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FEATURE: Savannah's Oldest Liquor Store, Johnnie Ganem's Wine & Package Store, Celebrates 75 Years as a Savannah landmark

By Lou Phelps, Savannah Business Journal

June 11, 2017 - Johnnie Ganem's Wine & Package Store, Savannah's oldest wine and liquor establishment, has announced their 75th anniversary of doing business in Savannah, the Hostess City of the South. 

"We're proud to carry on our father's legacy" said Paul Ganem, son of the late founder Johnnie Ganem, Sr. (pictured below with Mrs. Louise Ganem and sisters Margaret and Evelyn.) 

Mrs Louise Ganem, at age of 96, is the matriarch of the Ganem clan.  Together with her children, Paul, Margaret and Evelyn, the family continues to operate the oldest liquor store in the Savannah area, and has announced this coming week as their 75th Diamond Jubilee Celebration week.  

Located at 501 Habersham Street in Savannah’s Historic District, many celebrities have been customers over the years, as well as their loyal base of local customers. And those celebrities over the past 75 years have included Cary Grant, John Travolta, Burt Reynolds, Clint Eastwood and even the Beetles.  But, it’s their Savannah patrons who have all been served by the Ganem family that are the focus of the family, explains the family. 

Savannah's history and the Ganem's history is intertwined, from mayoral Inaugurations to society weddings to movie productions and charity fundraisers, according to Paul. And, Ganem's has helped Savannah celebrate all of it special occasions, he adds.

Johnnie Ganem Sr. started the business on the corner of Price and Gaston streets in 1942. Later the business moved to the current Habersham address where they offered burgers and curbside food, as well as selling alcohol, beer and specialty items.

Johnnie and his wife Louise expanded their curbside service to the Habersham House Restaurant. Then, as the late 50's approached, the Ganem's purchased the adjacent building and the ground floor was utilized for the famous Steak Ranch featuring hand cut steaks cooked over live charcoal. The famous "Garbage Steak" was a 12 oz. choice cut of prime tenderloin seasoned and aged to perfection, Paul explains.  The choice tenderloin had to be cut and eaten on the same day, if not “it was garbage” he says,  hence the name "Garbage Steak."

The "Rebel Room" opened in 1961 as a supper club on Friday and Saturday evenings for dining and dancing. Off the Rebel Room is a smaller room for private parties. Johnnie named it the "Uncle Willie Room" because he said, "everyone in the Deep South had an Uncle Willie!"

In those days, Johnnie Ganem Sr. was the president of the local Restaurant Association and participated in several civic organizations, as well.

Johnnie passed away on St. Patrick's Day, March 17, 1972, at the age of 55. He enjoyed all holidays but especially St. Patrick's Day.  His family still gathers the weekend closest to St. Patrick's Day to celebrate his memory. And, Louise Ganem, 96 years of age, still pulls the reigns and keeps the next generations in line, adds Paul Ganem. 

Johnnie and Louise both instilled the importance of giving back to the local community to the family.  Today, Paul, Margaret and Evelyn continue to be involved in numerous charities and civic organizations  including The Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, Second Harvest Food Bank, The Lions Club,  Rape Crisis Center, Savannah Center for the Blind & Low Vision, Safe Shelter and The American Diabetes Association.

Now, in 2017, Johnnie Ganem's is proud to offer Savannah the best selection of imported domestic and locally produced wine, beer and spirits.  Johnnie Ganem's has the only commercial temperature controlled wine cellar in the Southeast, and they offer wine counseling, with wine pairing.

They still specialize in “the best bar catering service in town,” states Paul, having handled the spirits for local weddings, birthdays, charity fundraisers, association meetings, corporate events, as well as public and private social events, as the family looks forward to the years ahead. 

Ganem's is represented by Scott West Marketing Solutions of Savannah.  

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