What sells hot sandwiches and history books, and is home to female graduate students? That would be Mississippi College’s mixed-use building located in Olde Towne Clinton.
The Main Street Clinton Design Committee is proud to present Mississippi College with the Making a Difference on Main Street award for the MC Bookstore and Pimento’s Cafe. This award is presented every year to a business within the Main Street District that has had a positive impact on the community.
Steve Stanford, the vice president of Administration and Government Relations at MC, laid out the chain of events that led to the flourishing space that has quickly become a staple on Clinton’s brick streets.
Stanford said the college realized the need for a new student space long ago. Because of its location in the heart of campus and its convenient placement next to Hampstead’s, one of the campus’s other dining facilities, the bookstore space was the obvious choice for the much needed student hang-out.
But this presented an entirely new issue: Where would the bookstore be relocated? Spurred by the need for a solution, MC administrators looked to spaces in Olde Towne.
“Initially it was just going to be the bookstore,” said Stanford. However, upon a second look, the administration realized the need for a restaurant on the north side of campus.
Stanford noted the unlikeliness of commuters to venture across campus to the cafeteria or other existing campus dining facilities at meal times. He said, “Commuters are rushing to night classes, and they don’t have time to cross campus to eat dinner.” So the search for an up scale but still technically “fast” food restaurant began.
As it happened, Don Jordan, a MC School of Business graduate, was ready to expand his restaurant business. Jordan had run a successful chain of “Papa’s” restaurants in Tennessee for nearly 20 years and had just developed plans for a university version of his establishment.
With the go-ahead from campus dining and the help of the MC Alumni Office, administrators contacted Jordan and got the ball rolling. Though Jordan originally planned to situate his first university locations at Ole Miss and University of Memphis, administrators pushed, and Jordan obliged.
MC, and as a result, Olde Towne Clinton, became the first university location for Jordan’s restaurants. The idea and decision to include housing for female graduate students quickly followed.
Stanford said the decision to locate this project in Olde Towne was intentional. “It was very transitional,” said Stanford. The building encourages students to explore Olde Towne and urges Clintonians to get involved with the university.
Just before the decision-making process on this project began, MC and the city of Clinton partnered on a charrette study led by an urban planning group, Ayers/Saint/Gross Architects out
of Washington D.C., to assess the campus and community and make detailed suggestions.
Stanford said that the idea for the new building did not directly come from those suggestions, but the charrette did instill a certain spirit among administrators and community leaders. A spirit that Stanford said encourages them all to “be more intentional with development.”
Stanford also emphasized MC’s desire join in with the community efforts to enrich Clinton. “We are an active part of the Main Street organization… We are part of the community,” he said.
In regard to future plans for the university to expand into the community, Stanford noted two
First, the President’s house is currently under construction at the corner of Capitol and Madison Streets just one block away from the Bookstore and Pimento’s.
Stanford said that the university plans to take advantage of the green space at that location to enhance student and faculty participation in the community.
The second project is in the planning phases of development. The college has grown significantly in recent years, so the administration is looking for a way to meet housing needs. The quality of this establishment and the attention to detail that went into its planning made the Main Street Design Committee’s choice for the Making a Difference on Main Street award an easy one.
Main Street commends MC’s spirit of community and appreciates the contributions it has made to Clinton and the ones that are yet to come.
– Gwen Matuszewski, Contributing Writer