GEORGETOWN — Chuck Sergent had a dream to expand his business around his hometown of Westville.
That dream is now getting close to being a reality with the opening of an expansion to his Sonny’s Pizzeria in Georgetown set for Tuesday.
Sergent and his wife, Julie, bought the original Sonny’s Corner in Sidell in 2014 and had wanted to expand for the last three years, first in Westville.
“We were planning to go to my hometown of Westville,” Sergent said. “I was working with a different organization and builders for about three years, but the administration changed and it did not come to pass. “
But around the start of the year, Sergent was approached about the former Pizza Hut location in Georgetown on Main Street.
“I was approached by the mayor of Georgetown (Darin Readnour) and two or three of the council members to see if I would be interested in this facility with a lot of the Pizza Huts in the area closing up last year,” Sergent said. “After we looked at it, we took the bull by the horns and we decided to go for it.”
The process to expansion started after Sergent changed the original format of Sonny’s from a breakfast and lunch spot to dinner only.
“It was a daytime organization since it opened in 1994 and I had a vision to make it more of a pizzeria and eliminate the breakfast and lunch side,” Sergent said. “In 2016, a friend of mine was going to close his business in Potomac and he had an old Pizza Hut buffet bar and salad bar. We made an offer and we got going with it in March 2016. In the beginning of 2017, we officially started serving just lunch and dinner with the pizza menu and a few café items and moved the hours to Tuesday-Sunday from 4-8 p.m.”
While the original business is in Sidell, Georgetown has been very good to it as Sergent said it gets a lot of delivery orders from the town, even during the beginnings of the pandemic last year.
“Georgetown was one of the few towns that really came out and supported us,” Sergent said. “We were glad to get their business and we increased 35 percent in each of the four months after Covid. We came here about 60-65 times a month for deliveries and it is still our top delivery location.”
The pandemic also brought changes to the Sidell location that Sergent said helped the business survive a tough time for a lot of restaurants in the area.
“A lot of changes came in the first three months of Covid. We were an all-service menu until the price of meat increased, so I took burgers out of the menu,” Sergent said. “In October, we added one night a week on Thursdays and we call it Burger Night and we still do it and I have a lot of people plan their week around it.”
For the Georgetown location, though, Sergent said that it will be carryout only with no Burger Nights or catfish, which was the plan all along.
“This store will not be full-service. We will be stressing this: The Georgetown location will never be a dine-in opportunity. I answer that question every day,” Sergent said. “From day one when I put the pizzeria in Sidell, I always wanted a place for just carryouts and deliveries in two towns — Westville and Georgetown — and now we have that.”
For the last few months, Sergent has been getting the store together and up to the standards to get ready for opening.
“This building had sat vacant for many months and Pizza Hut did not have a love and passion for their equipment,” Sergent said. “Julie knew that for us to pass inspection this needed a big overhaul, so we have not only brought in a professional cleaning team, most of the equipment here is pretty much new from the truck. We didn’t do much with the pizza ovens, but everything else is brand new. We have a few more items to catch things up, but I think we will get it done.”
Sergent hopes the overhaul will get the place open on time for Tuesday and for a special grand opening event on April 10.
“We are still scheduled to open (Tuesday). There might be a hiccup because of inspections and you never know what will turn up, but we are planning for (Tuesday) from 4-8 p.m. and on April 10, I am teaming up with Danville State Farm agent Jenna Wirth, who is sponsoring our grand opening day at 4 p.m. The first 100 orders that weekend will get a free order of breadsticks courtesy of Jenna Wirth.”
Sergent says that while his dream has been fulfilled, he does not want to ruin the dreams of other restaurants in the area.
“When we bought this in 2014, we wanted to be closer to home. We never thought the pizzeria aspect would blow up like it did if it wasn’t for Georgetown supporting us for the last year or so,” Sergent said. “The main thing is that this area is already supporting us and the challenge is to get new customers.
“This is not about coming in and stepping on anybody’s toes. There are some great mom and pop restaurants from Chrisman to Ridge Farm and there is Casey’s and my friends from Indian’s Pizza in South Danville who deliver here. It is not about taking business away from them. It is about giving this town of 3,500 and giving Westville, a town that is about the same size, some more variety and that’s what makes this country great. We just want a piece of the pie and we know we are doing well in Georgetown because they call us from 20 minutes away to get our pizza.”
Sergent says that the reach of the store will come in phases.
“The first 30 days will be carryout and drive-through. In the next 30 days, we will start deliveries to Georgetown and after being open for around 90 days, we will start delivering to Westville and that is about as far as we will go,” Sergent said. “We have hired a bunch of people, including kids from Georgetown and a couple of my regulars from Sidell and it will be an exciting time.”
An exciting time not just for Sergent and the business, but for Georgetown and Westville as well. Sonny’s Pizzeria just wants to be a major part of the communities.
“We also want to work with the towns as far as the schools and civic organizations directly,” Sergent said. “They have already been a big part and want to team up with some big projects. I have already told Mayor Readnour and the council that no matter what they need help with, count me in and I will play a part.”