Evelyn Wallace retires as owner of Bovina Cafe after 40 years

Published 12:00 pm Saturday, March 9, 2019

When a part time job turned into a full time job that eventually turned into owning her own business, no one could have been more surprised than Evelyn Wallace. “Running a restaurant was nothing I had ever thought about,” Wallace said. But now, after being a mainstay at the Bovina Café for 40 years, Wallace retired Feb. 28.

Wallace said she began working at the Bovina Café after being approached by the Kitchens’, who had been the owners of the restaurant.

“At that time, Allen Kitchens had the Shell station next door and we were building a house, and I would come by the restaurant to get burgers,” Wallace said.

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It was then that Kitchens’ wife, Linda, approached Wallace about working part time.

“So I agreed to work three days a week,” Wallace said.

But it wasn’t long after, she said, that she began working at the restaurant full time.

“And then 10 years later they said they no longer wanted the restaurant, and they asked me if I would take it, so I did,” Wallace said.

Some of Wallace’s highlights she recalled as owner of the restaurant included having her children grow up in the environment, as well as having her grandchildren grow up in the business.

“And the people (customers) are fantastic. They have been just like family,” Wallace said.

John Boa, a regular at the Bovina Café, said he will miss Wallace.

“I have known her forever and she is really, really nice,” Boa said.

“When Molly (Boa’s wife) was in the bed and couldn’t cook, and we had the hospital bed in the living room,” Boa said Wallace would do what she could to help out.

“Molly would say, ‘See if Evelyn has got any turnip greens today or spinach,’” Boa said. And when he went to the restaurant to ask, Wallace would supply more than needed.

“She would walk out with half a gallon pot of whatever Molly had asked for and I would say, ‘Evelyn, there is no way she can eat all this’ and Evelyn would say, ‘You can help her.’”

Boa said he would ask how much he owed and he said Wallace would reply, “You don’t owe me anything,” Boa said.

“She wouldn’t take five cents for anything I asked for, for Molly,” Boa added.

Since the passing of his wife, Boa said he eats breakfast every morning at the Bovina Café and orders to-go lunches on Thursdays and Fridays.

“Thursday is catfish day and Friday is jambalaya and you get a million shrimp in the jambalaya, and it is absolutely good,” he said.

Long hours

Owning a restaurant has been a taxing job, and as the business grew, Wallace said it also required more time.

“I would get up at 2 a.m. and then get to the restaurant at 3:30. My husband and I would come in and start breakfast,” she said, as well as getting everything prepped for lunch.

At 5 a.m., Wallace said, one of her “ladies in the back” would come in at to begin helping out.

“I have some great girls who are hard workers. They don’t mind doing anything. They just come in and pitch-in and you don’t have to tell them what to do. They just come in and get at it,” Wallace said.

Everything at the Bovina Café is made from scratch daily and the menu rotates daily.

Handed down recipes

In addition to the catfish and jambalaya, which Wallace said is a favorite with customers, are hamburger steak and chicken and dumplings on Mondays, chicken spaghetti and meatloaf on Tuesdays and roast and chicken nuggets Wednesdays.

Desserts offered at the café include banana pudding, chocolate cake and pie, lemon meringue pie and an assortment of cheesecakes.

The recipes for these pastries have either been shared by a friend or passed down to Wallace by her grandmother, she said.

“My grandmother was the dessert maker in the family, and cooked on a wooden stove.”

It’s time

Prior to her retirement, Wallace said she had contemplated closing down the restaurant in 2010 after it had burned.

But the customers thought otherwise.

“They wouldn’t let me. They had a fundraiser and raised the money to get everything back together again, so we could get back in,” Wallace said.

But now nine years later, she said, it’s time.

“I think in your brain, you just know when the time comes,” she said.

While, she admits she will miss the people, Wallace said she has already got her sights on the future.

“I plan to spend time with family,” she said.

“When you get out of here after working 12 hours a day, you are too tired to do anything, so it’s just time to spend time with my family and do the things I want to do,” she said, which also includes fishing with her husband, working in the yard and doing things around the house that have been put off through the years.

“My daughter and I are also planning on doing some things together,” she said.

In good hands

Wallace may not be cooking and serving up customers anymore, but she said she knows the restaurant will be in good hands.

Dale McDuff, a family friend, purchased the restaurant, Wallace said, and Melinda Andress, Stacy Comas, Renee Pickering and Johnnie Ann Phillips will continue to carry on the tradition of “Good Home Cooking” just like the sign on the door of the Bovina Café reads.

About Terri Cowart Frazier

Terri Frazier was born in Cleveland. Shortly afterward, the family moved to Vicksburg. She is a part-time reporter at The Vicksburg Post and is the editor of the Vicksburg Living Magazine, which has been awarded First Place by the Mississippi Press Association. She has also been the recipient of a First Place award in the MPA’s Better Newspaper Contest’s editorial division for the “Best Feature Story.”

Terri graduated from Warren Central High School and Mississippi State University where she received a bachelor’s degree in communications with an emphasis in public relations.

Prior to coming to work at The Post a little more than 10 years ago, she did some freelancing at the Jackson Free Press. But for most of her life, she enjoyed being a full-time stay at home mom.

Terri is a member of the Crawford Street United Methodist Church. She is a lifetime member of the Vicksburg Junior Auxiliary and is a past member of the Sampler Antique Club and Town and Country Garden Club. She is married to Dr. Walter Frazier.

“From staying informed with local governmental issues to hearing the stories of its people, a hometown newspaper is vital to a community. I have felt privileged to be part of a dedicated team at The Post throughout my tenure and hope that with theirs and with local support, I will be able to continue to grow and hone in on my skills as I help share the stories in Vicksburg. When asked what I like most about my job, my answer is always ‘the people.’

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