VETERANS DAY: Local couple provides service through restaurant

COVINGTON, Ga. — Ron and Chivon Cyrus both spent more than two decades serving in the U.S. Army.

Ron joined the service in 1984 and served for 21 years and three months before retiring in 2006. Chivon enlisted in 1997 and served for 20 years and one month before her retirement.

At the time, they’d each spent more than half their lives as members of the U.S. military. It molded who they were and provided the structure through which they operated on a daily basis. More than a decade has passed, however, and they’ve since traded in their fatigues for spots in the restaurant business.

In late May, the Cyruses stood on a sidewalk and placed their hands on a comically large pair of red scissors to jointly cut a piece of red ribbon. They were the proud new owners of a franchise of Skrimp Shack, a seafood chain from northern Virginia, off of Hwy. 20 in Covington.

Their journey to ownership wasn’t overly complex. While visiting family in Virginia in 2018, the Cyruses visited a local Skrimp Shack and were immediately impressed by the experience. Shortly thereafter, they reached out to Stacey and Mitch Hartman — the chain’s founders — and inquired about acquiring a franchise of their own.

Less than two years later, they were granted the opportunity.

Ron and Chivon take great pride in the work they do at Skrimp Shack. In their eyes, operating a restaurant is more than just giving food to hungry customers — it’s providing a service to a community in need.

“I feel if we can do this on a national scale, defending our country and providing a service to our country, then why not our communities?” Ron said.

With more than 40 years of combined service in the military between the married couple, the Cyruses entered the restaurant business feeling prepare to face any challenges that may await them head-on.

It didn’t take long for adversity to strike, either.

As the COVID-19 pandemic spread and the restaurant business — along with the majority of corporate America — took a hit, they were ready to adapt.

“When it comes to adversity, I think our backgrounds in the military kind of helped us prepare for that because of the ability to adapt to any situation,” Ron said. “As combat veterans, we’re able to adapt to the situation. And I think this pandemic brings a whole new situation altogether.”

Chivon expressed similar sentiments about how her background has prepared her for the past six months running Skrimp Shack.

“One lesson I learned in the military that prepared me for running a business is training in peace time for war. We both deployed, but even when we were not deployed, you still train as you fight,” Chivon said. “So now, when it’s slow, we know we still have to prepare for the rush.

“You don’t just sit back, relax and chitchat. No. You’re cleaning, you’re preparing, you’re getting mentally focused. You still train as you fight so that when go-time hits — when the pandemic has ended and the floodgates open  — we’ll be fully prepared.”

The Cyruses strived to become woven into the fabric of the Newton County community when they opened their restaurant. They believe they’ve accomplished that through the Skrimp Shack’s first six months of operation.

Whether it’s the hiring and training processes of new employees, the food they’ve provided to countless patrons or the conversation they’ve engaged in a multitude of customers — from fellow veterans, to church leaders, to retired professional athletes, to city employees — the Cyruses are grateful for the opportunity to be part of Newton County.

At the end of the day, they’re just trying to make the neighborhood a better place.

“This restaurant is almost an invitation to an extension of our home. If I invite you to my home to have dinner, I’m going to give you the best I can give,” Ron said. “That way, when you walk out that door, you’re like, ‘Hey, that was a good meal. I want to tell somebody else about it.’ That’s the extent of all of this.”

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