There are days when Shelton Seraphin, a self-described pessimist, braces himself for another slow day at Germain’s Chicken Sandwiches.
“There's no way these people could like this food this much,” he said.
But they do. The 31-year-old business owner has consistently been surprised by a full house or even a line out the door at the eatery’s first permanent location, located at 220 NW Eighth Ave.
Transitioning from a food truck to a brick-and-mortar location wasn’t easy and wouldn’t have been possible without the support of the community, Seraphin said. The former food truck had served chicken sandwiches around Gainesville since 2021.
As the business gained popularity, Seraphin saw people wanted to be able to sit down and enjoy their food.
Germain’s started to put out tables every Friday and Saturday night to keep up with demand. As demand increased, Seraphin said he realized it was time to transition to a physical restaurant.
“We were like, ‘Hey, let's just see what we can afford within our budget and go from there,’” he said. “But even from the beginning and the start, we've always seen ourselves running a small little location.”
In order to begin the process, Germain’s started a GoFundMe on June 1, 2022. It detailed their plans for expansion and what people could expect at the new location. With individual donations ranging from $6 to $1,000, the fundraiser received more than $5,000.
“That was amazing,” Seraphin said. “That's the feedback we're looking for from our communities, and they knocked it out of the park, so we're very grateful for that.”
While Germain’s was getting built, people were calling Seraphin and offering plates, chairs or anything he needed to get the restaurant open, he said.
Additional support came from the community of other small business owners in Gainesville. Seraphin said fellow business owners were able to offer financial advice, give ideas on how they should transition and come out to offer support when it opened.
Grace Glennon, 33, a co-owner of Afternoon Restaurant said she called Seraphin to ask what he needed to open, offered advice and showed up to support the opening.
“I was really confident in their ability to do it because they had done that food truck first and then they had a built-in clientele,” she said.
In addition to other business owners, his family also helped with painting and scrubbing the floors, sometimes until 2 a.m. His sister, Jessica Seraphin, designed the pink interior of the restaurant.
Glennon has seen Germain’s quickly become a welcoming environment for all types of people of all different ages, she said.
Germain’s is a welcoming environment for all types of people of all different ages. It is the kind of place where you will see police officers, Shands employees, office workers, older women in a book club and college-age customers as well, Glennon said.
Laura Isaacs, 39, picked up dinner from the restaurant Jan. 5. As a digital marketer, she was impressed by the simplicity and ease of their website.
When she got there, she was surprised by the friendliness of the staff. Even though it was her first time at Germain’s, she felt welcomed.
“I walked up to the counter, and this guy was like a clairvoyant,” Isaacs said. “He was like, ‘Oh, you’re Laura, here's your pickup order.’”
The interior of the restaurant is pink and white with modern art on the walls, which contributes to its warm environment, she said.
Her order was the Honey Bird, which comes with hot honey, secret sauce, pickles and a side of fries.
“The food was freaking amazing,” she said. “I legit cannot wait to try everything else on the menu.”
Contact Lauren at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @LaurenWhid.
Lauren Whiddon is a UF journalism senior and the multimedia editor. When she's not writing she is updating her Letterboxd account or reading classic literature.