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Hankins brings Southern Restaurant back to the table

Southern Restaurant on Dayton Boulevard is now Kim’s Southern Restaurant, as the 43-year-old Red Bank institution was reopened earlier this month by Kim Hankins, who was previously an employee at Southern.

“I couldn’t stand to see it close,” said the former waitress who worked at the original restaurant for 26 years. “I know all the customers here.”

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Former Southern Restaurant employee Kim Hankins has reopened the 43-year-old restaurant that closed in mid-October under the name Kim’s Southern Restaurant. From left are employee Jackie West, Hankins and employees Carla Myers and Rhonda Miller.

The restaurant’s original owner passed away several years ago, at which point his brother took it over. He shuttered the restaurant’s doors in mid-October, she said.

Hankins previously owned a restaurant in Soddy-Daisy, The Burger Basket, which is now closed.

“I’m just excited to have Southern open,” she said, although she continues to work full time as a materials manager for a local surgery center in addition to operating the restaurant. “I would have never bought a restaurant [otherwise].”

Hankins worked at Southern throughout school, continuing after graduation on the weekends “just for fun,” she said.

“All my co-workers were going to be out of a job, and we’re like one big happy family here,” she said as to another reason why she wanted to purchase the restaurant.

All 10 people working at the reopened Southern Restaurant are former employees. Hankins said she was only able to hire about half the old employees back, as she only serves dinner on Fridays, whereas the previous owner opened the restaurant for dinner every day.

“People are warm and loving and treat you like family, and I couldn’t ask for a better boss,” said Carla Myers, a Southern Restaurant employee for six years.

Rhonda Miller, a 12-year employee, said the restaurant’s elderly customers are partly the reason she thinks it is such a special place to work.

“A lot wouldn’t get out of the house if they didn’t come here,” she said.

“This is where they come to socialize and talk to friends,” added Hankins.

She said aside from cutting the hours, pretty much everything about the restaurant remains the same.

Her daughter, who was just a few months old when Hankins started working at Southern, is now 25 and working at the restaurant herself, with plans to eventually take it over.

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