Jean's Restaurant evicted, looks to move

Whitney Downard / The Meridian Star

After receiving an eviction notice Monday, Jean's Restaurant owner Jamie Johnson said he's looking to move and keep the restaurant open. 

A FROWN FOR THE LOSS OF JEAN’S RESTAURANT: We lament the imminent and abrupt closing of Jean’s Restaurant on Front Street.

Any ending brings sadness, but especially that of a popular business that’s been in downtown Meridian for more than 30 years.

We decline to point fingers of blame. We suspect some stubbornness on both sides prevented a mutual agreement that would satisfy both landlord and tenant. It is evident that critical updates are needed in the building that could benefit both parties.

We are encouraged that Jean’s owner Jamie Johnson is eager to find a new location to reopen the restaurant – hopefully downtown – and keep his staff employed and his diners’ stomachs full.

We hope Peachtree Properties owner David Purvis finds a tenant quickly once repairs to the building are made. The city can’t afford more empty buildings, especially buildings in prime positions near the Mississippi Arts + Entertainment Experience.

A FROWN FOR THE SLOW START AT THE MAX: Across the street from Jean’s, business has been slower than desired at the Mississippi Arts + Entertainment Experience as Whitney Downard reported this week.

The reality is expectations were set so high, they could never be instantly fulfilled. Meridian business owners and residents were showered with predictions that cars and buses would flow off the interstate and untethered tourists would drop gold coins from one end of Lauderdale County to the other.

We are willing to grant President and CEO Mark Tullos the patience he requests to build the Max brand. This isn’t exactly landing in Orlando with the name Disney.

The Max has held a range of events that should appeal to diverse audiences, from concerts to Make-And-Takes to brown bag lunches to guest lecturers to wine nights to morning yoga that provide local exposure. Meridian Day at the Max on Saturday was a great success, attracting more than 1,300 visitors, a single day record.

But we do see that harder work is needed to entice guests from around the state and the Southeast. While Meridian and Lauderdale County has been learning and talking about the Max for more than two years, we have found bright people from Hattiesburg to Philadelphia, Mississippi, who have never heard of our downtown gem.

Plans for special days, similar to Saturday's Meridian Day, to appeal to Hattiesburg, the Gulf Coast and elsewhere is a good idea. As we stated after a similar report in June, much better signage is needed on and from the interstate. The MAEEX logo is pretty, but it’s not selling what’s inside.

Once inside, however, guests find the facility stunning.

And, as we’ve noted before, East Mississippi residents have a role, and maybe a responsibility, too, of spreading the word of this good experience in Meridian rather than whining away on social media toward a self-fulfilling prophesy of doom. Maybe the 1,300 people who visited on Saturday can help turn the crown to a frown.

A CROWN TO THE MSU RILEY CENTER: One of the city’s other gems announced its 2018-2019 Fall/Winter Performing Arts Series on Thursday, offering 13 shows that have a mix from folk to jazz to country to theater to children’s programming.

Whether it’s folk singer-songwriter John Prine, The Magic School Bus or something in between, there’s something there for all ages and tastes to bring you to one of the best venues in Mississippi at least once this season.

A CROWN TO LADARIUS MALONE AND ALL NEW TEACHERS: Reporter Bianca Moorman profiled Mr. Malone this week, telling the story of a young man who attended all three Southeast Lauderdale schools and now has returned to the middle school as a special education teacher. His first day as a teacher is Monday.

“It’s not about the money in this profession. I feel like I can impact someone’s life,” he said, explaining his choice.

Thank you to Mr. Malone and teachers like him who desire a bright future for our region and our children and do something about it.

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