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Customer Stories

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The Chefs Garden

Recognizing demand for high-quality catering in Jacksonville, Fl., Liz Earnest started The Chef's Garden, a food delivery business in 2002 after her daughter Jennifer left for college.

Upon graduating in 2005, Jennifer joined the company which quickly grew from three to 75. Driven by their love of cooking, each other, and their mission to use food to bring communities together, the mother-daughter duo grew the business into a full-service catering and events company. "[Our personal banking team] guided us from the beginning to make sure we were prepared. They are professional, kind and attentive to detail, guiding us no matter what questions we had," said Liz Earnest. 

 Soon, they began to work with local cultural institutions, expanding their services to accommodate a booming food scene, eventually finding a permanent spot at the Cummer Museum. Today, The Chef’s Garden is the official in-house caterer for the museum. “Ameris Bank has successfully guided us through an extensive addition to our current commissary and kitchen. We also utilize other services such as checking and saving accounts," said Liz Earnest. 

As a family-owned business, it was important that they find a bank that cared for their business and could offer a collaborative and educational approach to banking. “You can tell that people cared about helping us get where we needed to be. They would tell us exactly what we need to do and get together,” says Jennifer Earnest, “They defy what you think of as banking. We feel like we get that personalized interaction with all the capabilities of a bigger bank.”

Savannah Bee Company

An interview with Mark Haney, President and CFO of Savannah Bee Company & Ted Dennard, Owner and Founder

Ted Dennard was 11 when he was first introduced to bees and has been on a mission to share his passion for beekeeping ever since. He experimented with honey and beeswax to make quality skin care products and lip balms and founded Savannah Bee Company in 2002.  

The retail store was a booming success and Ted and Mark Haney, President of Savannah Bee, looked to Ameris Bank to help them expand. “What Ameris says is pretty much gold — which is critically important,” says Haney, “I feel like they trust us to run our business, and our banker is very knowledgeable and transparent with us.” 

Being a local company themselves, partnering with a local bank gave Dennard and Haney a sense of community and shared understanding. “The banking team here in Savannah is fantastic; [they] keep us coming back. [Our banker] is always available and he’s invested in the success of our business,” says Haney. “They’ve been there for us in huge ways as a small business.” 

In 2021, Savannah Bee purchased a new warehouse with Ameris Bank’s help. Today, they continue to partner with Ameris for long-term construction financing and help navigating the Small Business Administration. Additionally, Savannah Bee Company employees have moved many personal accounts to Ameris. “I can’t speak highly enough about our Savannah team and the bank in general. They care all the time.”

Colquitt Regional Medical Center

An interview with CEO, Jim Matney 

Providing exceptional care to exceptional people is the core practice of Colquitt Regional Medical Center. For new business owners, employees and leaders, Jim Matney, the hospital’s CEO asks one question, “If you’re going to do a job, how can you make it exceptional?”  

Matney has an unwavering commitment to providing excellent customer service and has dedicated the greater half of his career to the middle Georgia hospital. Driven by community and a need to create positive impact, it was important that they find a bank who aligned with their values.  

“Ameris Bank is incredibly responsive. There has not been a situation that I haven’t been able to get solved immediately. I send all my staff to bank with Ameris,” says Matney. He notes that Ameris is here to help you work through budding ideas and bring them to fruition. “They’ll sit down and look at a deal with you, develop a performance model and help you create a plan.” 

Colquitt Medical’s relationship with Ameris Bank is an integral part of the hospital’s success and together have expanded and created opportunities for medical education. “Colquitt Regional has been banking with Ameris for several years and considers Ameris a Partner in the strategic vision of the Health System, “ says Matney. With their endorsement and Ameris Bank’s funding, the Ameris Bank Medical Education Center will open this spring— a testament to providing excellent care to patients.  

Along with having an “A” hospital safety score, Colquitt Medical has received many awards and recognitions including the Press Ganey Experience Guardian of Excellence Award for putting customers at the forefront of the care experience — a defining value of both the bank and hospital.  

Kathy Villafane, Broker and Business Owner 

Named Rookie and Realtor of the Year by the Hinesville Board of Realtors, Kathy Villafane has achieved great success during her nineteen years in real estate. Since her career start, Kathy has expanded her brokerage business from a team of one to a team of ten, and when looking for a bank, she knew she needed a strong partner who could help manage her rapidly growing team. 

“I’ve been with Ameris since 2015 and everyone at the branch feels like family. They take great pride in my success and in knowing that I trust them to help me make good financial decisions.” 

Kathy, an entrepreneur and mother, now helps her daughter run a business. “I have my personal and business checking accounts with Ameris Bank and when my daughter started her business, I knew I had to set her up with an Ameris account as well.” 

Previously a salon owner, Kathy is passionate about helping aspiring business owners and encourages them to get to know their bankers and become part of boards and committees in their communities. “Getting to know your banker and joining your local Chamber of Commerce is something everyone should do. Doing so allows you access to a realm of knowledge and support from like-minded individuals.”  

In keeping pace with the booming real-estate market in Hinesville, Ga., Kathy trusts Ameris Bank to assist with her financial questions. “Ameris Bank is the bank of Hinesville. The customer service is unmatched. When I walk in, I feel like the most important person in the room, and I know when I have a question, my banker will work with me to find a solution.” 

With plans to purchase commercial real estate and grow her brokerage team, Kathy is confident Ameris Bank will be with her every step of the way. 

Deeper Purpose Kids Academy

Deeper Purpose Kids Academy is on a mission to help parents and their children reach their full potential. When Pastor and Police Officer Adam Joy recognized an opportunity to further serve the High Springs, Fla., community, he opened a daycare that would provide quality child care to working parents. 

Deeper Purpose Kids Academy first opened its doors in May 2020 when other schools and childcare facilities shut down amid the pandemic. 

“We had families moving to the area and daycares were either closed or full. They could not get in. I thought we would start small, but we opened with thirty kids and kept growing. We now have one hundred kids and fifteen full-time staff,” said Joy. 

When looking for a bank, it was important for Joy to find a partner that was as invested in the community as he was. So, he turned to Ameris Bank to help set up his business’s finances. 

“At Ameris, everybody knows my name and my business, and they want to help,” said Joy. “When Ameris Bank says they are with you, they do not just say it, they go above and beyond to take personal care of you.” 

“As a non-profit owner, it is essential to have a bank that offers the products and services I need to succeed. With Ameris Bank, I have access to a non-profit checking account, and I utilize merchant services like Clover to help make payments seamless for the families at Deeper Purpose Kids Academy.” 

The school hopes to expand in the coming years and has recently partnered with Ameris Bank to purchase fourteen acres of land to serve more families in the High Springs area.  

Joy encourages new business owners to keep moving forward. “You only need one person rooting for you, and that’s enough to get you started.” 

AB’s Cleaning Services 

Allen Burris, owner of AB’s Cleaning Services, comes from a long line of entrepreneurs. “My grandfather had a cleaning business, my father had a cleaning business, and now I’m the proud owner and founder of AB’s Cleaning Services and AB’s Chimney Cleaning Service, serving the greater Waycross area.” 

“As a small business owner, I wanted a partner that would give me the advice I needed to be successful,” said Burris. “Ameris Bank has been perfect in guiding me between different equipment loans and helping me set up checking accounts. It is great to have the personal service Ameris provides, and I appreciate doing business with them.”  

When Allen is not running AB’s Cleaning Services, he works as an engineer and aspires to earn his thirty years of service before transitioning to full-time business owner. “I have my personal and business accounts with Ameris, and I always trust the advice and feedback given by my bankers. When I finally make that switch, I know Ameris will be there to help.”  

Allen believes customer satisfaction is an integral part of company success and encourages business owners to make every effort to ensure their customers are happy. “It will amplify your business and broaden connections with new customers.” 


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