By Charlotte de Arantes Oliveira
When graduating from Ole Miss in 2001 with an accounting degree, Luke McKey was prepared to enter the commercial real estate business and set off to Seattle. Being a business owner was not in his foreseeable future; however, that all changed in 2020 when COVID-19 made its mark in the United States.
During the outbreak in 2020, McKey was living back in Oxford out of the real estate business and with time on his hands.
“Working in commercial real estate specifically for businesses and offices, COVID hit hard,” he said. “With no one going to work and being in the office, there was no market or clientele in need of a place to work. Everyone was home.”
McKey began dreaming of opening his first business, Campus Wines and Spirits. Knowing nothing about opening a business, he thought that the pandemic seemed like the perfect opportunity to start learning.
“The more that COVID spread across the country, the more time there was to focus on learning and planning,” McKey said.
With the help of his son, James, an Ole Miss student, McKey was able to build a team that he knew would help him along this process.
“As I watched stores shut down and close around Oxford, I began to realize that there is not a liquor store that provides high-quality wines with variety,” McKey said. “The Oxford community has not had the opportunity or business to open the doors to the art of differing wines. That was my base idea.”
McKey hoped for Campus Wines and Spirits to immerse the Oxford community in specialty wines as well as learn about different types of wine.
“I also wanted my store to feel in a sense like a community. I wanted great customer service and a place that made everyone feel at home,” McKey said.
In October 2021, his plan became reality with the opening of Campus Wines and Spirits on Jackson Avenue.
“We now have a free wine club that meets every Wednesday,” he said. “It is a time for the community to come together and learn about different wines from around the world while enjoying each of the diverse flavors. You can also pay $30 a month to get two bottles of wine that are high quality.”
As Campus Wines and Spirits business is booming with its prime location and friendly atmosphere, McKey has been able to see the success and embark on his next adventure: a gourmet hot dog restaurant.
With the help of his business partner, Joe Bittick, McKey has had this idea for years, but can now see it all coming together.
This gourmet hot dog restaurant will be next to Ajax on the Square and will include gourmet hot dogs from around the world as well as a food window next to the Library.
“My idea for this gourmet hot dog restaurant is making it accessible to the entire Oxford community,” McKey said. “From students needing a late-night snack to families after a game day needing lunch, I want it to be affordable to all while also allowing the community to try hot dogs from around the world.”
This family-perspective restaurant will focus on high-volume customer service, making it quick and easy for all to enjoy a hot dog.
When asked about advice McKey would give to Ole Miss students considering opening a business in Oxford, he said, “ The best way to learn is from putting yourself out there. Go find a local business and learn the ins and outs of what it takes to create and run a business.”