The Lady's Sons: Jamie and Bobby Deen

AFTER 25 YEARS IN BUSINESS WITH MAMA, THE SONS HELP RE-BOOT THE BUSINESS

I recently sat down with “the Sons,” Jamie and Bobby Deen, in the basement of their Congress Street The Lady & Sons restaurant in Savannah. Bobby Deen exclaimed about being on top, “It gets windy up there!” The Deen’s rise to success—like almost all—did not happen overnight. The diehard fans of Paula Deen know her story well, but the Sons shed some new emotional light on their distant and recent pasts confirming the basis for the unconditional love of their mother’s fans.

We all likely know that Paula Deen’s enterprise became one great American success story of hard work paying off, however, the ironical thing about success in American business is that as seemingly fast as you rise, the faster you may fall. To quote America’s iconic rock band, the Grateful Dead, “The more that you give, the more it will take.” This seems to be the case for the Deen family who is now happily celebrating the 25th year of the opening of what was once dubbed America’s #1 restaurant by USA Today, The Lady & Sons. Once on top of the world and unguarded around her adoring fans, one Lisa Jackson, a disgruntled, opportunistic employee, crashed Paula Deen’s spirits to the ground. Jackson charged Deen with allegations of operating a racist and sexually inappropriate work environment in June of 2013 and the charges were dismissed in October “with prejudice,” meaning that they could not be brought against her again by Jackson.

Bobby pointed out how strange it is that the media has solely focused on the success of Paula Deen, not the chicanery of Lisa Jackson. Why didn’t Matt Lauer have her on the Today Show? As Bobby said, “Nobody cares about her. She doesn’t sell chicken! She is not on T.V..” Naysayers came out of the woodwork claiming that the brand was damaged beyond resuscitation. Well, ladies and gentlemen, the other thing about America is that we love a comeback story! 

With a recent infusion of capital between $75 and $100 million, Phoenix-based Najafi Media, has formed Paula Deen Ventures. The new entity will re-structure the brand in such a way as to give the Deen’s closer controls of the enterprise, and the Sons will play a larger role in it. “Very few businesses have the opportunity to start where we did and then have the opportunity to re-boot it to grow it stronger and smarter. The previous administration [practiced] a style of business where it was difficult for Bobby and me to keep up with what was going on. This [new venture] is going to be very open- door and Bobby and I will be very active in everything,” Jamie explained.

For the full article pick up a copy of the June/July issue of South magazine.

Story by Paula S. Fogarty

Photography by Jabberpics