Thursday, November 2


We'll host our FINAL volunteer work weekend in mid-November. Won't you join us?

We plan to have Ms. Seaton back in her home for the Thankgiving holidays. And her kitchen should be up and running the first week in December. It's a tremendous final push on the rebuilding project, and we need your help.

November 17-19, 2006; Friday and Saturday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sunday 9 a.m.-Noon

Any/all. If you're a warm body, we can use you. And if you're a warm body with construction experience, then we can definitely use you to be a team leader!

E-mail Once the volunteer schedule is settled, we'll send you a program packet with more detailed information.


November 2, 2006

Dateline: St. Ann and North Tonti

Eight weeks have passed since I last updated and things are continuing to plod along. There is good news, there is extremely good news, there is ok news, and--unfortunately--there is a tiny bit of bad news.

Shortly after I last wrote a number of us made the trek to our fair capitol for the opening of Johnny's Half Shell, at which Ann Cashion and her partners generously offered to co-host a fundraiser for the project. Kerry Seaton Blackmon (Willie Mae's great granddaughter) escorted Willie Mae and she spread her inimitable cheer around the room and, as usual, endeared herself to everyone. Her spirits were good, but she is obviously much more frail than she was a year ago at this time.

We returned to New Orleans shortly afterward on two different trips. In mid-September we did some inish work on the framing and the sheet rock started to go up. The first weekend in October, New Orleans was invaded by about 500 Junior League volunteers from all over the country and 50 showed up early on a Friday morning to help with some of the preliminary painting. The paint army scraped and sanded most of the outside and got it covered with primer and a first coat of paint. Because the inside was only fully completed on the residential side, we concentrated on those walls and they were sanded and primed before the weekend was through.

In the "extremely good news" category: A group from Charleston, South Carolina popped up on the radar with a promise to help with equipment needs and followed with a cash donation as well. Two days ago John Egerton, Jr. and I unloaded a brand new stainless steel hood vent section at the Scotch House, and it should be hung in place in the next few days. The truck full of equipment should follow in about 3 weeks.

The group who did our sheet rock work has been retained to help with the rest of the job. They will be starting in the next day or so with work on the floors. A hardwood laminate will go down on the residential side with some tile replacement in Willie Ma''s kitchen, and a terra cotta tile floor will go in throughout the restaurant side. Once this is finished, we can start on the trim and final painting. What this means is that one more volunteer weekend could put us at a great advantage (and save us a little $$$$$).

The "ok" news i referred to so long ago is that we are still about $60,000 short of what we need to finish, so I implore everyone to beat the pavement and help us push this through the last little hurdle we have to get over. Cash flow is not a problem. An anonymous soul close to the project has agreed to help keep the project in the cash it needs to get finished, but it is not a donation. It's only a service... so we have that going for us.

The good news is that we have made a firm decision to push the project through to its end as quickly as possible. We have decided we can get Willie Mae back in the house the weekend before Thanksgiving. There is lots of work to do between now and then, but we are confident that the work can get done between the efforts of the contractor and one last volunteer weekend. To have her home by Thanksgiving has some obvious symbolic implications and I am comfortable with this deadline. For everyone who is interested and able, we will meet on St. Ann Friday, November 17, and work until Willie Mae is sitting comfortably on her day bed. This will be followed, two weeks later on Friday, December 1, with the opening of the restaurant. This is final and, again, I am confident we can achieve this deadline. But it will mean some hard work and a fundraising push.

It was great to see many of you at the symposium a couple of weekends ago, and very reassuring to know that we are still in your minds. With any luck, we should be eating Willie Mae's fried chicken some time in early December and I hope to see everyone there. I honestly cannot imagine anything more glorious.

We'll keep everyone in the loop. One thing we need to consider is furnishing for Willie Mae's house. As it stands right now, there is nothing: no bed, chest of drawers, refrigerator, washer, dryer, etc. We seek donations of items that you can deliver or ship. I will also be spending the entire week after Thanksgiving weekend, before the opening, trying to make sure we finish all of the detail work to get the restaurant ready and will take any help I can get. I have opened enough restaurants not to idealize this opening, so come on!

With my thanks,

Johnny Snack

john currence
city grocery restaurant group
152 courthouse sq.
oxford, ms 38655