City Portrait

Savannah’s Welcome Committee

Four locals bringing people together in the Hostess City

Mashama Bailey and Johno Morisano
Culinary Impresarios

Since its quiet opening in December 2014, the dining room at the Grey has stayed packed with a cross section of folks from the Savannah community—a dream fulfilled for the proprietors, Johno Morisano and chef Mashama Bailey. “I wanted to build a business that was a meeting place,” Morisano says. “And I needed a partner who shared that vision and could cook the pants off everybody. Once I met Mashama, I knew we were going to have something special.” The duo worked tirelessly to bring that original vision to fruition. First in the main dining room, where Bailey’s inspired riffs on traditional Southern fare—braised eel, pickled oysters, dirty duck rice—are served home-style. Then in the bar, where her blue-plate specials and hearty sandwiches are priced to reach students, artists, and downtown workers. And finally in the yard, where they host concerts that double as fund-raisers for local nonprofits. Recently, Bailey and Morisano joined the board of the Edna Lewis Foundation, helping continue the foundation’s work of supporting the African American culinary arts.

Photo: Amy Dickerson

Johno Morisano and Mashama Bailey.

Jared Hall
The Bandleader

When musician Jared Hall arrived in Savannah six years ago, he admits to feeling “lost.” That began to change when he learned of an exuberant violinist named Ricardo Ochoa. Hall started accompanying Ochoa on keyboards and accordion, and before long they had formed a band, Velvet Caravan. All the while, Hall was helping to mount chamber music productions for the Savannah Music Festival at historic Trinity United Methodist Church. Looking down from the balcony one day, he envisioned turning the sanctuary into a regular listening room, soon founding the Thursday Night Opry and Trinity Sanctuary Concert series, which have given local and touring musicians a venue beyond the restaurant-and-bar circuit. Last year, he took over the production of the award-winning Savannah Children’s Choir, and in his rare spare time, he plays piano for the Savannah Music Festival’s music education program and in a local cabaret. It seems Hall has found his place at the center of a music scene far more vibrant than he had imagined. “Something extremely special is happening in this town,” he says.

Photo: Amy Dickerson

Jared Hall.

Kevin Ryan and Meredith Sutton
Brewers with a Cause

When metalsmith Meredith Anne Sutton gave her fiancé,
the former U.S. Army commander and West Point grad Kevin Ryan, a home brew kit for Valentine’s Day, she thought it would just be a fun creative outlet. Within a few years, that outlet grew into a business when Ryan and Sutton founded Service Brewing Co. along with their  investors, including nineteen other veterans, in 2014.

The brewery now distributes year-round suds—Ground Pounder Pale Ale, Compass Rose IPA, and Rally Point Bohemian Style Pilsner—throughout the Southeast and commissions local artists to create one-of-a-kind tap handles on display in the military-themed tasting room, designed by Sutton, a SCAD graduate. But their mission goes beyond craft beer. A portion of the tasting room proceeds goes to support vet-focused nonprofits such as the Tiny House Project for Homeless Veterans (to date they’ve donated more than $50,000), giving a definitive answer to the question that’s emblazoned on one of the brewery’s walls: How do you serve?

Photo: Amy Dickerson

Meredith Sutton and Kevin Ryan.

Keith Miller
The Empowering Educator

Growing up in Savannah, Keith Miller wasn’t exposed to the arts in public schools. That education came by way of Telfair Museums, where his mother worked as a security guard. “I was this little black boy that would come with his mom on the weekend and walk around,” he says. “The curator didn’t seem to mind my being there.” After college and a period in New York City, Miller returned to his hometown as director of the Block by Block program for the Deep Center—a local nonprofit that uses creative writing to empower at-risk youth. There, he works with students from the city’s poorest neighborhoods to reclaim their voices through storytelling workshops that help them reimagine their communities and themselves. “We ask, ‘How is my community affecting the person that I am becoming?’” Miller says. “The kids are blown away by one simple question: ‘What do you think?’ It’s not a trick question. I don’t have the answers that will tell me if they’re right or wrong. We guide and nudge them to find those answers.”

Photo: Amy Dickerson

Keith Miller.