Take a trip through Georgia's back roads and you'll see staples of the South that have defined it for generations. The signature red clay, tall Georgia pines, "down home" hospitality and, of course, the Southern barbecue that is synonymous with life below the Mason Dixon Line.
Gerald Travis South was born here (he went by Travis). Growing up in Lavonia, the barbecue served by his family was as much a part of his life as school, fishing and Saturday nights at the movies. Little did he know the family recipe had planted a subconscious seed that would one day inspire him to create one of the most popular and iconic restaurants in Indianapolis.
It was a long road from Lavonia to entrepreneurship. Along the way he met & married Gladys Mihlfield of Climax, Georgia. They had three children and settled in Indiana's capital city in the 60's while Travis traveled regionally for his sales career. Frustrated that he couldn't get real Southern Barbecue in the colder latitudes, he made the decision that changed his life when he opened GT South's restaurant on June 10th 1992.
Sometimes the simplest ideas yield the most success. Fill a void and give the customer top-flight food that cannot be enjoyed anywhere else. Period. The phrase "Build It And They Will Come" has no better example than GT South's. Ever the savvy businessman, Travis started slow and small, expanding as his cash flow and customer base grew. It wasn't long before walls were knocked out, the dining area expanded and more employees were hired to efficiently serve the ever growing crowds that lined up outside to get in.
It has been said that an establishment's greatest compliment is word of mouth; when your customers tell others and the word continues to spread. In the case of GT South's, the word spread further than the South family ever imagined. Radio personalities, sports figures, state officials and more descended upon Travis South's dream restaurant to taste the legitimate Southern Barbecue that had made his eatery a household name. Autographed pictures of well-known celebrities adorned the walls everywhere.
Even the South family got involved, holding down duties in the kitchen, waiting tables and managing the books in the back office. Travis continued to be joyfully involved in every aspect of his hugely successful enterprise. Whether it was greeting customers in the lobby, wandering around the dining room stopping at tables to chit chat or donning an apron and dishing up his signature fare, Travis South was truly in his element.
It is one thing to expand and grow an already established concept. It is quite another to create the concept in the first place. Gerald Travis South pioneered real Southern Barbecue in Indianapolis. He became a success doing what he loved to do. May we all be as fortunate.
It has been 25 years and the restaurant is now closed. The South Family is committed to carrying on that legacy and is now making available for purchase the signature barbecue sauce that was synonymous with the restaurant's success.
- written by Bill Hayes