," says Hambright. "I think Gregg was just ready. He'd taken the concept of Nama as far as he could take it. It'll be the same in that we are still an American/Asian fusion sushi bar. It will be different in that hopefully we'll be exceeding expectations. And Gregg is around if we want advice."
Other than a couple of recent changes—head sushi chef Jay Cooney moving to start his own place, and Moon Yang (inventor of the famous off-menu Soy Joy roll) leaving to open a restaurant in Michigan—Hambright says all the existing sushi chefs and most of the wait staff are still on board.
"We will eventually franchise," she adds. "For example, one of my ideas is where my brother lives, in St. Simon Island. They are just waiting for a place like Nama. Of course, the franchising is totally up to the owners-—but I can always give my opinion."
White, meantime, will be entering the environmentally conscious arena. "I keep saying, if I can do for green efforts what I've done for sushi in Knoxville, my business will be a total success," says White.
And never say never, but White feels like his restaurant days are behind him. "It's like owning a boat," he says. "My happiest days with a restaurant were always the day I opened, and the day I sold."