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Under new ownership

Managers buy the San Antonio Star

Four years ago, Mike DeSimone had a booming trucking business and a hankering for Cajun cuisine.

With the money he made from Cross Creek Trucking Inc., he bought a downtown restaurant building and created the Louisiana Grill. He deemed the taste too hot for some and reinvented the eatery as the San Antonio Star Steakhouse and Saloon.

Last week, DeSimone decided it was time to exit the restaurant business and offered it to managers Tharyn and Dana Sims on Friday. An agreement was struck Sunday and the Sims took over on Monday.

The first thing I learned when I opened the restaurant was that it was hard to be an absentee owner, says DeSimone, whose trucking operation has doubled in the past four years. I told them, if you want, we'll make it happen.

Tharyn Sims managed Round Table Pizza in the Medford Center for more than a dozen years before becoming San Antonio's manager in December. Dana Sims has been at the restaurant since August. She was bar manager at Mick's at the Mall and later general manager of Chevys Fresh Mex on Crater Lake Highway, now the home of Olive Garden.

— It kind of came out of the blue, concedes Tharyn Sims, who had a notion that at some point well down the road that he might buy into the restaurant. He called Friday and dropped this on me; it was real quick.

DeSimone says despite good sales he realized early in the game that running a restaurant demanded more time than he could offer to the venture.

Jerry Hayes is at (Jacksonville's) Bella Union every day and that's why I think he's successful, DeSimone says. The restaurants that are successful are run by owner-operators or they're like Applebee's where there are so many of them and the recipes are developed at a central commissary and sent to the retail level.

The reason why I think the restaurant will be successful is because Tharyn and Dana will be there every day and take care of the day-to-day things.

DeSimone will retain ownership of the building at Fourth and Fir streets and he'll maintain his barbecue catering operation as well.

Sims worked at Jerry's restaurant in Medford while he was a teenager, then worked at KOGAP for 16 years before the lumber mill shut down in 1991. But he says even after managing restaurants for many years, ownership and looking after 25 employees will provide new challenges.

There's a lot more stuff you have to do, he says. When you're the manager, the owner takes care of the payroll and pays the bills. I just ordered all the food and gave them invoices and they paid it. Now, there's a lot more book work, keeping up with taxes, workers comp and all of that stuff.

Brisket and pork will remain among San Antonio Star's primary dishes.

It's going to stay basically the way it is, Sims says. Mike started this place and the concept is pretty important to him. If somebody else bought the restaurant, they would've changed it to something else.

Dana and Tharyn Sims have moved from management to ownership at the San Antonio Star Steakhouse and Saloon in downtown Medford. Mail Tribune / Roy Musitelli - Mail Tribune Roy Musitelli