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Tuesday, Apr 23, 2024
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Bear Burgers Opening in the Face of Adversity

The Cheeseburger and Fries at Bear Burgers, served with “Bear Sauce."
The Cheeseburger and Fries at Bear Burgers, served with “Bear Sauce."

Bear Burgers is the newest culinary addition to Mercer Village. But it is more than just a restaurant; it’s a testament to resilience, community support and the pursuit of a dream.

Founded by Jonathan and Stephanie Keene, this eatery emerged amid adversity, transforming setbacks into opportunities to create something truly special. The two faced homelessness at one point, but their grit and tenacity have been instrumental in creating multiple businesses.

The journey to Bear Burger’s began with “Keene’s Kafe,” a humble eatery tucked away in a Shell gas station on Thomaston Road. The Keenes faced challenges, including a summer burglary that threatened the business’s future. After the incident, there was an outpour of support from the community which played a pivotal role in shaping Bear Burger’s destiny, Jonathan Keene said.

“A lot of the community supported me and wanted to see me open up a standalone location somewhere nearby. They knew as well as I did that that wasn’t going to happen after the robbery," Keene said. "So generally speaking, that brought in a lot of support. My whole business model is if you love on people and treat them right, they got your back.”

This motivated the pair to move elsewhere. Inspired by a desire to provide a welcoming space for Mercer students, the couple opened the restaurant this January.

“When I was looking for where I thought a restaurant could make the most impact in Macon, my wife and I came over to the Mercer area and noticed there were no restaurant areas specifically tailored for Mercer students,” Keene said.

For Keene, it was the unwavering support of the community, particularly the Mercer community, that fueled their determination to persevere. Recognizing the need for a dedicated space catering to Mercer students, Keene envisioned a new venture that would not only provide food but also cultivate a sense of belonging.

“This business is theirs. There is nowhere on or near campus, to me, where you can be a Mercer student and feel more welcomed, positive, and cared for right when you walk in here. Bear Burgers, to me, will become a part of the Mercer experience,” Keene said.

Beyond serving food, Keene notes that he is dedicated to giving back to the Mercer community.

“We are keying out ideas right now where every month, we’ll have a competition where any student club, fraternity, or organization that is involved with a charity– however many people that they get to come here and eat that month, we’ll give them 10% to their charity,” Keene said.

As the restaurant continues to grow, Jon and Stephanie are excited for their time in Mercer Village.

Karisha Khadayat

Karisha Khadayat is a student at Mercer University and a contributing writer for the Mercer Cluster

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