In 1991, a family restaurant was “born” in Springfield, Georgia. This restaurant would soon become a household name for many who reside in Effingham County….Ms. Jeans. Just the simple sound of “her” name will make your mouth water.
The restaurant was owned by Jean Waters, lovingly called Ms. Jean by everyone that knew her.
Ms. Jean’s husband, Jesse Waters, suffered a heart attack and could no longer work in his normal capacity. This tragedy left the family in a dilemma. Ms. Jean knew that in order to take care of her daughter and continue to maintain their family household, she would have to go to work. She had always loved to cook and she had plenty of experience taking care of foster children. Could she make a living for her family doing one of those things?
Childcare? No. Cooking? Now there’s a good thought.
Thankfully for Effingham County, Ms. Jean chose cooking. Ms. Jeans Restaurant was founded on love and the desire of one lady to be able to continue to provide for her family.
Jean and Jesse Waters had five children – Olivia, Walt, Marnie, Andrea and Kellis. All five of the kids worked in the restaurant. Marnie, who had been injured in an accident one week before her senior year of high school, was a quadriplegic. She ran a specialized pre-programmed cash register while the other children cooked, waited tables and helped keep the company books.
In 1999, Ms. Jean closed the doors to the restaurant, much to the dismay of her customers. She went to work as the deli manager in a local Winn Dixie until they closed. She then went to work for a manufacturing company, staying there until her retirement in 2007.
Retirement allowed Ms. Jean many things, but the most important thing it allowed her was the opportunity to spend more time taking care of her daughter. Over the next two years, Ms. Jean was not only her caregiver, she was also Marnie’s traveling companion. These two were able to take several trips together…some to visit Andrea, who lived in Destin, Florida at the time. Andrea and her Mom were able to take Marnie to the beach, one of the things she truly enjoyed. Marnie passed away in 2009.
Past customers of Ms. Jeans would often stop her during the years to reminisce about the restaurant. She wanted to reopen the restaurant, but she knew that it wasn’t possible because taking care of Marnie came first.
Ms. Jean longed for the day Andrea would move back home. She wanted all of her children to be close to her.
Andrea Waters Allsbrook had spent 20 years working in the hospitality industry. She started out with the Hilton in Savannah as a front desk clerk and within 11 years, in spite of not having a college education, Andrea was running her own hotel. Her career had taken her to Destin, Florida where she would make her home for the next 15 years. During this time, she worked with several high end luxury hotel brands in the beautiful Florida vacation town. Her career path gave her a tremendous amount of experience and knowledge which prepared her for the task at hand today.
Andrea had some struggles in life…being away from family all those years wasn’t easy. But, she had made a great name for herself and things were going very well for her in Florida. But, there was something missing though. Andrea accepted the Lord back into her heart. Her faith had always played a major role in her life…and that part had begun to silently sneak away.
She said, “Mom had been diagnosed with a rare cancer and had no chance of remission or a cure. In September 2012, the Lord put it on my heart to move back home and re-open Ms. Jeans, so I took off my corporate hat and began to make plans. It is life experiences that sometimes makes you realize what is really important in life, and for me, at that time, in my life it was my family.”
This is was not an easy decision. Those years of hard work had paid off and Andrea knew she would have to give up a lot.
Through prayer, guidance and leadership from the Lord, Andrea put her plan into motion…moving back home to re-open Ms. Jean’s Restaurant. So she sold her home, gave up a nice corporate income and traded her flashy BMW and was Effingham County bound.
“At that time in my life, the one thing that was most important to me was to make sure my Mom went out on top of the world,” Andrea states, “We all knew that with Mom’s diagnosis, we had limited time left with her. We wanted to make sure the time we had left was the best it could be. I wanted her life to have purpose.”
“Mom was so happy when I called her and told her I was coming home. And, even happier when I later told her about my plans to re-open Ms. Jeans,” shares Andrea, “I asked her to come back into business with me as co-owner”
Ms. Jean had the knowledge of the restaurant side and Andrea had the knowledge for the business side. These two would make an unbeatable team.
And, they did!
Andrea returned home on February 1, 2013, but the work began long before then. Andrea was able to handle a lot of the preliminary work over the phone and on-line before her move, enabling Ms. Jeans Restaurant to open its doors on March 13, 2013.
Andrea laughingly recalls, “I remember us being so excited and moving so hard to get the restaurant open, and all of a sudden Mom asks one day, ‘What are you going to name the new restaurant.’ Like there was ever a question.”
When the sign went up, “Ms. Jean’s Restaurant Coming Soon,” the calls started pouring in. Andrea said people were calling her Mom wanting to know if this was the same Ms. Jean’s from Springfield.
Ms. Jean truly enjoyed making people happy with her food, and she certainly accomplished that. Andrea, Walt and Olivia knew that the re-opening of Ms. Jean’s Restaurant was a way for them to honor their Mom while she was still with them, and one day continue it in her memory.
There was a sense of urgency opening the first location on Columbia Ave., all wanting to make sure Ms. Jean would be able to be a part of it for as long as she could.
Ms. Jean never let her illness show, she always had a smile. Andrea remembers how good it felt to see her Mom back in the community, happy and working in the restaurant. Ms. Jean went table to table, chatting and watching people enjoy her food.
Within a few short months, the first 80 seat restaurant was too small. A new location had to be found.
Ms. Jeans Today
They soon found a bigger location and started working on the build out to have it ready to expand as quickly as possible. Once again, this family came together and did the impossible…that sense of urgency Ms. Jean had was inherited by her kids.
Andrea’s brother Walt, who lives in Columbia, SC, came home every weekend and took vacation time to help with the build out. They worked serving lunch 6 days a week at the original location. They would leave there and work evenings and weekends at the new location, sometimes until 1:00 in the morning, from October to December 2013.
The doors of the new, 140 seat restaurant opened on December 13, 2013 which is where they are located today, on Lisa Street behind the Krystal Restaurant.
They started out with 2,000 square feet and expanded to 4,000 with the new location. Less than a year later, they expanded again. Opening a Marketplace was in Andrea’s original business plan. The neighboring space became available, so an additional 2000 square feet was acquired and The Marketplace opened in November, 2014.
Ms. Jean saw the opening of all three. That sense of urgency to make things happened allowed her the opportunity to watch her children come together and help this business grow.
Andrea said, “Mom cooked desserts till the day she went in the hospital for the last time, before going home to be with the Lord.”
Jean Waters passed away on March 18, 2015.
It was important to see her go out on top of the world, and she did.
Working side by side with their mother is an experience that Olivia, Walt and Andrea will never forget. The bonds that were formed through this time as family will keep them close forever.
Andrea recalls being in the kitchen with her Mom since she was a little girl. “One summer, Mom broke her leg. She would sit on a stool in the kitchen with her leg propped up telling me what to do. She didn’t measure anything unless she was baking and that is how she taught us to cook,” Andrea shares.
After Andrea moved away, she would often call her Mom and ask questions about how to prepare something and, of course, Mom helped her through those challenges. In a tender moment, she recalls, “Mom always knew what to tell me. I miss being able to call her.”
Ms. Jean’s Restaurant is more than just great fried chicken (a secret family recipe), which has won multiple local awards. It is about serving others and being a service to the community. It is a place where anyone can get a home cooked meal every day. And, they still cook the same recipes Ms. Jean used herself.
The staff of Ms. Jeans Restaurant is another “Specialty” part of this business. They take great pride in what they do, from the cooks to the servers to the dish washers. Andrea adds, “God has blessed us with great people. They are wonderful employees.”
Ms. Jeans Restaurant is open six days a week for lunch from 11:00 am-2:30 pm. They are also now open on Friday nights from 5:00 pm to 8:00 pmwhere they serve a seafood and southern menu.
Ms. Jeans also offers “To Go” meals for families who want to take their food home. They also offer reservations for parties of 12 to 18 people for the Red Room, except on Sunday.
Ms. Jeans is currently expanding again with the addition of a sweet shop inside the Marketplace. Olivia is preparing custom cakes, cookies, candies and pies made in house for purchase. Or, she will be happy to take your custom order.
Ms. Jean had always talked about what she called “A Party House.” She wanted a place to host events that she could cater. Unfortunately, she never got to see this come to fruition. But, there’s good news on the way. Be on the lookout soon for the future plans of The Waters Estate; Ms. Jeans “Party House.”
It looks like this family is making sure Ms. Jean’s legacy lives on forever.