By Johnny Neumann
Flem and Charlene Mize opened the Beacon Restaurant April 15, 1959, and for 55 years it has been thriving at the same location at 1200 N. Lamar Boulevard in Oxford.
Tony Mize now runs the Beacon. The Oxford native, who remembers visiting it as a kid, attended Bramlett Elementary and Oxford High School.
“I played all three sports in high school – football, basketball, and baseball,” he said. “My mother and father never missed a game.”
Mize was awarded a scholarship to play football at Northwest Junior College. He later attended Ole Miss for one semester before marrying his high school sweetheart Barbara Conlee. After her death in 2004, he married Catherine Cullen in 2006.
Mize arrives each morning at 5 a.m. to open the restaurant that operates six days a week from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. It’s closed on Sunday.
He cooks breakfast each morning until 11 a.m., then comes out to offer any help needed.
Mize said his father taught him the ropes, and his mother still comes to the restaurant every day.
“My mother is an inspiration to me coming to the Beacon everyday,” he said. “I don’t know if she would last long without the Beacon.”
His co-workers also like family.
“I have been very fortunate to have employees and customers who make the Beacon the restaurant it is,” he said. “I have had cooks, two of whom just retired, work here for over 40 years. We have fun, cut up. but do our jobs.
“My employees are like family to me. We treat each other how we want to be treated. We will argue and get mad, and the next day, it’s back at work, and all is forgotten.”
Working at a restaurant, like the Beacon, isn’t easy work, and it can be stressful for the cooks, severs, and others, Mize said.
“During lunch, most people have limited time, and we pride ourselves on getting our food out quick, hot, and great tasting,” Mize said.
Mize said he wants his customers to feel comfortable in the restaurant. It’s often the gathering place for prayer meetings and political gab.
Judy Pettit began working at the Beacon in 1996.
“I love my job because my customers are like family to me,” she said. “Yes, my job is stressful, because most of the time, we are packed, and people are in a hurry. We want to get our food out quickly and provide a pleasant and family atmosphere for our customers.
“I didn’t know what was so special about the Beacon, but my father and his friends ate at their after every softball game they played. I went there one day with some friends, and then I understood also. It was like being at home. Everyone was friendly, food was great. It was just different, and you could feel it in the air.”
Michelle Farrow has been a cook at the Beacon for 15 years.
“I think the customer is what makes the Beacon the Beacon,” she said. “Construction workers and all kinds of people and their families come to eat here. We treat everyone the same, and they keep coming back because we try to make every person feel special.”