May the 4th Be With You!
Another ‘Can’t Miss’ While Staying at the King and Prince
The King and Prince Resort is a stunning location that more and more people are ‘chomping at the bit’ to visit. In fact, it seems that everyone has been running to the website in order to make sure that their dream vacation – not to mention the resort of choice for their next corporate function or event – will be held at the King and Prince.
We’ve shown the ins-and-outs of the magnificent rooms and buildings, the pools, the golf course that’s as close to perfection as possible, the luscious scenery that includes everything from hiking trails to kayak adventures to simple walks on the beach while the dolphins playfully swim beside you. We’ve spoken about the fine dining that allows you to sit and stare at a perfect sunset – or sunrise – through the ornate windows of the King and Prince, as you’re served the best cuisine in the world. But there’s one other immense benefit when staying at the King and Prince Resort – and that is the people.
The people that surround you, everyone from the guides to the history buffs to the incredible locals who provide you with the ‘best of the best’ in all areas, St. Simons Island ‘gifts’ vacationers, visitors, guests and travelers with absolutely everything they can think of in order to make a great trip, absolutely magnificent.
Today, we speak with a lady by the name of Flo Anderson who’s been a part of the St. Simons’ experience for many years now. She has the heart, soul, wit and creative abilities that have pleased guests who come from far and wide to the King and Prince Resort. And she has done this with her absolutely amazing deli and café.
The 4th of May is located in the Pier Village, which is the hub of St. Simons, Georgia. Over the years the ‘concept’ of the restaurant has changed and been updated, but the amazing foods are still a delight. Today, daily specials, home-cooked vegetables, overstuffed sandwiches on home-baked bread, delectable seafood specialties, desserts that will make you drool – everything can be found at the 4th of May Deli and Café.
As all the locals do, Flo begins with a brief introduction to the stunning landscape that surrounds her daily life here, beginning with Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge. Established in 1962, this refuge consists of almost three thousand acres of saltwater marsh, grassland, mixed deciduous woods, and different species of birds that are stunning to behold.
Flo, I know your hobby is photography, can you speak about some of the places you go to get that perfect photograph?
Harris Neck is stunning. It’s North from here and used to be an old army supply base way back when before it became a wildlife refuge. Talk about spectacular! There are alligators, wild deer, boar, but it’s the birds that come to roost that take your breath away. The migratory birds come back and forth, but the native birds are roosting there at the pond. Go there at dusk and you will see unbelievable sights. Talk about the most magnificent photographs – you’ll go out of your mind!
Are there any other neat spots for a scenic lover?
Oh, yes. Cumberland Island is very interesting. There, they have the horses. It is so unspoiled and wild. There are no phones, no roads to speak of, and very few full-time human residents. On the other hand, the place is almost haunting because of the natives who inhabited the island for centuries. Whether they were exploring, or they were the wealthy ones who moved there for pleasure in the Gilded Age (and you can actually see some of the crumbling mansions that have been overcome by the elements), it’s an amazing site. Bands of feral horses roam the dunes, marshes and even old estate lawns, and date back as far as the 16th century – and it makes for incredible photographs and memories.
It’s also regulated by the federal government; it’s a national site now and there can be no more than 200 people a day over there. You have to make reservations to go in the Spring and Summer, but right now it’s fine.
I hear Little St. Simons is also beautiful?
Little St. Simons is gorgeous. It’s a private island that you can visit for the day and stay at their facilities – pricey but gorgeous. You can find a lot of shells and horseshoe crabs migrating over there, sometimes that beach is full of them. My husband took me over there for my 50th birthday. Gosh…so many years ago…LOL.
Which brings us to the incredible place we’re sitting in right now! Tell our readers about the 4th of May.
The 4th of May is owned by my son, Tom, and I, but it began back in 1985 when two of my girlfriends and I got together. At that point, I had been the chef at a wonderful seafood restaurant called, Emmeline and Hessie.
One day I was sitting in the ballpark with my friends complaining about the fact that if I had my own restaurant, I’d want to know exactly who was going to come each night, what they would eat, how much they’d pay, and when they’d go home – like a dinner party. My friend said we could do something like that. They would be in charge of the decorating, etc., and I could be the cook. So from 1985-1994, that’s exactly what we did. It was very different from anything else in the world of dining at that time. We offered an evening of dining, wines, with a fixed-price menu – and everyone loved it. That’s how it ran for nine years.
Where did the name come about?
My friends and I all had the same birthday. Not the same year, mind you, but we were all born on May 4th, so it seemed fitting.
And are you friends still here?
No. When they moved on, the plan was for me to continue. My son, Tom, was in high school and then into college while we were running the business. He decided that he really wanted to go into the business with me, so midway through his junior year I said that he would need to go to a culinary institute, like Johnson & Wales. I told him that I wanted him to go and learn how to be a chef. I could teach Tom how to cook, but I wanted him to go learn all the ‘new’ stuff that was out there – then he could jump in with me.
It was the end of junior year when Tom was in an automobile accident and suffered a broken neck. As a quadriplegic the chef part was out, so we regrouped. I told him that he would need to learn the ins-and-outs of running a restaurant. We would change our ‘format’ and grow bigger. We would still provide the home-cooked foods everyone loved, but I would teach others to make it, and we could feed the multitudes for a lot less than $52 dollars a person.
Seems like a great plan.
Oh, it was. Tom achieved a Masters in Business at Georgia State and came into business with me. We opened the new ‘format’ in 1994, and have been on this corner for 19 years now. Business hasn’t slowed down a bit. I do the teaching in the back. The cooks learn my recipes, which are sacrosanct so they can’t change them (LOL). But the cooks are completely allowed to make up their own. They can come up with a ‘soup of the day,’ or anything else. I taste it – it’s great – it’s put out there.
Well that’s generous of you.
I hate forcing someone into doing the same thing over and over again. It gets boring and they don’t stay. If they learn to follow my recipes, then I allow them to branch out so things don’t get mundane. But I swear, every time I train someone to make the desserts, they leave. They learn all about the pies, cakes, cobblers, etc., and take the info and run. I just know they’re opening up bakeries all over the world. J
Think of the widespread influence you have. (LOL)
I was actually supposed to be an art teacher.
This is art.
It definitely is, and I’ve always been a people person too, which helps. My late husband was in the restaurant business, and my children were raised in the restaurant business, so the kids knew what it was like. Two out of the three said it was not their ‘thing’ because it was way too much like work. (LOL). Every morning, every evening, holidays – you have to love this business to be successful, and Tom and I love the business.
You’re open every day of the year?
Here on the island there’s a steady force all year long of people who want to eat at the 4th of May. The locals are very supportive and want to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner with us seven days a week. The only day we close is Christmas Day, and we close early on Thanksgiving – about 4:00 pm.
You’re open on Thanksgiving? Is there that big of a call?
We fed 287 people Thanksgiving dinner last year, and we spent a lot of time running out the back door loading up people’s cars with 51 gallons of giblet gravy, I don’t know how many pounds of stuffing – corn bread, oyster stuffing, turkeys – people ordered it and I cooked it. So I guess you could say that the 4th of May had a place on everyone’s Thanksgiving table. I thought I was going to die…it was so wild. We’ve gotten busier and busier with the concept of taking our foods and casseroles ‘to go,’ making the 4th of May larger and larger.
Everyone knows I always work on Thanksgiving, so my family usually eats at the ‘in-laws’ because they know that I want them for Christmas. We also have a big birthday celebration on May 4th.
It helps too, because we’re the only ‘date’ on the island, so when tourists or visitors go into other business and say we’re looking for…July 4th? They send them straight to the 4th of May for their meal
Good marketing concept!
We didn’t actually realize at the time what an original the 4th of May really was. The whole concept was very unique and very ahead of the curve.
Tell us about a night at the 4th of May when it first began, so readers can really learn about your history.
Well, we would seat 45 people maximum, who made reservations ahead of time. And, like I said, when it came to the menu you had no choice J. It was already prepared, just like a private dinner party would be.
The entire restaurant was ‘green,’ by the way, so every month we changed our tablecloths, china, pictures on the wall…we had a different color scheme every month. None of the glasses or silver plate matched, and I would tell my mother and my aunt to go to the flea markets and find what we needed. One month they would find me blue and white plates; the next month they would go and find plates with a pink design, etc. They had a blast at those flea markets. And the homemade tablecloths that were a new color every month were actually created by my mother.
I know. They were perfect. We would dress in pinafores – old-fashioned aprons that exactly matched the tablecloths she made.
Guests would arrive at 7:45 pm on the dot. We’d unlock the door and greet you with a champagne paratif, seat you, then bring out the soup with a white wine. After the soup, the seafood course would begin, and then a sorbet to clean your palette. We would then present the silver tray that was home to the entrée (duck, pork, whatever it was that month), and I would explain everything that went into its preparation. This would be served with a red wine. Then came the salad course (as a digestive, once again, as they do in European dining), and then we would serve champagne with the dessert. We ended with a demitasse of brandy with whipped crème.
It was. The whole ‘experience’ would last around two and half hours, and during the holiday dinners there was always live music. Whether it was a piano, harp, acoustic guitar – there was always music added to the ambiance.
And this was held in this room?
No, the space was only a third of the size of the room we sit in now. We did have expanding tables, if necessary.
And the price always remained the same?
Yes, it was always $52 dollars per person. Another fun ‘cost’ tip is the fact that I had my wine supplied by the same local distributor each month. This is a way that the local businesses would help each other out. I would give the supplier my menu and tell him that I needed one white and one red for the evening. He would match the entrée perfectly. The budget was always $10.00, which meant he could use $6 on the red, $4 on the white – or any other combination – but he could never exceed the $10 limit.
The upside is that when he provided us with their really good wines, the people who ate with us absolutely loved them and they would go over to The 19th Hole across the street and buy it for themselves at $20-$50 a bottle. So it was always in their best interest to give me the good ones.
What is the most difficult part of this job?
My brain is terrible at remembering people’s names. I knew I had to find a way to figure out who these people were who kept coming back and making reservations. That’s when I found a book called, “Swim With the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive,” by Harvey MacKay. (http://www.amazon.com/Sharks-Without-Being-Eaten-Alive/dp/0449911489). I got an idea from Harvey when he spoke about going on a job interview. He said to look around the office, look at the things on the walls, and come up with something you can converse about with the employer on a personal level.
And how did you use that concept?
I had a tape recorder in my pocket and would travel from table to table speaking with my guests about the ‘special occasion’ they were celebrating. I would then provide them with a 3×5 card and ask for their name and address. That way I could send them a special pic of their celebration for their scrapbook, so to speak. Back in the day, I would go to Walgreens and have two copies made. I sent one out in a thank you note in the mail to the guest, and the other I taped on the back of the 3×5 card. I transcribed all my notes from the tape recorder on to the card – such as birthday, anniversary, etc. – and filed it alphabetically. The info was something like: Joe and Martha Smith were from Augusta celebrating their 20th wedding anniversary. Then, when they called again to make reservations, I would look up their card and make sure to say Happy Anniversary, or some other personal point so that they knew I remembered each and every one of them.
I studied hard. I did get caught a couple of times because…well…sometimes it wasn’t the same woman he’d spent his anniversary with. (LOL) I also had some who didn’t want their pic taken, so I learned.
We did this for nine years and we never repeated the menu. Of course, at the time we only operated Thursday through Saturday, and I only did the dinner once a month. But there were 119 different recipes in total, and I’ve got them all written down.
Do you have any cookbooks?
Yes, two are available for purchase right here in the café and when I retire I’ll do more. The local folks put them together for us and help sell them.
There’s “The 4th of May Cookbook” and The Original “The Emmeline and Hessie Cookbook” from when I was a chef there. There are bookstores begging for them, but I just haven’t had the time to go over there and sell it. I need a marketing person.
Flo, this sounds like a truly spectacular life you lead.
Oh, it is. I am very blessed. I always live by what my Daddy told me: Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.
Readers, as you can see it’s not only the beauty and comfort of the King and Prince Resort that you are engrossed in when you come to St. Simons. It is not only the magnificence of a world filled with peace, nature and breathtaking scenery. The key to a calm life filled with adventure, fun and entertainment can be found in the people who make St. Simons Island shine. Flo Anderson and her son, Tom, are just another reason why THIS is the place to be!
To see more information on the locations mentioned in this article, go to:
Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge
Little St. Simons Island
And the ONLY place to rest your weary head after a day of site-seeing:
The King and Prince Beach & Golf Resort
201 Arnold Road
St. Simons Island, Georgia 31522
(912) 638-3631: Phone
(800) 342-0212: Reservations
(912) 638-7699: Fax