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Acheson says he’s learned a lot, not done with Savannah

  • The Florence owner Hugh Acheson poses in his restaurant in Savannah in 2015. (SMN file photo)

Ahead of The Florence’s scheduled June 25 closing, owner and celebrity chef Hugh Acheson said the financials behind the Victory Drive restaurant were ultimately what led him to close the doors.

“I think we did a really good job with food; I think we really did a great job with presenting ourselves and showing good hospitality in town,” Acheson said during a phone call Friday.

“Maybe it was too big, there are a gazillion reasons it could be, but at the end of the day it was just my error and planning something that was maybe just a bit too ambitious.”

Acheson, who broke the news of the closing on his Facebook page Wednesday, said in a low margin business such as the restaurant industry, when things go wrong you don’t always have a cushion to fall back on.

“Somebody can make it there; it’s a great spot with a great build. It’s a stunning, stunning place, but maybe it’s just not us,” he said of the Victory Drive location.

“To me it’s not failure it’s just sort of ineptitude of planning on my part.”

Acheson, who is based in Athens, opened The Florence at 1 West Victory in June 2014 in what was once an ice factory. He said the desire to join the local restaurant scene came from seeing the great community of restaurants here, but he felt like he could add something new to the scene.

“… It didn’t really have what we were offering, so we felt like we could bring something to (the city) that was going to be novel and different and add to it. And I think we did that. Whether it made financial sense in the end, that’s another thing. I think we still brought great food and hospitality and what we do, which is very contemporary restaurants,” he said.

Acheson said the restaurant had a great core staff, including Chef Kyle Jacovino, who has been at the helm of the kitchen since day one and worked for Acheson prior to opening The Florence.

“He’s like a brother to me still and will be every day of my life. … He has a whole life of being an amazing young chef that’s about to be rolled out in front of him,” he said of Jacovino.

“He’s been nothing but awesome to me over the years.”

Jacovino said the restaurant brought a different mindset on how people think about food from sustainability and creativity aspect. He credits Acheson and The Florence for allowing him to do what he loves and for the opportunity to grow in many ways including from a culinary and managerial standpoint to forming new friendships with local farmers and co-workers.

“… I’ve excelled in many aspects but I also have found some of my weaknesses that I need to work on. It has also brought me a lot closer to the city and the people we have here,” he said.

And although Jacovino is sad to see the restaurant close he plans to stay and cook in Savannah and said he’s pumped to continue to be a part of the evolving Savannah food scene.

“Well, once again I want to thank the city of Savannah for supporting The Florence these past three years. We really started to develop a close relationship with some of our regulars,” he said.

“I want to thank everyone who worked at The Florence as well. They are and will continue to be the main reason why we were able to pull off such amazing food and service. We came a long way and I feel like we’re just getting started.”

While Acheson doesn’t have any immediate food-related plans for Savannah, he said he isn’t done with the city and at the end of the day The Florence is simply a learning experience.

“There are no hard feelings. Some reporters want to call me and ask, ‘are you angry at Savannah?’ and no, I’m not. It’s not anything like that,” he said of the closing.

“It’s just understanding the demographics you’re going into and what it can support. Athens couldn’t support a restaurant the size of The Florence, so I just have to be smarter and more agile and I learn every day.”

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