The Originals

Denise and Rick Hilliard, founders of the Original First Turn Steakhouse & Lounge with their son, Rick Jr., and his wife, Emily.

The First Turn Steakhouse & Sports Lounge is about to become a little less original.

Founders Rick, Denise and Lee Hilliard are retiring and have sold the place to Kurt Jones, who will partner with married couple Janet McDermott and Shane Snipes to manage the restaurant.

There will be a party to celebrate the changeover at 2 p.m. Sunday, July 25.

While Rick Hilliard will miss the restaurant's patrons, there is one thing he won't miss about the restaurant. He has done all the maintenance for 37 years and jokingly (or not) is looking forward to “not fixing toilets. I’m so glad to get out of it.”

First Turn was founded by the Hilliards in 1984 across West International Speedway Boulevard from the race track (thus the First Turn name) and developed a stock car racing theme.

In fall 1988, they moved the restaurant to 5236 S. Ridgewood Ave. in Port Orange and continued to grow.

The Hilliard family, which now includes Rick Jr., Emily and Selah Hilliard, posted on social media, “After 37 years of wonderful business, we will be retiring. Through the years we have had many ups and downs, but despite everything, with the loyal support of family and friends, we have survived (even Covid).”

The Hilliards are thankful for the many fans of the restaurant.

“Y’all have kept us going! We love and appreciate every one of you and thank you all for your support throughout the years,” the posting states. “We are extremely proud of the business that many of you have come to call home. . . . We have been able to support many local non-profit organizations, our closest being our friends at Combat Vets Motorcycle Association. May our legacy continue to help and prosper the new owners.”

The new owners, incorporated as Daytona Original First Turn, will retain the staff, name and previously booked entertainment until the end of the year. They anticipate the menu will be kept, but expanded and that indoor dining will reopen.

The Hilliards hope “you can share the love with them and continue to support First Turn.” They believe the new owners will run with what they have done while improving it and making it better.

Social media lit up with comments wishing the family well. Chris Shelton of South Daytona posted, “We're definitely going to miss you and our Fins games! We have so many wonderful memories dating back to 1995 when we first walked in. Port Orange will never be the same! Congratulations … now go enjoy your life!”

Rick and Denise Hilliard have been married 35 years and together 38. Ms. Hilliard said they actually had the restaurant for sale for two years, but have been waiting for the right person to come along.

“We have a new (two-month-old) granddaughter, Selah Grace, and we plan on spending time with her,” she said. “We bought acreage and are going to move (from South Daytona to Edgewater). It’s a mile from the kids. We want to travel. I play with pottery.”

Turning over the restaurant will be bittersweet for the couple, Ms. Hilliard said. “It’s almost our entire life together.”

And as to their patrons who they credit with keeping them afloat all these years, she joked, “We are just one big dysfunctional family. We’ve spoiled them; they’ve spoiled us.”

They will continue to come by the restaurant and look forward to relaxing there and not working. But they are worried about spending so much time with each other, Ms. Hilliard said.

“We may not like each other; we’ve been on opposite shifts.” To which he responded, “I might not like you either.”

Clearly, they will have fun in retirement, which will include fishing and continuing their vacations in the Florida Keys.

The Hilliards are passionate about veteran causes, such as the Combat Vets Motorcycle Association. They have done poker runs every year for them, which Ms. Hilliard believes the new owners will continue. Charities they have assisted over the years include Pawsabilities, Toys for Tots, Rock the Cradle Toy Drive, the Port Orange Christmas Parade and the Port Orange Community Trust.

The Friends and Family Appreciation Retirement Party will be from 2 to 6 p.m. Sunday with free barbecue plates while they last. The family's band, Easy Street, will be on stage right at 2 p.m. The family requests donations still be given to the Combat Vets Motorcycle Association.

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