Tuesday, October 27, 2020

COVID-19 Prompts Some Businesses to Close as Oxford Comes Through Crisis

By Jeff Roberson
Hotty Toddy Contributor

Soulshine Pizza Factory is one of several local restaurants and businesses to close in the last two months.

The Oxford community continues to move toward some semblance of normalcy since many businesses closed their doors in March, most of them temporarily. Some, however, don’t appear to be opening back up at all.

Some businesses were already in the process of closing, while others have fallen victim to the circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.

One just off the Square on South Lamar that had been a staple for a number of years was Soulshine Pizza Factory. Not long after establishments began to close for the coronavirus situation, Soulshine was moving its contents out of the building, and with it a decade or more of food, beverage and music memories.

Papitos Mexican Grill, for several years one of the more popular Southwestern cuisine establishments in Oxford, has permanently closed, according to its online information. Located in the Oxford Market Place just west of Wal-Mart, Papitos opened in 2004.

Jackson Beer Company announced its closing recently.

Jackson Beer Co. on West Jackson Avenue announced on its website recently that it was closing permanently. Opened in late 2016, the craft beer store’s website also said that its vision was “to provide Oxford and northern Mississippi with handcrafted customer service and superior beer knowledge.”

The newest establishment to close its doors for good appears to be a surprising one to many, given that it only opened less than a year and a half ago. Soul Fish Cafe had begun serving in early 2019 at its Oxford location, on South Lamar in the South Lamar Court across from the former location of Baptist Memorial Hospital-North Mississippi.

A longtime staple of the Memphis food scene with several locations, Soul Fish Cafe in Oxford has “space available” signs on its windows and lawn and has ended its short-lived stay in Lafayette County.

“While the local economy is slowly regaining its strength, our hearts go out to those business owners and their employees who have experienced business closures,” said Jon Maynard, president and CEO of the Oxford-Lafayette County Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Foundation. “Our office will continue to connect businesses to the available resiliency and recovery resources. If any businesses need assistance, we continually monitor local, state and federal resources. We want to be that connection point for the community.”

Hotels and other overnight accommodations in Oxford are in the process of reopening, and some have remained open throughout the crisis. There are 15 hotels in Oxford with more than 1,300 rooms, according to Kinney Ferris, executive director of Visit Oxford.

“A few never closed while others were closed for a while,” Ferris said. “All are planning to be open again at the beginning of July.”

Oxford’s hotels are The Inn at Ole Miss, the Graduate, the Chancellor’s House, Holiday Inn Express, Hampton Inn east and Hampton Inn west, Towne Suites by Marriott, Courtyard by Marriott, Tru by Hilton, Home 2 Suites by Hilton, Quality Inn, University Inn, Ole Miss Motel, Super 8 Motel, and the most recent addition, La Quinta Inn & Suites by Wyndham.

Hotel rooms are needed this weekend as mTrade Park welcomes 119 baseball teams for a tournament. Next weekend there is a large softball tournament there.

The Graduate Hotel closed during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic but is now open and taking reservations.
Photo by Earl Dismuke

“We’re seeing more people book rooms and make plans, but in the past, they would have probably done that sooner,” Ferris said. “During this recent time, our website has still been busy, and there has been an uptick in inquiries. Now we just need them to come visit us.

“We feel good about the recovery, and of course we are already thinking about when the students return,” she continued. “We want everyone to continue to be aware of being safe during this time. The families and friends of the students, the parents and grandparents are also a big part of our marketing. This is a retirement community, too. Our Mayor and Board of Aldermen have done a great job making decisions during this time.”

Allen Kurr, vice-President of the Oxford-Lafayette County Chamber of Commerce and EDF contributed to this story.