BUSINESS

Escape from reality and time at old fashioned Taylor Grocery

Brooke Atkinson
Oxford Stories
rbatkins@go.olemiss.edu

After a 30 minute scenic drive to escape the bustle of the growing town of Oxford, you will find a hidden gem called Taylor.

The small town with less than 500 residents has one particular restaurant that brings in patrons from all over. Taylor Grocery is a quaint restaurant with remarkable Southern charm and excitement. They are known for their fried catfish, a staple in the South, and an atmosphere that brings everyone together.

Arriving in Taylor, you will find a parking lot party, people socializing on the front porch, and a glimpse of the inside when the waitress walks outside to call your table. When the doors first swing open, you are mesmerized by the music and chatter that flow out. The red and white checkered tablecloths catch your eye, and remind you of the environment you have just entered.

Laughing, dancing and a whole lot of eating occur in this small town of Taylor. It is a sight to see and an experience to encounter. It is hard to beat the one of a kind, Taylor Grocery.

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Around 1900, a fire happened in Taylor that destroyed much of the small town. The west side of the train tracks were the only part left.

Originally, Taylor Grocery was only a dry goods store. Although many businesses were gradually closing and the town was quickly declining, Taylor Grocery survived among the devastation. It is remarkable to see how an old country store can impact a town such as this one.

In the early 70s, a man named Jerry Wilson, from the Mississippi Delta, bought the country store. Around this same time, a friend of Wilson’s from the Delta was experimenting with pond raised catfish. This is when Wilson and his wife began to sell this pond raised catfish in their store on the weekends. Although they sold only a little catfish, the store was their main priority.

After Mr. Wilson’s involvement, the store went through several other owners throughout the years before landing its present owner. Many years later, at the end of the ’90s, the store was bought by Lynn Hewlett, who now owns this hidden gem.

Hewlett was raised in Taylor, but was previously part of restaurant businesses in Oxford. He had no interest in continuing the store business, so he removed the shelves and the majority of goods in the store. His priority would be selling catfish. The only thing Hewlett kept was the name: Taylor Grocery.

Hewlett decided it would be best for the restaurant to only be open on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings.

“It’s sort of a destination kind of a place,” he said. People come from all over the world, and his customers are from “literally everywhere.”

Normally, the out-of-town customers are in the area for other reasons, but they are introduced to Taylor Grocery because of the unique environment. This family-run business is certainly out of the ordinary in the best way possible.

The environment is created partially by the decor of the restaurant. Nothing has changed since it was just a store. The walls and shelves have antique memorabilia, writings from customers starting back from early days, and unique decor that is spread throughout.

Catfish is what Taylor Grocery is most famous for. While catfish is their best quality, their menu is far from limited. Their options vary from seafood, such as shrimp and oysters, to meats like steak, chicken, and pork.

“It’s pretty much a tradition for my family and I to go mostly every Sunday night,” Oxford resident Alden McInnis. “We love the catfish and the laid back atmosphere. My parents especially love the live entertainment. Going to Taylor Grocery is some of the best time I get to spend with my family because we can all sit down, eat and relax.”

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A great difference in Taylor Grocery compared to other restaurants is their stance on alcohol. At Taylor Grocery, you can always expect a wait for hours on end – but no one is ever in a rush in Taylor. In that time, you have the leisure of enjoying a drink in the parking lot, or even on the front porch, if you supply it yourself. Taylor Grocery does not serve alcohol, but if alcohol is brought in a brown paper bag, they will always have a white styrofoam cup awaiting your arrival.

As if the atmosphere and people aren’t lively enough, Taylor Grocery consistently welcomes live music for customers to enjoy. 

“It is a surprise to me to see who will be playing each night,” Hewlett said, which is yet another unique attribution to this old, country store restaurant.

Tanner Odom, a former employee of Taylor Grocery, said working there was an experience he wouldn’t trade.

“It was always a pleasure getting to work with everyone there,” he said. “I met people from all over the country, and even some famous people. I had a lot of fun and will always cherish my five years spent working at Taylor Grocery.”

The family nature of Taylor Grocery is felt by not only the customers, but the employees too.

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Taylor Grocery has proven to be a local attraction in the Northern Mississippi area time and time again. From locals to newcomers, this small town, country store has made a name for itself.

From its beginning as a dry goods store in a devastated town many years ago, Taylor Grocery is now not only successful, but a well known, famous restaurant. The Hewletts have created a special atmosphere with traditions and memories for many other families.

“I’m thankful for the opportunity that we have to work here,” Hewlett said. “So many people go to work everyday to do something they don’t like, but I enjoy coming over here everyday and I am blessed to have this as my job.”

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