The Sandwich King [in the Corridor]

By Mollie Davis

Owner of Sid’s Soup, Salad, and Sandwich shop, Bob Berg has fed thousands of locals and visitors during his 30-plus years as a restaurant owner, getting to know folks from all walks of life who enjoy eating with friends and reminiscing over the pictures, antiques and collectibles hanging in his breakfast and lunch eatery.

After graduating from Georgia Southwestern in the late 1970s, Bob came to Macon looking for work and moved into the Macon Health Club dormitory downtown. After living there for a few months, he was hired as a manager to help the struggling gym boost its membership. Then called the “Macon Health Center,” Bob knew his first order of business was changing their name, as employees constantly answered calls from people who mistook the gym for a doctors’ office.

Bob Berg, owner of Sid's, with one of the restaurant's many antiques

Bob Berg, owner of Sid’s, with one of the restaurant’s many antiques

With little management experience, Bob thrived at the Health Club and came to see the gym floor as the melting pot for people from all walks of life. The dormitories were teeming with young people and those down on their luck, looking for a fresh start and a temporary place to stay. Macon socialites and business owners also frequented the Health Club, and Bob recalled that folks like the chairman of Charter Medical worked out alongside those who could only afford their rent week-to-week. He explained the friendly community between business professionals and downtown “characters,” like the member who always worked out while walking on his hands. Later Bob found that this “hand-walker” was Oscar Bradley, featured in Guinness Book of World Records for once performing a handstand jump over a rope 27 inches high!

“It was a diverse group of people, for sure. But they came together,” Bob remembered, saying that his days at the Macon Health Club really opened his eyes to the community in Macon.

After working at the gym for three years, Bob took a leap of faith and opened his first Sid’s Soup, Salad, and Sandwiches shop at 336 Second Street. The brick building, just blocks away from the Health Club, was where Macon’s own and world famous poet Sidney Lanier once practiced law. Named in his honor, Sid’s opened its doors in 1981 to serving downtown Maconites breakfast and lunch. For 33 years the shop was a pillar among downtown businesses, and the spot where Bob met his wife and his three sons worked their first job.

In 1984, the second Sid’s restaurant opened its doors. Formerly the Macon Varsity where Gregg Allman and his friends liked to eat, the Sid’s Forsyth location now is one of the Corridor’s favorite sandwich shops, complete with a warm fire in the hearth and a roadside marquee with a sense of humor. Though he admitted that the quirky sayings aren’t always original, Bob hopes they make someone’s day a little brighter. After all, his shop is about much more than sandwiches. For example, in March last year, Bob and employees at Sid’s organized the “Varsity Cruise In,” a car show that heralded to the days of the Varsity in the 1960s, filling the Sid’s parking lot with American muscle cars, restored classics, and collectibles from the Jones County Cruisers.  The event raised funds for a former employee who had been paralyzed in a car accident in 2012, and Bob hopes it will be a recurring event during the Cherry Blossom festival each spring.

It isn’t just the soups, salads and sandwiches that make Sid’s so special. Neatly lined up near the fireplace are the original booths from the Roy G. Williams drug store from downtown.

Opposite from them is a Coke machine near the counter, a prized possession, purchased for just $40 off the porch of a house on Second Street. An iced tea canister from a restaurant on Grey Highway was dropped off one day when the owner just carried it inside, explaining that he’d love for Bob to display it at Sid’s along with this other collectibles.

Many of the collectibles and antiques found in the restaurant were donated from customers and friends

Many of the collectibles and antiques found in the restaurant were donated from customers and friends

An employee donated her trombone to make an ode to Macon’s music history. Similarly, Bob has come to own pictures of cadets at Camp Wheeler in 1943 and class photos from Lanier High School in 1924. The black and whites are snapshots of a Central Georgia from a different era. Bob can point out a customer’s great aunt, or a regular’s cousin, among the line-up of faces in each photo. The whole restaurant has the feel of a walk-in time capsule, and Bob makes for a great tour guide along the way. As Macon continues to grow and change, Sid’s remains an anchor in the Corridor, collecting memories and snapshots of the community for all those who come to love Macon.

 

 

 

A Heritage of Service in the Corridor

by Mollie Davis

The Cassidy family has deep ties to their Macon home, and for three generations a Dr. James Cassidy has been treating and caring for the mouths of community members at the Cassidy Dental practice on College Street. Most recently, Dr. James Cassidy III relocated to the Corridor to join the family business and continue their legacyImage of service.

This particular Dr. Cassidy (James III) sat across from me in his office as we chatted about his recent move back to Macon after leaving for college and eventually on to dental school. When we spoke, it was just his third day on the job at his father’s dentist practice on College Street, Cassidy Dental, and his office was all but bare, except for a Mercer football helmet autographed by Coach Bobby Lamb and an abstract painting of downtown Macon’s original Nu-Way Weiners.

“It was probably the thing I missed most, Nu-Way Weiners,” he explained to me with a laugh. “I always got a hot dog when I came back home to visit, now that I live here I’ll have to limit myself.”

After growing up in Macon and graduating from Mount   De Sales High School, Cassidy moved on to Georgia College and State University to pursue a science degree. He enjoyed living in Milledgeville and taking advantage of the community’s bike-ability and college-town feel. But after his graduation and four years in Augusta studying dentistry, Cassidy decided it was finally time to come home.

“What I love most about the College Hill are the events like Second Sunday and the Soap Box Derby. And I love Mercer Village!” he explained. A lot has changed since he last lived in the Macon area, and he is excited to be back again to witness more changes and improvements to come.

Cassidy is also happy to find that Mercer Village and all the attractions downtown are easily accessible on his bicycle from his new apartment at the Washington Commons on the corner of Hardeman and College Street. His mother, Wendy Cassidy, recently remodeled the historic building for office space and rental property, and was pleased to see her son move in as one of the first tenants. When the weather’s nice he says he’s happy to ride his bike to work, out to lunch for a Nu-Way Weiner, and then hit the town at night, content not to use his car all day long. “I’ve never been more excited to for downtown Macon than now,” he admitted, saying he was especially excited for the new Macon Beer Company Oglethorpe, though that might be a long bike ride back to his apartment.

Dr. Cassidy certainly is making himself at home again in the Corridor, and his father could not seem happier to have him back. As we stood on College Street facing the Cassidy practice, which Dr. James Cassidy, Sr. opened in 1954, Dr. Cassidy Jr. shared with me his fondness of Macon and the family practice three generations of Cassidy men have helped to build.

“Anyone can put in a filling or clean teeth, but being there when your patients need you— that’s service,” remarked Dr. Cassidy, Jr.

Being rooted in the same community for so long, the professionals at Cassidy Dental have cleaned and fixed the teeth of local families for decades, once even having five generations of a family in the office at the same time! It’s this kind of long-term, personal care, a “heritage of service” as Dr. Cassidy, Jr. proudly calls it, which has established a name for three generations of Dr. Cassidys here in the Corridor.