Shoney’s reopens with familiar faces after five months of improvements
Published 12:05 am Sunday, December 14, 2014
It was around the time the fireworks stopped coloring the night sky in Vicksburg when the sounds of hammers and nails began to fill the air at the city’s Shoney’s location.
“We closed July 3 and we opened back up last Saturday,” general manager Joe Watson said Friday during a rare break in the chain restaurant’s busy breakfast rush.
“Everywhere I went through the community, a lot of folks recognized me because I’ve been here this long and been in Vicksburg all my life,” Watson said. “Besides that, in church and in grocery stores, they wanted to know when we’d reopen.
I didn’t have an answer and I didn’t want to blow ‘em any smoke, you know.”
After a new roof, interior paint job and upgrades to the foyer and kitchen, the smoke at the Pemberton Square Boulevard restaurant has cleared. The local dining staple is back in business with new menu items, longer hours and more employees. New booths and tables are expected to arrive by March, Watson said. The redevelopment is part of the Nashville-based comfort food chain’s efforts to do the same across its 230 stores in 17 states.
“I feel that we’ve stepped up our service,” Watson said. “They should expect the same good food in a faster manner.”
Closing hours have been pushed back, to 10 p.m. on weekdays and 11 p.m. on weekends. Watson said ribeye steak has been added to the menu and the Friday night seafood bar is held over an extra night, to Saturdays from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Hostesses have been added to the staffing mix of 65 people to enhance a dining experience the 23-year manager with the company boasts is solid thanks to fresh ingredients on the afternoon menu to go with the popular breakfast bar.
“We don’t use frozen chicken, only fresh chicken and meat,” Watson said “So, they can expect that same quality of food, just in a friendlier, faster manner.”
About 80 percent of the workers stuck with Shoney’s through the renovation, Watson said. Stalwart shift leader Christine Williams, a nine-year employee, bided her time and waited — mainly to make sure the loyal, mostly older customer base saw some familiar faces when they returned.
“I was taking care of my family at home — four kids and a husband,” Williams said. “It feels wonderful to be open again.”
If the quickly-disappearing breakfast from customer Annie Bell Harris’ plate is any indication, Shoney’s return is a welcome one for regulars.
“I came here all the time,” Harris said, enjoying a biscuit. “Now that it’s reopened, it’s all different in here. The food is different — it’s better.”
Large groups still may dine behind the double doors leading to the restaurant’s meeting room. However, Watson will wait before making the location available to civic clubs again at the current location, built in 1987.
“I’m going to let the dust settle before trying to get clubs back,” Watson said.
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