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Oxford Breakfast Joints Continue to Bring Character to the Town

By Meagan Harkins and Anne Florence Brown
Journalism Students
meharkin@go.olemiss.edu; afbrown1@go.olemiss.edu

Whether you’re looking online for Oxford’s best breakfast options or relying on recommendations from friends, you may have noticed a few new players in the early eats game, including, First Watch. But for those who love the familiar, one local favorite is still going strong.

“First Watch is a clean-eating, farm-to-table restaurant chain that brings low calorie and delicious eating to the city,” waitress Shyanne Spraggins said.

The franchise opened a little more than a year ago and has become quite popular, with long weekend wait times, especially during football season. However, the town’s oldest breakfast joint, Beacon Restaurant, has remained afloat for more than 60 years and might be more popular than ever. 

“To my understanding, this is the oldest breakfast place in Oxford owned by the same owner for that long as well,” waitress Judy Pettit said. “Mrs. Charlene’s husband quit the university to open the Beacon. When he had his first day, he brought in a $100 dollar bill and she said, ‘if this is every day for us, we will be just fine.’”

Charlene Mize ran the restaurant until she died two years ago. Her son, Tony Mize, is now the owner and operates the kitchen.

Known for its old booths, unlimited coffee and inexpensive options, the Beacon offers something extra to customers.

“The first time you come you are a visitor, but every time you come back you are family,” Pettit said. She prides herself on knowing each visitor’s name. “You will not walk through the doors without being spoken to, and you will be served with coffee within the minute you sit down.”

Pettit said she and her co-workers have a philosophy for the way they serve customers.

“Your interaction with whoever you are with at breakfast affects the rest of the day,” Pettit said. “I believe that how I treat you sets the tone of your day. The attention you get here, you do not get anywhere else.”

Beacon Restaurant has been in Oxford since 1959. From the outside, it looks like an old gas station and that is because it once was. 

“The Beacon was a carhop at first,” Pettit said. “You would pull up and order a sandwich, much like Sonic. They only served lunch and dinner back then and it was open until 11 or 12 at night. It was named Beacon because it was a gas station back then and it had a light on top.”

Over the years, Beacon has transitioned to a sit-down only breakfast and lunch diner. Through these transitions, Pettit said it has maintained its character.

While Beacon is all local, First Watch was founded at a California military base, as there was no breakfast option for the day’s first shift. Owners Ken Pendery and John Sullivan opened doors in 1983 and eventually spread to 6,000 employees, across 26 states and 200 locations, now including Oxford.

“First Watch brings customers countless options for clean meals and non-greasy breakfast meals,” Spraggins said. “Our coffee comes from Columbia because missionaries traveled there and tried the coffee from Columbian women and found it to be the best coffee they ever had. So through the non-profit Project Sunrise, we get all of our coffee through this group of women.”

Both the oldest and newest of Oxford’s breakfast options have their own character and approaches to serving up the first meal of the day.

First Watch and Beacon Restaurant are among Oxford’s most popular breakfast stops, caffeinating locals and visitors daily. First Watch is recognized for its Columbian coffee, while Beacon is adored for $1 bottomless cups. Photo by Anne Florence Brown and Meagan Harkins.

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