The Beechwood, a staple Vicksburg eatery, reaches milestone|[06/02/07]

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 2, 2007

Two brothers, Fred and Larry Nosser, opened a small coffee shop on U.S. 80 in 1957, and now, 50 years later, the Beechwood Restaurant and Lounge still stands in the same place, only it has become much more than a coffee shop.

The highway is now East Clay Street, and the building has grown, but owner Rocky Nosser said the Beechwood is still something of which his two cousins who were the original owners would be proud.

&#8220They knew it would be a success,” he said.

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The Beechwood will celebrate its 50th anniversary Sunday, and it’s a milestone Rocky Nosser didn’t necessarily expect would come.

Nosser said everything about the restaurant has changed in the 17 years since he bought it and that he didn’t necessarily have the same confidence the founders did. The only constant is that business is still good, he said.

&#8220The clientele has really changed,” Nosser said. &#8220What customers expect out of a restaurant is different. They expect more fancy foods.”

He has tried to adjust with the changing times. Since Nosser became the owner, he has missed fewer than 20 days at the restaurant. His speech and movement are still slightly impaired by a stroke he had many years ago and, he said, perhaps, he shouldn’t be working at all.

&#8220I just love my job so much,” he said. &#8220I enjoy seeing people.”

Nosser sold partial ownership to his nephew Will Hood in August. Hood said he had just graduated from the University of Mississippi with a degree in business administration, so the offer made sense.

Hood said he and Nosser have been planning the anniversary celebration for almost eight months.

Among regulars planning to be there are Faye Daniels, who said she has eaten at the restaurant with her husband, David, as often as twice a week for 30 years.

She enjoys eating there and listening to the live music in the lounge, she said, but she always comes back to see Nosser.

&#8220Rocky makes the Beechwood … he certainly does,” Daniels said.

The Beechwood is separated into three main areas – the restaurant, the lounge and the cafe. Daniels said she usually eats in the restaurant area, but always goes to the lounge to dance with her husband.

Vincent Cortesi, manager, said all types of people from all age groups enjoy dancing in the lounge. It offers all kinds of music.

&#8220We have 12 bands, minimum, that we have on rotation to play Wednesday nights and weekends,” he said.

Two bands will play Sunday – Cruise Control from 2 until 6 and Snazz from 7 until 11 – to accommodate the expected large crowd.

Other than live music, the Beechwood is popular for another reason – steaks. Since the Beechwood became a restaurant, a cook has been serving up steaks from a grill in the front, where everyone can see. For the past five years, that cook has been Joe Wash, who said his specialty is simple.

&#8220I’m a steak man,” Wash said. &#8220That’s all I cook.”

Tubs of crawfish are going to be prepared for Sunday, along with the regular meals. The main cook for the party is kitchen manager Betty Myers, who started her stint at the Beechwood busing tables 20 years ago.

&#8220The meals have changed a lot,” she said. &#8220But the food still tastes good.”

Myers said she is excited about the anniversary, but directs the credit at one place.

&#8220Without Rocky, there is no Beechwood,” she said.