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Covington resident among investor group to resurrect renowned Blue Willow Inn
Andre Merkerson
Andre Merkerson, of Covington, and his four partners, Manny Cohen, Marc Hamono, Alexander Sherman and Israel Abecassis, will work to revive the iconic inn and commercial village in Social Circle. - photo by Denise Etheridge

SOCIAL CIRCLE, Ga. — The idiom, “Everything old is new again,” holds true for the Blue Willow Inn in Social Circle. The iconic inn and commercial village behind the historic mansion is now under new ownership and renovation is planned for the local landmark.

“We see a lot of opportunity in this area,” said Covington-based investor and real estate agent Andre Merkerson. His four partners, Manny Cohen, Marc Hamono, Alexander Sherman and Israel Abecassis, live in New York state. The five of them have formed Blue Willow Estates LLC.

The men bought the property from Donald Poss of Good Hope for $2.5 million. The sale, which includes the old inn, a gift shop, small office building and the commercial village, closed on June 10. Poss had bought the 7.1-acre property 10 years ago when it was coming out of bankruptcy.

The village portion of the property is home to The Grove Church, Hot Rod’s Diner, a beauty salon, an Internet-based clothing company and several other small businesses.

Poss said the buffet-style restaurant that was housed in the Blue Willow Inn shut down two years ago due to Covid.

Merkerson said he and his partners would like to have a restaurant reopen in the old mansion, but that it must be the “right fit.” The Covington investor said he and his partners are thinking about transforming the old gift shop into a coffee shop.

Merkerson owns 350 properties across Newton and Walton counties. He is also renovating a bed and breakfast near downtown Covington off Emory Street. Merkerson said it will be vampire-themed to appeal to “The Vampire Diaries” fans.

According to Poss, the Blue Willow Inn property has more than 7,000 square feet of usable space and the restaurant dining area can seat around 260.

“It’s a big building. It’s two stories with a partial basement,” Poss said. He said the upstairs portion of the inn was only opened up for special events when the buffet restaurant was in operation.

“I think they’re going to do a good job with it, no matter what they do,” Poss said of the new owners.

The property and restaurant inside the inn was once owned and operated by Louis and Billie Van Dyke. After Louis Van Dyke died in 2010, his widow kept the place going and leased the restaurant from Poss after he bought the property.

The Van Dykes initially bought the Blue Willow Inn property in January 1991 and renovated the mansion and grounds at that time.

The Walton Tribune reported that visitors from across the United States and other countries dined at the Blue Willow Inn in its heyday. USA Today ranked the Blue Willow as a top 10 restaurant in 2003-2004, according to the Tribune’s report. In 2006, Southern Living magazine selected the restaurant as one of the top regional restaurants in the South. Celebrities like former German chancellor Helmut Kohl and Southern author Lewis Grizzard ate at the inn, according to the Tribune.