By Jennifer Tuohy, Island Eye News Contributing Editor
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, and Santa Claus is busy checking his list to see who’s been naughty or nice. Two waitresses from Sullivan’s Island are definitely on the nice list, the problem is no one knows where to find them. In fact, we could use a bit of holiday magic to make sure they get their gift.
A decade or so ago, in the early 2000s, Mr. J Reichman, known as “Jay,” came to Sullivan’s Island from Athens, Georgia for an extended vacation. Then in his fifties, Reichman had been born with dystonia, an incurable disease that affects the muscles causing involuntary movements. In Reichman’s case it made it hard to walk and gave him an unusual facial appearance. It also made it difficult to lead a regular life – he never worked, married or had children. His parents had set up a trust for him, so he was able to travel, and he very much enjoyed spending time at the beach.
While staying on Sullivan’s Island he frequented a seafood restaurant just off the bridge, where two waitresses – Kayla and Melissa – went out of their way to make him feel welcome.
“He ate there quite a bit and said they were friendly to him – they made a lasting impression on him,” said the executor of his will, who preferred to remain anonymous. “Sometimes when you’re disabled not everybody’s as friendly to you.”
Reichman passed away this summer, and now the executor is looking for those two waitresses. “He remembered these two names, no last names, but said they had been real kind to him and he remembered them in his will,” he said. “It’s not a large amount, but it’s a memory and we’d like to find them.”
The only clue Reichman left him was that the restaurant was a seafood place right off the bridge. He did a little research and tracked down Donna Rhodes-Hiott, manager of Sullivan’s restaurant on Middle Street. During the time frame, the Rhodes family – who have run Sullivan’s for 30 years – also had a sister restaurant called Sully’s, right off the bridge.
“It was where 450 Pizza is now,” said Rhodes-Hoitt, who runs Sullivan’s, which is just past the fire station on Middle Street, with her husband Ricky. But she doesn’t recall these two waitresses.
“This would be a wonderful Christmas story,” she said. “But I don’t know anybody, those names didn’t ring a bell. I racked my brains and I can’t remember anything.” she even canvassed past employees, including one who had worked there 29 years, but drew a blank.
“It must have been someone who came for the season and moved on. People do move on, they come in and move on, especially in this business,” she said.
Rhodes-Hoitt’s mother, Marcia, could have been the ‘Melissa.’ “It’s the only more unusual name I recall,” she said. But she passed away two years ago, “And everyone called her Grandma Joyce.”
So the search is still on. If you remember a waitress at Sully’s, or any other restaurant on the island in the early 2000s, whose name was Melissa or Kayla, send any information you have to J Reichman, PO Box 48325, Athens, GA 30604, and let’s see if we can bring some holiday magic into someone’s lives this Christmas, as well as honor the memory of the kindness shown to Jay when he visited Sullivan’s Island.