The Oxford Eagle
Growing up in Coldwater, Mississippi, a short drive from Oxford, Scott Michaels had always loved Ole Miss. Long before becoming the owner of Rooster’s Blues House, a bar located on the Square and a favorite among university students, Michaels dreamed of one day ending up in Oxford.
Through hard work and ingenuity, Michaels turned his love and appreciation for music into a successful business, and Ole Miss has played an undeniable role in that success.
For Michaels, the University of Mississippi is a family school. His mother, cousins and brother attended the university, and from a young age, he knew he wanted to follow their lead.
“We grew up coming over to see Ole Miss play football,” Michaels said. “That was [my mother’s] school. She knew a lot about it, and she showed me around. It was just a no-brainer for all of us.”
Michaels began playing football in fourth grade, and it quickly became a major part of his life. By his sophomore year of high school, he knew college football was a real possibility. His dream was to play football for the University of Mississippi. However, his academic performance held him back.
“I was a horrible student,” Michaels said. “I didn’t care a thing about school. I didn’t like school, and I didn’t like my teachers. I didn’t try.”
Michaels struggled academically through high school, but he did not let his academic issues interfere with his goals of playing college football. Shortly before Michaels graduated high school, Ole Miss adopted a new university policy that included a minimum academic requirement for athletes. As a result, Michaels was ineligible to play for the university. But instead of giving up his dreams of college football, he looked elsewhere.
Michaels found his opportunity at Northwest Community College in Senatobia. He attended the college for two years and played on their football team.
“(Northwest’s) head coach recruited me during my high school football season, six months before I was going to graduate, said Michaels. “I knew that’s what I was going to do.”
In addition to his love for football, Michaels also loved music. “I was a huge fan of music,” he said. “You have to remember I grew up in the ’80’s, and music was just going through the roof. Something clicked with me, and I realized music seemed like a good idea.”
During his time at Northwest, Michaels was hired as a bouncer for a Memphis bar called the New Daisy. At the time, he was familiar with security workers in Memphis, and saw its nightlife scene as a way to become involved with music.
“I reached out to an guy I knew named named Whale,” Michaels said. “I met him when I was probably 15 and got to know him over the years. He told me, ‘When you’re 18, I’ll put you to work,’ and the week that I turned 18, I worked a Tora Tora concert [at the New Daisy].”
After two years at Northwest and exclusively working for the New Daisy, Michaels still considered taking his football career to the next level. He turned down several scholarship opportunities from other colleges to play walk-on football at Ole Miss, but he ultimately saw more opportunity in business than football.
“I knew I wanted to go to Ole Miss, whether it (was) to go to school or play football,” said Michaels. “I ended up choosing my business [over football], because there was a quick request from several fraternities to have me help bounce their parties.
“[Fraternity members] had seen me work in Memphis, so it just seemed like a good fit for them. The opportunity to start the business came in front of me, and I just jumped on it.”
By 1991, Michael’s bouncing for fraternity parties transferred to other cities, such as Auburn, Alabama; Starkville, Mississippi; and Memphis, and catapulted into a security business that he dubbed Velvet Hammer.
As his bouncing business grew, opportunity arose for Michaels to become involved in armed guard security and patrol. Velvet Hammer was also involved in security for musical venues and bands as well, providing security for concerts for bands, such as the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Ozzy Osbourne, Nirvana and The Rolling Stones.
By 2006, Velvet Hammer had grown to around 500 employees and 50 patrolling trucks. Michael’s business was Oxford-based, but was active in Memphis, Little Rock and Nashville as well. However, the market for security companies had become saturated, and the growth of Michael’s business was not what he had envisioned.
“I loved the security business when it was small, and I was working thousand-room standing arenas,” said Michaels. “When I got into the bigger venues, it became more of a desk job. I wanted to be hands-on and go back to where I came from.”
In 2006, Michaels sold the majority of Velvet Hammer and began to pursue a new business venture. Incorporating both his love for music and roots of working at the New Daisy, he opened Rooster’s Blues House on the Oxford Square.
“When I was a bouncer working at the New Daisy, I wanted to own the bar,” said Michaels. “I wanted to hire the bouncers and make it an environment I would want to be in. I grew up around the blues, and Mississippi has been my life since day one. I wanted to use my own creativity and put something together in Mississippi.”
Rooster’s Blues House has been a staple of Oxford nightlife since it opened in 2007. A blues bar, situated on a balcony overlooking the Square, Rooster’s Blues house is committed to blues and rock from local musicians.
Live music plays every weekend night, and the bar’s casual atmosphere attracts hundreds a weekend. Not only does the bar’s ambiance attract customers, so does Michael’s larger than life and welcoming personality. Many of Michael’s customers know him by his second name, Rooster T. Feathers.
“Everyone remembers the Rooster,” said Rooster’s Blue’s House manager, Zach Clolinger.
Michaels talks to dozens of customers a night, making each feel as special and at home in his bar as the rest. This is his “Rooster Strategy.”
“[Rooster’s Blues House] number one marketing strategy is putting Rooster out in front of as many people as possible, said Zach Clolinger. “We let him meet, greet, and entertain [customers] so that the next time they come around, they feel more comfortable going in.”
“The Rooster Strategy” is successful, considering the number of returning customers.
“I hardly go anywhere but Roosters, because to me it feels like a home,” said junior Madeline McGrath. “I’ve become friends with the bouncers and workers there, and I never feel like I’m just another customer at the bar. I’m always welcome. There’s a big personal connection there for me.”
Michaels believes his second business has grown to be just as successful as Velvet Hammer because, in both, his employees and customers can see his dedication. Customers grow to love the venue.
“Since 2007, everybody I’ve gotten to know will come back to visit, and for me, it’s just great to see our Rooster’s family and what we’ve built,” said Michaels.