The sixth annual free Thanksgiving dinner will be Thanksgiving Day (Thursday Nov. 26) from 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. at S&G Grocery at Stephens Crossroads.
This year’s dinner will be take-out only due to Covid-19. However, Ulises and Sabrina Gonzalez and their four daughters (who own the store) hope that they will have a crowd.
When they first started the Thanksgiving tradition, they served 80 meals — last year that number was up to 179, which is huge considering S&G is the only place for groceries, gas, hardware, a laundromat and “just about anything store” along that stretch of Bells Highway at Stephens Crossroads.
The dinner attracts not only the rural residents around the crossroads, but people from Walterboro and other local communities. Last year they also distributed 30-40 leftover plates to people walking the streets in Charleston.
The menu is traditional Thanksgiving: fried and baked turkey, ham, red and white rice, green beans, macaroni and cheese, candied yams, homemade stuffing with gravy, banana pudding and more.
“We’ll start prepping the night before, then come in Thanksgiving morning and cook,” Gonzalez said. “There’s a lot of preparation: cutting up potatoes, seasoning meats and such. But we get up early so we can do this and spend a little bit of family time together.” (He and his wife, who have been married 20 years, have four daughters: 20, 17, 16 and 7. In fact, the store’s name, S&G, stands for Sabrina and Girls.)
Gonzalez grew up two blocks from downtown Boston, Mass. After 24 years with Ford Motor Credit, he transferred to Ford Corporation in Charleston, his wife’s hometown, in 1999.
So how did a big city boy end up running a grocery store in remote Colleton County?
“We just always looked for things to invest in. We started with homes, then had a couple of businesses. We were just looking for something for me to do full-time,” he said. “We were looking to buy a gas station. Then we saw this place and saw it had a full kitchen, laundromat, a liquor store (now closed) and the grocery store.”
And now “it’s my life right now. I like to serve people. I’ve been in the service industry for a long time and I like it. I love it,” he said. Which is great, because the store is open from 6 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday-Sunday.
But it works because he has “a great crew. They’ve been here for a long time and they do a great job. We rely on them. We’ve got a great team,” he said.
And giving Thanksgiving dinner to members of the community is something they all love to do. “It’s something that was put into our hearts just being Christians. We would always volunteer with the church, but when we bought the business, we thought hey, we can start doing it here and reach the community here. Ever since then, it’s what we do — we feed the community.”
Even though they still live in Summerville, Gonzalez has plans to eventually build a house near Stephens Crossroads. “We’ve looked at property down here so we can make this our home. We like the country life — at least my wife and I do. Stephens Crossroads is like a second home.”
“We love to serve the community and we’re grateful for our customers. We’re grateful for this time of year. And it’s great for us to be a blessing for others, to help out our community. People really respond to it.”