Lilly’s Pizza in Durham was sold to new owners this week, but won’t miss a single day of service.
Wednesday was the last day for Lilly’s, ending a nearly seven year run in the city. New owners took over Thursday and will operate the restaurant under the same name for up to 10 days before transitioning to Peabody Pizza Place. The Peabody owners are local restaurant industry veteran Jamie Greaves, Aaron White and other partners.
Lilly’s is beloved in Raleigh, having opened in 1993. Owner Jon Garrison said the Durham location opened in June 2012 in the Brightleaf development. Sales have been slow in the past couple of years, he said, leading to this week’s sale.
“Sales were declining; we needed to sell it to save both restaurants,” Garrison said in a phone interview Thursday morning. “Durham is a very different market (than Raleigh). There are many more competitors.”
The Raleigh Lilly’s will remain open and unaffected by the sale, Garrison said.
News of the sale was initially posted on the Durham Lilly’s door earlier this week and first reported by the food blog Bites of Bull City.
In that Facebook thread, people noted that Greaves is a registered sex offender, stemming from 2018 charges in Boone that he had arranged to meet a 14-year-old for sex through computer messages, according to a news story in the Watauga Democrat. Earlier this year, he was placed on probation and served no jail time, according to public records. He must remain registered as a sex offender for a period of 10 years.
In a phone interview, Greaves said he was “catfished,” that he exchanged messages through a dating website with a person who was actually a detective.
“I was catfished, there was never a teenage girl, I never assaulted anyone,” Greaves said. “At some point, they confessed to being an underage person. My bad decision was I didn’t stop talking to them. ... I made a bad decision having a conversation with someone I shouldn’t have.”
Greaves said the ownership group was aware of the charges prior to the purchase of the restaurant. He said he wanted to use the restaurant as an fresh start.
“I made a mistake, and I own it,” Greaves said. “Moving forward in life is so increasingly difficult when a Google search turns up the most negative information. ... I made a dumb mistake in my personal life. It shouldn’t have any bearing in my professional life.”
Garrison said that he had not previously been aware of the charges, despite a broker performing a background check. He said that had he known, the details would have impacted the sale.
“I had no idea this was the case,” Garrison said. “If I had known, I wouldn’t have sold it to him.”
Rick Wilson, the GM of the Durham Lilly’s, said that Greaves had notified the entire restaurant staff they’d be keeping their jobs in the transition.
Greaves said the reputation of Lilly’s Pizza made the new ownership group interested in the sale. The name Peabody Pizza Place refers to the restaurant’s location on Peabody Street, next to the Peabody building.
“Lilly’s is a great place with some of the best pizza in the area,” Greaves said. “We want it to be a neighborhood joint. We picked Peabody for a name because with Peabody Street, if nothing else, people would know where to find us.”