Last Sunday marked the French Market Grille West’s twenty second anniversary. Owner/Chef/Chief Bottle Washer Jim Beck was in a reflective mood as he busied himself in the kitchen, doing what he oftentimes does-interacting with a steady stream of customers, friends, vendors and employees. Listening, offering advice and laughing.
When the subject veered into a happy, life-work balance-enjoying what you do, Beck was adamant. “You gotta do what makes you happy. Whatever you do, you GOT to love it.”
“Last Sunday was twenty two years of owning this place.” He continued, “I work 80 hours a week, and I can’t wait to get here in the morning. I’ve never woken up one time and said ‘shit, I have to go to the restaurant’. This is what I love to do. I love being here.”
Apparently, so do his legions of fans who fill his restaurant every day. Even more importantly, his staff love being there.
“There’s eight of us who have been here the whole time.” Beck says as he slowly pivoted around, counting them off on his fingers one by one.
“Me, Joy, Brian Grubbs, Jeff, Tutu, Jeff, Stephanie, Doris, and Lopez.”
If you’ve ever encountered Jim, you know he’s a different sort of restaurant owner. With Jim you get the unfiltered opinion of a very unfiltered man, one who carries himself more like the Savannah River Site pipe fitter he was before leaping full-time into the restaurant business. (He still keeps his union card current just in case)
His father instilled a work ethic and world view that runs thick through all the Beck siblings. Brother John owns Sheehan’s and Beck’s, both on the Hill in Augusta, and sister Joy is always floating around, helping wherever she’s needed. Whether you agree or disagree with his point of view, you walk away admiring the man for his sense of conviction. Loyalty runs deep with Jim, and with his employees it runs both ways.
“I feed my staff every day. I tell them, if you come in here and you’re hungry, just tell me you’re hungry and I’ll feed your ass. Don’t sneak over in the corner and munch on bread. Especially if it’s a slow day and they don’t make a bunch of money. Neither does the restaurant, but what is a piece of chicken, a hamburger or some shrimp?”
Speak to Jim any length of time and you begin to see the reason behind his longevity in an industry where employee churn is rampant.
“When you wake up in the morning, make the right decision. And every decision after that, make the right decision. It’s easy. Just always do the right thing.”
The French Market Grille West is located at 368 Fury’s Ferry Road in Martinez.
Hours are Monday-Saturday 11:00AM – Until