Serving her popular pimento cheese to golfers and guests at the clubhouse after the Master’s tournament last year convinced Dianne Light to take a new direction — marketing her take on a Southern classic.
So Light spent the past year agonizing over the decision to channel her energies into the success of the new venture by closing one of her two Columbia restaurants.
Monday night, about 11 p.m., after the last guests left Dianne’s on Devine, she did it.
She announced to her staff that the steak and seafood restaurant would not reopen.
Then, Tuesday morning, her manager posted a notice on Facebook and she began calling customers, cancelling reservations.
“This has been the biggest decision, basically, of my life,” she said.
For the past eight years, Light had been working at her delicatessan, DiPrato’s, during the day and Dianne’s on Devine at night. That meant working seven days a week, except for taking every other Sunday off.
“I’ve got to admit I can’t keep that up,” said Light, 69.
Business hasn’t been as good as it was pre-2008’s recession, she admits, but closing Dianne’s on Devine was not an economic decision.
Many of her employees worked at both restaurants, though the closing puts about 15 people out of work, she said.
Light opened Dianne’s 24 years ago.
Her first location was on Assembly Street. Then she moved to Devine Street, maintaining a following at the upscale restaurant and comfortable bar, where the bartenders seemed to know everyone who took a seat.
She knows what seemed like a spur-of-the-moment decision will make people curious, but she has always operated on instinct.
And it felt like time.
“I had no idea that it was going to cause such a stir,” she said, cutting through the tables Tuesday at DiPrato’s, on Pickens Street.
Customer Larry Pyle held her up, suggesting an appropriate time to reopen her dinner restaurant.
“How much time do you need off. A week?” he asked.
This evening, she’ll be guest vendor at Whole Foods, handing out samples of DiPrato’s all-natural pimento cheese and moving toward a new cottage industry she expects to have off the ground within six months.
As she’s always done, she’ll have two jobs.
During the day, she’ll still work the front of DiPrato’s, her New York-style deli on upscale Wheeler Hill.
She’ll also be traveling to vendor shows and farmers markets, pitching the new product being developed with John Brunty, who was the manager of Dianne’s on Devine.
Reach Hinshaw at (803) 771-8641.