Jefferson’s gets new owners
by Margaret Anderson
Special to The Star
Feb 18, 2014 | 5116 views |  0 comments | 66 66 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Debra and Alan Darnall and Lauren and Zach Phillips. Photo: Anita Kilgore/The Jacksonville News
Debra and Alan Darnall and Lauren and Zach Phillips. Photo: Anita Kilgore/The Jacksonville News
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Jefferson’s became a family-owned restaurant in August when Alan and Debra Darnall and their daughter and son-in-law, Lauren and Zach Phillips, bought the Jacksonville franchise.

Lauren is going into her eighth year of working for Jefferson’s. While she was attending college, she worked at the Gadsden restaurant seven years and was general manager two years. After graduating from Jacksonville High School, she received a license in cosmetology from Ayers State, but by then she had already fallen in love with the restaurant business.

This is the family’s first business venture together and so far so good, Lauren and Alan said.

“We have a very good business and very good employees,” said Lauren. “I’ve been very pleased with it.” The restaurant has about 35 employees.

Lauren said their wings are always fresh and their salads are wonderful.

Alan was born at the Bethesda Naval Base in Maryland. His father was stationed with the Navy there. The family lived in Okinawa seven years where his father worked on computers.

“This is back when computers were about the size of a big room,” said Alan. “It was a great opportunity for us. It was a beautiful place.”

Alan was working in a clothing store in Washington, D. C., when a friend from Okinawa walked in. He told Alan that he was going to move to Jacksonville and attend Jacksonville State University. The friend said that his father had attended JSU and that it was a great school and Jacksonville was a great place to live.

“I was looking for a college to go to, so I loaded up and came down here,” said Alan. “Except for a little bit of time here and there, I’ve been here since.”

He earned a degree at JSU and found a mate, his wife, the former Debra Pate. The Darnalls also have a son, Trevor, a senior at JSU.

Though Jefferson’s logo says that oysters, wings and burgers are served, the four owners say the restaurant offers a lot more. Regular wings are served as well as boneless wings. Salads, wraps, and fries are also offered.

“Our salads are wonderful,” said Lauren. “They’re very fresh.”

The Jefferson’s franchise has 19 stores. Alan said he’s happy that he’s affiliated with the first one to open.

“This is the first one that was opened, and we’re very happy about that,” he said. “This is where it all started. Jefferson’s is like a mainstay here. It’s a great location.”

Darnall said the owners recently repaved the parking lot which adds to the looks, safety and convenience of the restaurant.

“The two owners of the franchise were always wanting Lauren to open her own restaurant,” said Alan. “When the opportunity came up to buy the Jacksonville restaurant, we decided to do it, and it’s worked out well for us. Lauren was good at running the Gadsden restaurant, and she’s good at this one also. It’s been a good partnership.”

Alan said it’s been adventure, but it’s been a good adventure. He’s given the restaurant a face-lift.

“I’ve been in remodeling most of my life,” he said. “We’ve done a lot of work to the restaurant. We’ve done a deep clean to the kitchen and the back area. We’ve painted the outside, stained and cleaned up the deck, put new tile in the kitchen and bar area. We’ve fixed a lot of things.”

He said a major amount of the remodeling was done over the Christmas holidays.

“We’ve been meaning put on a sign out front, that the restaurant is under new management,” said Darnall. “But we just haven’t found the time to do it.”

The Darnalls also own Norge Village Laundromat at the corner of Gayle and Wilson. The Laundromat was formerly owned by James Thrower and was located next to where Walgreen’s is now.

“We’ve had the lot here for 20 years,” said Darnall. “So we cleared it and build the building for the Laundromat.”

Contact Margaret at pollya922@gmail.com.
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Special to The Star

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