Award-Winning Louisiana Sports Bar Seeks to Expand into the Golden Triangle

GOLDEN TRIANGLE REGION, MS – COurtesy of the Daily Journal

Baton Rouge based Walk-On’s Sports Bistreaux, with over a hundred locations currently under development, is working on expanding their presence in Mississippi, including at least one franchise location in Starkville. The company, which has been around since 2003, was founded by Brandon Landry and Jack Warner, both of LSU. The New Orleans Saints’ Drew Brees has since become as o-owner of the chain. In 2012, ESPN named the venue the “No. 1 Sports Bar in America.”

Walk-On’s says it offers “authentic, mouthwatering Louisiana cuisine prepared fresh in a from-scratch kitchen. That includes seafood, traditional Cajun cuisine and burgers built for two hands.” They also offer po-boys, gumbo, soup, wraps, tacos, desserts, beer, and other alcoholic beverages.

No definitive opening date has yet been set.

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Get you some Tex-Mex, Do a Workout, and then Sleep it Off in Comfort

GOLDEN TRIANGLE REGION, MS – Courtesy of the Dispatch


According to records at the Sec of State’s Office, a new venue will be coming to the former La Fiesta building on Hwy 45. Jalisco Mexican Grill is believed to be the incoming tenant there, and there has been a fair amount of renovation going on there recently.

Also in Columbus, Firehouse Subs (next to C*Spire) on 45 is planning to open up in June. They will be offering takeout and delivery services, and operating at 50% capacity, like other restaurants. They also plan to offer a “Family Meal Deal” featuring three of their more popular subs once they do open.


The Magnolia Tree Bed & Breakfast on South Montgomery near Poor House Road is now accepting reservations, as is the Pool House, nearby. The B&B will offer a small-towm, comfy vibe while still allowing easy access to all a college town has to offer. Reservations for both venues, as well as more info on the complex itself, can be found at:

A new gym has opened at 329 Hwy. 12, at Middleton Court. Thomas Berkery is the owner of The Gym: “We’re just trying to get a footprint out there,” Berkery said. “We’re letting people walk around and see the facilities. . . I just wanted to open a hometown, local gym,” Berkery said. “We’re trying to get that good atmosphere of family and friends working out and staying fit together.”

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Restaurants Slowly Ramping Up After Statewide Re-opening Allowed

GOLDEN TRIANGLE REGION, MS – Courtesy of the Dispatch

On Thursday, Restaurants in Mississippi were allowed to re-open their dining rooms (at half capacity) for the first time since Gov. Tate Reeves issued a statewide order limiting their service options back on April 3. While this has brought some relief to store owners — 2/3 or more of many venues’ proceeds normally come from inside dining — customers have not yet been returning en masse.


“I really didn’t know what to expect,” said Mark Welch, owner of 1883 Steakhouse on Highway 12 in Starkville.

Starkville Police Cpl Garrett Mittan, center, accepts a to-go box of catfish, hushpuppies, fries and coleslaw from Starkville Cafe employee Gentry Wilson, left, Thursday on Main Street –
Photo by Tess Virbin, Dispatch Staff

“It’s pretty quiet so far,” said a restaurant manager just down the road at Newk’s Eatery.

A notable exception has been Starkville Cafe on Main Street, which was packed, in part because this was also the day he held a big food giveaway to any first responders who showed up at his restaurant. “It was just a coincidence that it happened on the same day,” owner John Peeples said. “But Main Street has been so slow and quiet these past six or seven weeks, we just felt like we should do something. I think everybody needed a little lift.” Clark Beverages provides a tent and free sodas. He went on to say that he gave away more food than he sold, but that it was absolutely worth it: “I had a customer tell me, ‘You know, this is the first time I’ve felt normal in weeks,'” Peeples said. “I think that’s something everybody needs now.”


Restauranteurs in Columbus, however, are taking a more cautious approach. Most are waiting until next week, as the waters get tested.

“The safety of our customers and employees has been the basis of our decisions,” Zachary’s owner Pellum said. “Georgia and Florida opened their dining rooms two weeks ago. I want to see what the numbers look like over the weekend to see if there’s a spike in (coronavirus) cases. I’ll be looking at the Mississippi cases over the weekend, too. The bottom line is that we won’t open until we can be sure our employees and customers are safe.”

Steve Pyle, co-owner of Cafe on Main, said that “The governor is going to have another update on his order on Monday, so we decided to wait to see what he has to say then . . . If the cases should spike, he might change the rules again. The one thing we didn’t want to do is open up then have to shut down again.”

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Golden Triangle Region, MS – Courtesy of EMCC

May 5, 2020

A variety of Occupational Safety and Health Administration training courses will soon be offered at East Mississippi Community College’s Communiversity, which will serve as a Host Training Organization for Eastern Kentucky University’s OSHA Training Institute Education Center in Richmond, Kentucky.

Tentative plans are to begin offering the courses at the Communiversity in July.

“This is a service that will benefit not only our local businesses and industries, but our state and region as well,” EMCC Communiversity Executive Director Dr. Courtney Taylor said. “This agreement will expand our current offerings and make it much more convenient for many in our area and beyond who are in need of OSHA training.”

The OSHA Training Institute Education Center (OTIEC) at Eastern Kentucky University is one of 26 centers comprising a national network of non-profit organizations authorized by OSHA to deliver occupational safety and health training to public and private sector workers, supervisors, and employers.

“Eastern Kentucky University is delighted to collaborate with East Mississippi Community College to expand our OSHA training,” EKU Assistant Vice President University Outreach and Engagement Jill Price said. “We are eager to realize the additional safety training opportunities the relationship will bring to OSHA Region IV, enabling increased potential to educate, protect and prepare American workers for the hazards they may encounter in the workplace. This partnership is another example that EKU truly strives to meet the training and educational needs of students everywhere.” 

Courses available through EKU OTIEC provide certification and specific training in construction, healthcare, manufacturing and hospitality OSHA requirements. Technical courses on high hazards, occupational safety and environmental compliance topics offer training in the latest health and safety standards.

OSHA numbered courses provide certification and specific training in construction, healthcare, and general industry OSHA standards. Trainer courses provide authorization to teach OSHA 10 and 30 hour Outreach classes.  Elective topic courses provide students with an expanded overview of specific safety issues and standards. 

Students may register for the OSHA courses now at . Classes are anticipated to begin July 1.  Course offerings are subject to change due to Covid-19 social distancing guidelines.

EMCC will continue to provide separate OSHA training through the college’s Workforce and Community Services Division that meets local industry needs and complements available course offerings.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the demand for OSHA training is great, with more than 305,000 participants trained through the education centers between fiscal year 2004 and fiscal year 2013. The closest OTIEC to the Golden Triangle is located at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa.

Established in 2003, Eastern Kentucky University’s OSHA Training Institute Education Center serves the eight-state Region IV comprised of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.

A course listing can be found here:

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The Big Virus Hitting Big Business Locally

A local manufacturing plant has had to close its doors due to COVID-19. There is currently no word on when or if they will be re-opening. On the upside, The GTR LINK and EMCC are currently implementing plans to get the impacted workers retrained and re-assigned as needed in new jobs and even, if need be, in new professions, with the skills needed to thrive in them.

Article courtesy of The Dispatch and the GTR LINK


Local business voices: Two steps forward by Macaulay Whitaker, GTR LINK

You’ve heard the saying, “two steps forward, one step back.” In economic development, this is particularly true.

(Spoiler alert. There will be no rainbows and sunshine today. No Googling necessary.)

Macaulay Whitaker – COO of GTR LINK – Courtesy Photo

We received word Tuesday that a longtime plant in our region is closing. Indefinitely with no current plans for reopening.

This is the first manufacturer in the Golden Triangle that has been taken down, in part, by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. There is a very real possibility that it will not be the last.

Every single employer in the nation is currently faced with challenges no one saw coming.

Hard times call for hard decisions.

The physical, emotional and economic strain that currently faces our world is beyond a magnitude that many of us can imagine.

This week, we continued our work with Golden Triangle cities and counties, attempting to make plans and solve problems surrounding taxes, operations and how to proceed in the near and far future.

We’re watching in real-time our government, at local, state and federal levels, confront no-win situations daily and make difficult calls. Furloughs, lay-offs and closures. Permanent or not, each decision has a trickle-down effect that affects a lot more than just the parties directly involved.

Early on in our series for the paper, we talked about how sales taxes are connected to our everyday lives and why shopping locally can buoy necessary services in times like these. The operation of our cities relies heavily on sales taxes, but ad valorem taxes and special use taxes could also be negatively affected by this crisis.

TIF (tax increment financing) bonds that are used to attract developers in the retail and hotel sector are paid through sales tax revenue. Columbus, Starkville and West Point all have TIF bonds for various projects and these cities likely won’t be able to make bond payments. It’s also likely that local banks hold those bonds, and now will need to work with our cities to restructure that debt.

Special use taxes like the one-percent parks and recreation tax in Starkville to fund a $20 million park project will be severely decreased, putting a pause on those improvements while the city triages its needs.

The Columbus-Lowndes Community Development Tax is a 2 percent on the gross sales of restaurants in the City of Columbus, and it funds economic development, recreation and tourism activities for Lowndes County, the City of Columbus, the CCVB and the Golden Triangle Development LINK. With lower tax projections, this could result in a massive loss of revenue for each of these entities. It will be particularly problematic for the CCVB which relies on this tax as their sole source of funding and the distribution of this tax is prescribed by law.

Businesses, governments and organizations are looking at current and future budgets and making decisions to survive.

Hard times call for hard decisions.

We reiterated last week our intent to be a signal for the Golden Triangle.

Consider this a warning shot. Very hard times are coming, and they’ll leave a mark. They will not, however, be forever. The same day we heard about that plant closing, we notified our partners and East Mississippi Community College initiated plans for a rapid response program to train and upskill those employees for better careers. We saw three employers open their plants back up Monday, with plans to bring their entire workforce back to work safely in the coming months, if business allows. We received a call from a mother looking to find her son training for a job building helicopters because, “he’s home and he needs to get to work.” A local restaurant in Columbus announced a grand re-opening, the third one in the past two years because you just can’t keep great people down. Hard times call for hard decisions. Out of those decisions, our communities can re-emerge leaner, focused and ready to move into the future that this pandemic has opened up to us.

Whitaker is the COO of the GTR LINK, the primary economic development organization in the region.

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Shop Owners are Cautiously Testing the Waters

GOLDEN TRIANGLE REGION, MS – Courtesy of the Dispatch

State Governor Tate Reeves’ order to allow “non-essential” retail businesses to re-open their doors came with caveats that they enforce social distancing and a 50% capacity limit; this has apparently not yet been an issue

Rebecca Kraker, owner/operator of R. Tabb & Co. in Starkville, has been doing business via the internet and curbside pickup at her boutique up until now. Now that her doors are formally open again, customers are still not quite coming in droves just yet: “I haven’t had anyone come in off the street yet today,” she said. “I’m going to see how it goes this week and next week. When people are broke, I’m not going to sit up here seven hours a day and wait for somebody to just walk in off the street.” Other clothiers, such as George-Mary’s and George Sherman’s, have had similar experiences. As a result, many are contemplating reduced hours until business picks up enough to justify their normal hours and bringing their employees back in.

Rebecca Kraker, owner of a women’s apparel and gift shop on Main Street in Starkville – “I’ll see how it goes . . . and figure out what makes sense”
Photo by Slim Smith, Dispatch Staff

Alesia Lucas, owner of George-Mary’s, looks forward to being able to put her staff back to work: “I applied for all the funding under the programs out there for small businesses, but we were behind a little bit getting that going,” she said. “As soon as we get the funding, I’ll be bringing some of my staff back . . . We’re ready for things to get back to normal a little bit,” she said. “We have our hand sanitizers and we’re telling everybody they have to wear masks. Other than that, all I need are customers.”

Check in with your favorite businesses big and small (especially small!), and give ’em some of your business — from six feet away, of course!

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You Win Some, You Lose Some

GOLDEN TRIANGLE AREA, MS – Courtesy of the Dispatch


An Italian eatery in the Cotton District has, unfortunately, shut its doors for good. A bit short of its second year in business, building owner Mark Castleberry has confirmed that Gondolier on Mill St has closed for good. The location has been put on the market, in hopes that another shop wil lbe able to take over the place soon.

In lighter news, Starkvegas Snowballs has reopened; they had been temporarily closed due to virus concerns. They are back in business at 113 MLK Dr West. They ask that customers continue to observe social distancing via a six-feet spacing. They accept plastic but not cash, and they will be open from 2 to 7 PM every day for window service only.


Speaking of sweets, Three Sisters Pie Company at 422 Main St. has reopened their doors and is offering to-go and curbside service. They will be open Tuesday thru Friday from 10 AM to 3 PM. Call them at 662-798-0872 to place an order; no cash accepted at this time. They will be offering all of their usual hot drinks and a selection of pies.

The local Starbucks has also reopened; hours are from 6 a.m.-noon every day.

Applebee’s is back, as well, offering curbside pick-up from 11 a.m.-8 p.m.

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Cafe on Main Bringing Sweets to the People of Columbus

COLUMBUS, MS – Courtesy of the Dispatch

At Cafe on Main in Columbus (at the corner of Main and 5th St S), Manager Kelsie Hoover is just one of many who have been adjusting to the way things are now, to the benefit of their customers. They have added limited dinner service via pickup, drive-thru, and delivery, in addition to their existing lunchtime and sweet shop offerings: “We were just getting used to it, being open some nights, having a live band, offering a different atmosphere than lunchtime — and then COVID-19,” said Hoover, 22. “We had to change our normal routine and adapt to this new environment.”
Their offerings include plate lunches, sweets, frozen casseroles, and more. Give them a call at 662-241-4401 to order (11AM to 4PM Mon~Fri). For the time being, they also have a limited supply of hand sanitizer, protective gloves, antiseptic spray and a few other items.

Kelsie Hoover, manager of Cafe on Main and The Sweet Shop in downtown Columbus, holds two chocolate chip pies ready to go in the oven Tuesday morning. Hoover shares the pie recipe today with readers who are currently cooking more at home.
Photo by: Jan Swoope/Dispatch Staff

“We were making casseroles on a limited basis, but when dine-in ceased, we wanted to make as many as we could with what we already had on hand,” Hoover said. “We had almost an overwhelming response, which was very nice of our customers. So, we expanded on our casseroles and soups.”
Specific dishes on offer include frozen poppyseed chicken, chicken spaghetti, lasagna, meatloaf, cream-style corn, mac ‘n cheese, sweet potato casserole, squash casserole and more. Also available are taco soup, vegetable soup, red beans and rice, corn salad and chicken salad, among others.

She even took some time out to demonstrate how to make a chocolate chip pie — recipe at the link below. “I love to serve people. I love to take care of people,” she went on to say. “I always wanted people to feel like they were taken care of, even if it’s just to make sure their drink was always full and their food was nice and hot.”

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Strange Brew — Look What They’ve Done for You

STARKVILLE, MS — Courtesy of the Dispatch Strange Brew has been changing with the times in order to make sure their patrons can get their piping hot java even in these strange times. Owner Katelyn Reed says that they have begun to carry items such as paper towels, flour, eggs, TP, and hand sanitizer (subject to availability) — and coffee too! — all via their drive thrus. Their stores are located on Hwy 12 and on University Drive. She went on to say that “[They] wanted to offer a safer way for our customers to grab what they need by swinging through the drive-thru instead of having to walk into a big store…We are [thankful] our customers have worked with our changes and allow us to still provide them with a moment of happiness in their days. We are constantly adapting to the newest safety guidelines and while it can be challenging, we are willing to do whatever it takes to safely serve strangers every day.”

Also in town, Flavors Cuisine of India on Martin Luther King Jr. has reopened. They will be offering both pickup and carry-out orders.
There’s also a burger contest happening. Mitchell Distributing will be holding its Bud & Burgers virtual competition this Friday from 5~8PM on their Facebook page. Grill up your best burger, take some snapshots, and upload your best pic to their page by 8PM this Friday in order to enter. You will also need to include a team name and the name of your unique burger creation.

“We’re really excited to bring Bud & Burgers virtual during this unknown time,” said Mitchell Companies Communications Manager Anna Grace Tanner. “We thought this event would be a positive opportunity for our communities to feel a sense of togetherness even while participating from homes.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has some tips to help keep all of us safe in these uncertain times:

– Many stores are offering curbside pickup and delivery services, including Walmart, Kroger, and Vowell’s Marketplace, among others.
– If you do need to go out, please wear a mask of some sort over your mouth and nose — even if it’s just a t-shirt, that’s better than nothing. Vendors on sites such as eBay, Etsy, and more are selling cloth masks, many of which have a slot to insert a filter (ask first before buying!). If possible, use a HEPA filter (e.g. certain types of vacuum bags, cut to fit) for this purpose.
– Please maintain a six-foot distance from others around you, use hand sanitizer after touching ATM’s, credit card machines, gas pumps, doors, etc. Also, avoid touching your face before cleaning your hands.
– Please respect the six-foot-apart tape lines in stores.

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Local business voices: Help when you need it

Courtesy of the Dispatch and the GTR LINK

The COVID-19 crisis has left many in our community without all or some of their source of income. Federal relief programs under the CARES Act will provide support to individuals and businesses, but these programs are still being delivered and, in some cases, details worked out. Stimulus checks began rolling out this week, but many will continue to wait for help. Yesterday, Governor Tate Reeves announced two programs to provide additional assistance to those in need.

Mississippi Home Help is a program that will allow funds to be distributed to individuals to assist with their mortgages. Homeowners can apply online at to submit a request. This program can provide up to six months of mortgage assistance.

The MS Department of Human Services and the MS Department of Health rolled out the MS Childcare Crisis Assistance in Isolation Response Plan. Emergency childcare centers will be opening around the state for essential workers if their traditional childcare operators are not open. Emergency assistance to pay for childcare through this program is available through the state. Details of this program can be found at


If you have not already, now is the time to apply for unemployment benefits. If you haven’t been able to get through, keep trying.
We’ve been communicating with our partners in Jackson to try and implement strategies to reduce the bottleneck and get individuals processed quickly. We’ve heard stories of people submitting their applications online in the early morning hours, getting multiple people to attempt to call the hotline, coworkers helping each other walk through the online application, and other strategies to get it. Keep trying.

Individuals may qualify for benefits if:

■ you have been laid off or your employer has shut down due to COVID-19
■ your hours have been reduced as part of the COVID-19 pandemic; you may be eligible for partial unemployment.
■ you have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus, or have been quarantined by a medical professional or government agency because of contact with COVID-19
■ are caring for an immediate family member who is diagnosed with COVID-19

It is important to file your unemployment claim as soon as possible. The weekly waiting period has been waived, and benefits can be delivered to you as quickly as they are processed, often within 7 days.

If you do not qualify for unemployment, you still qualify for assistance under the CARES Act.

Assistance for filing for unemployment can be accessed anytime via phone at 888-844-3577 or visiting These claims can be filled out online on a phone, tablet or computer.

Locally, the following offices are available by phone or email to individuals looking for assistance:

Mayhew Job or 662-243-1801
West Point Job or 662-243-1802
These offices are not open to the public currently and are following shelter in place guidelines.

Remember, following the economic recession in 2008, the Golden Triangle saw one of the most significant periods of new job growth and wealth creation in the region’s history. This isn’t our first rodeo. We are going to recover and get back to work as soon as we can.
Take care and continue to shelter in place.

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