Eatery’s popularity brings expansion on Crawford Street

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 20, 2002

Marion Baldwin loads the dishwasher in the kitchen of the Baldwin House after the Sunday lunch crowd. (The Vicksburg Post/C. Todd Sherman)

[08/20/02]Bruce and Marion Baldwin never planned to sell anything more than a few cappucinos and sandwiches from the home they bought on Crawford Street.

Now, after three years of serving lunch and dinner to hundreds of customers a week, they have decided it’s time to expand.

The Baldwins, who created the restaurant after restoring a dilapidated home in one of Vicksburg’s most historic blocks, are adding 1,000 square feet to the frame structure at 1022 Crawford. The new area will include a larger kitchen with commercial equipment, a storage cellar and an upstairs dining room.

The Baldwins, along with carpenter and longtime friend Larry Fanning, started the expansion about six weeks ago. The kitchen, cellar and dining room are being added onto the back of the home at Crawford and Adams streets. Fanning said the additions meet all historical requirements and will be very strong.

The Baldwins hail from California where they discovered the home on the Internet, bought it and opened the restaurant in 1999 after a yearlong restoration. Fanning is also from California and said he’s building to that state’s structural code, “the most stringent in the U.S.,” he said.

The Baldwin House is adjacent to Pemberton Headquarters. It is expected to become a property of the National Park Service and restored as the historic site where the Confederate general defending Vicksburg in 1863 planned his strategy. Also in the block are the Balfour House, an antebellum tour home, and the Cobb House that dates to 1830 and is part of the St. Francis Convent and School complex.

The Baldwins admit some surprise at the popularity of their business. “The house was scheduled for demolition, so we got it,” Marion Baldwin said. “In California we don’t have these old buildings.”

After moving to Vicksburg, they started selling specialty coffee and sandwiches to offset the cost of the restoration. Tthe Baldwin House restaurant is now open six days a week and employs two full-time and two part-time staffers. The restaurant offers a lunch and dinner menu with a choice of entrees, soups, salads, sandwiches and desserts. Marion Baldwin is currently the only cook, but says she plans on hiring more help after the expansion is complete.

Preparing a choice of meals and serving customers out of a residential kitchen has been challenging. Marion Baldwin said she often starts at 6 a.m. and does not stop sometimes until 10:30 p.m.

The Baldwins said more room has been needed for a while. “Each year has been an increase of about 50 percent from the year before,” Mrs. Baldwin said. “We’ve had people waiting on the steps to get in,” her husband added.

The Baldwins expect to have the additions complete by the first week in October.