GREEN COVE SPRINGS – Ronnie’s Wings, Oysters and More, just across from Spring Park in Green Cove, is a staple of the city and an example of how a longtime eatery can become a binding agent for …
GREEN COVE SPRINGS – Ronnie’s Wings, Oysters and More, just across from Spring Park in Green Cove, is a staple of the city and an example of how a longtime eatery can become a binding agent for communities in small-town America.
“It’s [Ronnie’s] is very family-oriented,” said Amanda Berry, a server and bartender who has worked at Ronnie’s for the past eight years. “Very easy-going, big part of the community. It’s a majority of regulars here. It was a lot of different restaurants, a lot of different Ronnie’s at one point in time, in different areas. So now that this is the only location, they all kind of migrate.”
‘Ronnie,’ is Ronald Munsey, the owner.
“We’ve been in business for 32 years,” said the 79-year-old. “We’ve been in this location [232 Walnut St.] for 21 years,” he said. “I used to be in the trucking business before that. I used to go to a restaurant in Ft. Lauderdale that had the same recipes and everything. I liked the concept, and I asked those folks if they’d be interested in selling me a franchise up in Jacksonville.”
Those folks, it turns out, weren’t interested in selling him a franchise, but they charged him a one-time fee to get started as a restaurateur.
COVID-19 was a crippling blow financially to Ronnie’s, as it did to many restaurants last year.
“It affected us quite severely,” he said. “Sales dropped close to 50%. Hey, you know, in this business, you got to step up to the plate and do whatever it takes to keep your head above water. And that means, cooking, washing dishes, whatever I had to do.”
Munsey couldn’t afford to keep the entire staff on payroll with such a depleted revenue stream. Ronnie’s, though, unlike many restaurants, survived.
He still believes Ronnie’s is a special place. Munsey says he puts the best product he can buy on the table for the type of food he sells. He specializes in seafood and chicken wings.
Another thing Munsey embraced was the annual Ham Jam.
Ham Jam was one of Florida’s popular barbecue cookoffs. The event began in the late 1980s. Munsey eventually purchased and took over the event, and it became huge, hosting some of the biggest names in country music along with the barbecue cookoff. The event started at Spencer Farms in Clay Hill. Some of the artists who have played the Ham Jam include Blake Shelton, Loretta Lynn, Tim McGraw and Toby Keith.
Ham Jam, which moved to the Clay County Fairgrounds, no longer takes place. But it was an incredible event during its heyday.
Munsey doesn’t plan on working fulltime for very much longer.
“Ronnie’s, to be honest with you, is for sale right now,” he said. “I’m getting too old to do this. It’s very well established, and certainly, I would be interested in any offer that would come to the table.”
Green Cove Springs is a special place for Munsey.
“Green Cove is a beautiful place,” said Munsey. “I love Green Cove Springs. I got to know a lot of people. I think there’s a lot of growth expected in the future. I probably won’t be around to see a lot of the growth that’s going to happen.”