Louis Van Dyke, the restaurateur and businessman responsible for Social Circle’s Blue Willow Inn and Blue Willow Village, has died.
Van Dyke died at his home on Wednesday. He was 63.
“It’s a very tragic loss for our community,” Social Circle Mayor Jim Burgess said Friday. “He had created a restaurant that was known throughout the world.”
The Savannah-area native and his wife, Billie, opened the Blue Willow in 1991. The elegant 107-year-old mansion turned restaurant at 294 N. Cherokee Road is a community landmark that attracts tour bus loads of visitors to Social Circle.
It is known for its upscale Southern cuisine and has earned multiple awards from Southern Living magazine. The late columnist Lewis Grizzard also was a fan.
The Blue Willow Village, a cluster of shops behind the Blue Willow that includes a 1950s-style diner, Lou’s Soda Fountain & Grille, opened in 2008. The restaurant, grille and gift shop employ more than 100, according to Patsy Joiner, administrative assistant.
Before opening the Blue Willow in 1991, Van Dyke had operated a smaller restaurant in Social Circle and restaurants in Covington and Monroe.
The inn and village represent prominent investments in the community.
“He was willing to make that kind of investment when many others were reluctant to invest,” Burgess said. “He meant very much to the economy of the community.”
Burgess described Van Dyke as fearless, and a superb risk-taker. “We just hope we can continue his legacy,” he said.
The restaurant will maintain regular business hours, except will be closed Monday evening for services.
The funeral service will be Monday evening at 6 p.m. at Meadows Funeral Home on Highway 11 in Monore. Visitation will be from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.