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12-7-04 Savannah's Williams Seafood Burned



This is sad news for many long-time visitors to the Georgia Coast and Savannah.  For decades, Williams Seafood was the place to go to eat seafood in Georgia.


My wife and I have enjoyed scrumptious meals from there since the mid-70’s.


Wendell Dawson, Editor, AVOC, Inc.

The Savannah Morning News



December 7, 2004


Police: Williams Seafood fire was arson

No arrests made Monday as metro police seek help from public; Owner: 'This whole thing floors me. I don't know what to think'

Dana Clark Felty


An act of arson caused the fire that razed Williams Seafood Restaurant, four law enforcement agencies announced Monday.

Investigators found three or four places around the 52-year-old building where fire appeared to be set deliberately, said Bucky Burnsed, spokesman for the Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police Department.

No arrests have been made. Burnsed would not say whether there are any suspects.

"We are asking anyone with any information to please contact CrimeStoppers," he said.

Savannah-Chatham police, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, state fire investigators and the Southside Fire Department are partnering on the investigation.

Southside Fire responded to the Sunday fire just off U.S. 80 at 6 a.m., just four minutes after a 911 call had been placed.

However, the building was already engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived, Assistant Chief Hugh Futrell said.

After being questioned by investigators Monday, restaurant co-owner Tommy Williams II emerged from his home adjacent to his former business to speak with reporters.

Friends and former employees stood with him in the restaurant parking lot.

"This whole thing floors me. I don't know what to think," Williams said, minutes after the police announcement.

The third-generation restaurant owner said he couldn't imagine who would want to harm him or his business. Neither could he think of any disgruntled former employees or business partners who could be suspects.

Business at the 68-year-old family-owned restaurant had declined along with tourism since Sept. 11, 2001, he said.

But until the Sea Island G-8 Summit in June, revenues hit record highs over the last three years.

Business remained depressed through the summer.

Although fall is traditionally local tourism's "off-season," business had been "picking up," Williams said.

Williams' grandparents, Thomas W. Williams and Leila Williams, first began selling seafood on the side of the road in 1936.

The couple built the cinder-block restaurant in 1952, and managed it until Leila Williams died in 1975.

Tommy Williams, his sister Carol Schwalbe and father Hubert Williams took over the business about that time.

Schwalbe and the younger Williams became the restaurant's sole owners when their father died in 1998.

Today, Tommy Williams maintains primary control over the restaurant, Schwalbe said.