The greatest part of exploring Northern Mississippi is you never know what will meet you around a bend.
If you head down Chucky Mullins Drive and cross over Highway 278, you’ll find a man-made parking lot atop a hill that slightly resembles a prison yard. This is known as the “silver lot south,” and it’s used as over-flow parking for students of the University of Mississippi.
This where my journey began the day I found her. I left the silver lot and turned onto Old Taylor Road.
I’ve always been adventurous and curious of landscapes. Every Sunday afternoon since I can remember I’ve taken a drive with my dad. We’ve looked at houses in my hometown, new restaurants, you name it – we knew it.
I didn’t want to lose that when I got to college. Even though my dad is five hours away, that doesn’t mean our tradition has to be.
As I traveled down Old Taylor, I didn’t know what to expect. As I got further away from “civilization,” I began to wonder when I should turn around.
UM sophomore Claire Jones, who is also an integrated marketing communications major and one of my best friends, was in the car, and she encouraged me to keep driving. She knew exactly where we were going the entire time and just let me think I was taking multiple unplanned turns.
We stumbled upon horses. So, of course we stopped. We knew there were exams to study for, but we were now five minutes away from all responsibilities, and we were determined to take advantage of that.
We said goodbye to our new furry friends and continued on our trek to the unknown. We came around one last bend, and that’s when I saw her for the first time. An iconic old house sits at the stop sign when you enter Taylor. Instinctively I turned left, and found Taylor Grocery.
Covering the doors and windows of the old building are stickers and old advertisements. A sign in the window reads “cannot be seated until entire party is present.”
The town houses a little over 300 residents, but don’t let that number deceive you. Take the eight-minute ride down this way on a Friday night, or any given weekend during football season, and you’ll be convinced otherwise.
The Grocery doesn’t serve alcohol, but they invite guests to pull up their trucks and tailgate while they wait to be seated.
After I explored the Grocery, I meandered down the road and found Plein Air, a simple, yet elegant and charming neighborhood.
The neighborhood aims to promote walking and social activities among its occupants. There are fire pits and gazebos throughout the property.
Lizza Hewitt, homeowner, said the residents in Plein Air are “50/50,” meaning 50 percent are full-time residents and 50 percent are seasonal. She enjoys hosting friends and family throughout the year, but especially during football season.
Hewitt said “During football season, Plein Air resembles the Grove. Food trucks pile in from Oxford, and people bring their lawn chairs and TVs.”
The cottages surround a town hall, a church, and a restaurant.
The restaurant is called GRIT. June 2017 will mark its one year anniversary. Owners Nick Reppond and Angie Sicurezza say they opened GRIT to serve as a place for the community of Oxford to “get out of town.” The couple notes certain benefits of dining in Taylor, like not having to find parking, as you must when you eat on the Square.
I was so intrigued by the juxtaposition of GRIT’s quaintness and sophistication. It has everything that makes an urban dinner hotspot so great. Intimate lighting, food, and the refined atmosphere are all incorporated into this space with a side of Southern charm.
I asked Nick what he and Angie’s long term goals for GRIT are, and he laughed, “To keep the doors open. We have no huge long term goals. We just want to be a good restaurant to the community. We want to continue to support local farmers, and hope that the community will continue to support us.”
Senior, Huntington Maddrey said he’s seen Taylor exactly how Reppond described it for almost four years now – as a place to “get out of town.” Maddrey says the drive to Taylor alone helps soothe any stress or anxiety that builds up throughout the work week.
He said he traveled to Taylor for Easter Sunday to enjoy some brunch and reflection time, noting that he “couldn’t have imagined a more perfect place to feel thankful.”
As we left Taylor, I knew it wouldn’t be the last time I visited. Claire could see the look on my face, as I fell in love with yet another part of my school.
“I knew you’d love it,” she said laughing. I couldn’t believe she’d kept Taylor a secret from me, but I’m glad she let me think I found it upon chance.
As expected, when my parents visited, I rushed them to Taylor. They loved it as much as I did, and have continued to encourage me to scope out other neighboring towns like Water Valley and Holly Springs.
If there’s anything to be said, it’s that sometimes we take the wrong turn. We have no direction and we feel lost. But the most important thing is to keep driving.
Not knowing what will meet us around the bend is one of life’s greatest mysteries. And who knows, we might be lucky enough to stumble upon a gem like Taylor, Mississippi.