by Paul Wolf, Publisher and Founder and Sophie McNeil Wolf, Editor
Have you noticed something about Fondren, especially in 2014?
Yep, it’s the food and drink and the readily available amounts of it, in all different styles of cuisines, now available in the neighborhood.
In 2014, we began to call Fondren “the culinary capital of Jackson” because, truly, this is the hub of edibles and elixirs in the city. It’s no wonder we wrote so many stories about new restaurants and changes and expansions of existing restaurants and bars.
In part two of “14 in 14,” we look at this and more of our top stories from the year, each with a hopeful theme.
– Four. Count them. FOUR new restaurants opened (or were almost open) in this past year!
Jesse Houston and wife Rachel celebrated this time last year plans to open a restaurant and, by August, welcomed diners to sample the return of the oyster bar to Jackson with Saltine Oyster Bar (they also welcomed a baby girl, Cordie, in late December).
When news came that MISO! would close in May, Walker’s Drive-In Chef Derek Emerson announced he would take the spot and open CAET, a wine and small plates tasting room “for grown ups.” A highlight is their Napa Valley Wine Station, an intelligent wine preservation and dispensing system that allows you to sample small pours of bottles that may otherwise be too expensive to just try. CAET opened in September.
Around the corner, Jackson staple, Nick’s, also announced their departure in May. While multiple ideas were thrown around for the space at 3000 Old Canton Road, it was Surin of Thailand, a popular Birmingham and Atlanta Thai restaurant, that claimed the spot. Construction began over the summer and Surin is slated to open in January 2015.
As boutique Blithe & Vine relocated just down the block to Fondren Village, a vacancy in Fondren Corner brought us La Brioche in October, a French patisserie with a South American twist, opened by sisters Cristina Lazarri and Alejandra Sprouts. Their menu, including macarons, petit fours, tortes and alfajores also includes gelato, and all of their treats made in-house.
A Fondren staple, Brent’s, renovated and remodeled and, by year’s end, had settled into a “what’s old is new again” groove with a classic menu that now includes homemade breads, hand pattied burgers and house-made ice cream.
Twenty one year-old Cups isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. The espresso cafe announced they would expand with the acquisition of the next door space. Manager Cody Cox also noted a renovation of their existing space was in the works for 2015. Progress has begun already with a new patio awning as part of the changes.
In other non-edible” news…
– In September, the National Park Service announced it was placing “downtown Fondren” on the National Register of Historic Places. With the help of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History and Whitney Place Development Corporation, the designation allows for tax credits for interiors and exterior building renovations with in the specified district.
– In early 2014, Peters Development, managers of the Duling School, announced that concert promoter Arden Barnett would assume management duties of the school’s auditorium, Duling Hall. In the past year, the amount and quality of events there has grown exponentially, from local album release parties to national touring acts. (Find It In Fondren is a proud sponsor of the Duling Hall Concert Series.)
– Fondren bookseller, Lemuria Books’ owner, John Evans, undertook a project that was a personal labor-of-love, a photography book about our capital city, simply called Jackson, with photographer Ken Murphy. When it was announced in late 2013, Evans said “the foundation for the book had a simple goal: to capture what we value, enjoy and find beautiful about the city.” The book was published in August and is available with different covers, including a Fondren cover.
Another book, Studio Jackson, hopes to do for the art community what the Jackson book did for the city as a whole. Author Nell Linton Knox and photographer Ellen Rodgers Johnson profiled twenty three Jackson artists’ studios with an in-depth look at their work and what makes their surrounding communities so beneficial to their practice.
– In December, the Gerturde C. Ford Foundation gave the American Cancer Society a major boost with a $3 million grant for a Hope Lodge on the site of the former Schimmel’s Restaurant on North State Street. Hope Lodges across the country provided nearly 262,000 nights of stay at no cost, saving cancer patients and their families more than $26 million dollars. There are 31 similar Hope Lodges nationwide.
– In late 2013, St. Dominic Health Services, in partnership with Fondren Renaissance Foundation and neighborhood churches, relaunched the Phoenix Initiative, giving grants to homeowners for much needed facade and interior repairs to homes. 2014 saw the completion of a half dozen projects, including Sarah and Beau Henry’s Pine Hill home. Bill Scruggs, a project coordinator for St. Dominic’s, was a Fondren Renaissance board member during the program’s original run from 2006 to 2009. “I don’t want this to stop,” he said. “It’s a great thing and I see the fruits of our labor. I’m hopeful Phoenix will continue finding the right partnerships with the right people. You think you’re just rehabbing a house, but it’s much more.”