Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Former UM Baseball Player, Wife Build Tailgating Empire

By Charlie Googe and Cade Slaughter
Hottytoddy.com interns
cgooge@go.olemiss.edu; rcslaugh@go.olemiss.edu

If tailgating was an Olympic sport, Seven South Tailgating in Oxford would take the gold medal.

The Grove on game days is known for its social crowds and sea of tents, and few know this better than Kyle and Jordyn Thornton, owners of Seven South Tailgating.

“The idea came out of a bit of necessity,” Kyle said.

Jordyn and Kyle Thornton.

A freshman in 2008 and a member of the Ole Miss Baseball team, Kyle was forced to hang up his cleats after a serious arm injury. With no scholarship or source of income, he found himself in the largely uncharted tent business.

“A friend of mine, and my roommate at the time, was setting up a dozen or so tents,” Kyle said. “He didn’t want to grow but continued to receive inquiries from new potential customers.”

This is when his tailgating business launched.

Kyle’s roommate funneled those tailgating requests to him, and Kyle began his first football season in the Grove with seven 10×10 tents.

Flashforward to 2019 and Seven South Tailgating is orchestrating the placement and setup of hundreds of tents per game.

“In 2019, we averaged mid-300s for non-conference and mid-400s for SEC,” he said on the subject of tents each season.

With this many tents, Kyle certainly relies on his key helpers. Besides his staff, one of the most important players in Thornton’s tailgating business is his wife, Jordyn.

“Kyle works really hard to give his customers the best, and I think because of that, we’ve been allowed the opportunity to see the business grow each year,” Jordyn said. “It’s been a blessing more than anything.”

One of the most important aspects of Seven South Tailgating is the quality and consistency that Kyle creates for his business and his customers. However, this business model comes with its difficulties.

“We require around 65 people to work on a Friday, Saturday, and Saturday night of an Ole Miss home football weekend,” Kyle said.

“But, we don’t only need bodies, we need 65 men and women who are trained, skilled, and love our customers the way we do. That is a challenge, but we’ve built a great team over the years. A team that sticks with us year after year and loves the company, loves the Grove, and loves serving well.”

Jordyn believes that their Seven South Tailgating team is unmatched, largely in part to her husband’s leadership.

“We love our employees. I feel like they know that, and I truly feel that they love us back,” Jordyn said. “When you have a connection like that and everyone is working together for the same goal, it makes for a pretty special team and enjoyable weekend.”

Lexi Braezal knows a thing or two about how Seven South Tailgating can be like a family or more than a family in her case. Brazeal started working for her aunt and uncle when she was in high school, but she says that she wouldn’t trade the long hours of inventory, hard work, or her family’s Ole Miss tradition of tailgating for anything.

“Knowing that other people’s experience also reflects my family, who we are, and what this university means to us only drives me to work at it with pride and to always go the extra mile for customers on game day,” Brazeal said.

Brazeal recalls her and her Aunt Jordyn putting blankets down throughout the Grove on a Friday during lunch in order to save spots for customers when Seven South Tailgating was at its beginning stage.

Kyle would be the first person to mention how much Seven South Tailgating has grown since its creation, so much so that he has even traveled his world of tailgating knowledge to Boulder, Colorado.

“Yes, we love working in Colorado and the opportunity we have had to serve the fan base there,” Jordyn said. “The game-day atmosphere is so different from the Grove, but unique in its own way.”

Kyle’s father manages much of the University of Colorado Boulder operations, and they are fleshing out plans to branch their operations out to other campuses.

No matter what the scoreboard has read from football season to season, Kyle and Seven South Tailgating have remained a consistent part of the Grove experience.