Customer service has always been part of the family business for Chris Gurley and Becky Corley.
The siblings, who run Sunrise Grill in Martinez and North Augusta, grew up working in their family-owned grocery store chain – Gurley’s Supermarkets – that was opened in Augusta in 1960 by their grandfather, Henry Gurley, and later run by their father, Ron, with his four brothers and two sisters.
“I think that’s where we learned the strong work ethic that we have,” Corley said. “Following through with attention to detail and wanting your customers to be satisfied has carried over into the restaurant for sure.”
Corley, the oldest of four, took her first job working as a cashier in the old Harlem store. By age 16, she was opening and closing the grocery as well as doing book work. Gurley, the youngest of three brothers, bagged groceries and stocked shelves after high school and on weekends.
As they got older, Corley decided to pursue a career in teaching. She taught for 21 years at Harlem and Greenbrier Middle schools before retiring in 2012, while Gurley stayed with the family business.
After leaving the Gurley’s location in Warrenton, Ga., Gurley said he saw a need for a locally run breakfast and lunch diner. With his father serving as a silent owner, Gurley opened Sunrise Grill in 2003 in the West Town Market Square in Martinez. Three years later, Gurley opened a second restaurant on East Martintown Road in North Augusta.
Corley came on board in late 2012 as manager of the North Augusta location, which just served its one millionth egg on April 22. That same milestone was marked at the Martinez restaurant in 2008.
Corley’s responsibilities as manager include waiting tables, keeping up with the books and some marketing. Gurley is in charge of the culinary and catering operations.
The brother-sister duo, who spent years working together at the supermarket, were confident the pairing would be a natural fit.
“We kind of work off of each other’s strengths and fill in each other’s gaps,” Corley said.
The siblings are five years apart in age, and Corley can recall carrying her brother around on her hip as a child.
“They loved me when I turned 16,” she said of her three younger brothers. “I’d drive them to school.”
Corley and Gurley graduated from Harlem High School in 1983 and 1988, respectively.
Now, years later, a family-like atmosphere has permeated among the staff at both restaurants, Gurley said.
“It’s so important to have good people working for you,” he said. “I’ve been really fortunate.”
Corley, whose favorite part of the job is serving diners, strives to make customers feel like one of the family.
“When I started, my first goal was not to memorize prices as much as it was to memorize their names,” Corley said. “I thrive on meeting people and connecting with them. When they come back, I want them to feel like they’re family.”