Four Winds owner will attempt to reopen popular restaurant

Four Winds owner will attempt to reopen popular restaurant

CUSSETA, GA (WTVM) - A popular family restaurant closed Saturday after almost 35 years of business.

After feeding their customers its famous ranger burgers for the last time, Four Winds in Cusseta, GA will be closed for an indefinite period of time.

Alex Moses, 30, from Cusseta ordered his last Ranger Burger meal around 10:30 Saturday morning.

“I've been coming to Four Winds ever since I was 9 years old,” Moses said. “I came here every Friday. My dad used to get fish and I used to get Ranger Burger, and it was tradition. I brought my kids here when I used to live right across the street.”

Moses said he wanted to say his final good bye to his favorite restaurant and the employees.

“These people fed me and they knew me,” Moses said. “I don't know where I'm going to get good burgers now. I'm going to savor my last Ranger Burger.”

Susan Cox, 64, the founder and owner of Four Winds, hugged Moses in tears as she apologized for having to close down the business.

“My customers were like my family,” Cox said. “I lost Don and my mom last year, and I'll miss my customers… they were my family.”

Cox created the Ranger Burger recipe on March 1985 at the first restaurant called Rachel's Truck Shop she opened with her mother, Mary Renfroe in 1979. 

Rachel's Truck Shop was located right across from Four Winds. The store was small and it only had three tables. Cox's Ranger Burger started gaining popularity among soldiers, and she decided to open a bigger restaurant to cook her Ranger Burger.

“We had so many people coming in and we didn't have enough room,” Cox recalled. “I still remember a two-star general who had to sit at a pool table to eat. He said he was satisfied with the burger, but I was so embarrassed.”

In 1992, Cox and her husband Donald Kenneth Cox built the current Four Winds restaurant located at 464 GA 26 in Cusseta. Cox said Rangers also helped build the restaurant.

“On one acre of land, we built 7,545 square feet of building,” Cox said. “Blue prints of this building left when my husband left because they were in his head. He never drew them out. He had it in his memory.”

Cox named the new restaurant Four Winds when she was looking at it with her husband.

“We were observing and looking at the building together, then I noticed the wind would go one way and whip another way,” Cox said. “So I decided to name it Four Winds because the wind was blowing in four different directions. North, South, East, West…”

Cox said she still loves her restaurant and the legacy she created with her husband and her mother. However, Cox didn't see eye to eye on certain issues with her most recent tenant. Mark Jones who owns Mark's City Grill, Plucked Up Chicken and Biscuit and other popular local restaurants said he leased Four Winds in October 2013.

Jones told News Leader 9 Cox did not want him to renew the lease. He said he cleaned up the place and made a few changes to attract more people. Jones said he wanted to help enhance the restaurant and the sales went up. Jones also explained Cox was on the brink of closing her restaurant last year, and he took it over because he wanted to help her keep it open. Jones said he did not want to see such popular restaurant close down.

Cox also agreed Jones helped increase sale, but she did not want to renew his lease because he made a particular change she could not accept.

“He changed my ranger burger,” Cox explained. “It's famous and my burger is known all over the world. He said he wanted to change it to make it better. To me, that was like a slap in my face. I agreed though. I agreed because I had just lost my husband and my mom. I just wanted to do everything I can to have income coming in because I needed it. He changed the meat, cheese and used bacon pieces instead of bacon slices.”

Cox's mother died only 23 days after Donald passed away on July 29, 2013. Cox said Ranger Burger was special to her husband as well.

“Don and I said Ranger Burger was our baby because we never had any children,” Cox said. “It was our pride and our legacy. It was our baby. I've had a few customers call and complain that they miss the old Ranger Burger. It was painful and I wanted to bring the old recipe back but it wasn't easy.”

Ranger Burger is also significant to Cox because she fought for the name.

“Before I named it Ranger Burger, I went to Camp Darby which is about three miles away from Four Winds,” Cox recalled. “I asked them if it's okay to call it Ranger Burger, and the Colonel said I can call it that as long as it's good. But I got a letter from a lawyer who represented the Texas rangers who asked me to remove Ranger Burger off my menu. They said I was using their name on my burger, and I told them it wasn't their name. Rangers in our area didn't have a problem with it. So I got a lawyer and we fought for six months. And I won against a New York lawyer. I fought to serve this burger to my customers.”

Cox said Four Winds is where her heart and her memories lie.

“Don and I were one person and we were always together,” Cox explained. “The love we had is in the Four Winds restaurant. So it's not easy to close this place down for me. I love my customers.”

Cox said she decided to close the restaurant earlier this week. She announced Friday that Nov. 22, 2014 was going to be the last day.

“I'm too vulnerable and I'm still grieving for my mother and my husband,” Cox said. “I don't have the support I need, and I want to take some time to recover. But I promised my customers that I will try to find a new owner or a new tenant as soon as I can to re-open the business. I'm willing to work with anyone who can respect what Don and I created. I am willing to work with anyone who is willing to work with me and serve my customers the original Ranger Burgers.”

Cox said she feels bad for her employees as well.

“My employees have been loyal to me,” Cox said. “When I told them I was closing this place down, they asked me ‘what are we going to do now?' I didn't know how to answer that question. I know it's a week before Thanksgiving and all, but I just couldn't do it. I couldn't find the strength to do it.”

Cox said she has received a few offers to have Four Winds leased. She said she will do her best to find a new tenant to open and save the business again.

“My mother, husband and I served hundreds of thousands of customers over the last 35 years,” Cox said. “I served three generations in this restaurant. I want to reopen this restaurant and I will work hard to find someone who can respect my recipe and tradition.”

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