Weezie’s Deli: Restaurateur nourishes with good food, relaxing atmosphere

By Ginna Parsons/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Weezie’s Deli has been operating in Tupelo for more than 11 years, but it was only recently that owner Vivian Lee came up with a mission statement.
“I’m not a big writer but I enjoy putting some thoughts on paper,” Lee said. “But when it came to that statement I just couldn’t write anything that made sense. Then it came to me so clearly: ‘Nourish the body and refresh the soul.’ It was that simple.”
Nourish the body can be anything from the quality of the food, the portions, special dietary needs and even the way they clean the kitchen, Lee said. Refresh the soul speaks to the way they treat their customers from the moment they walk in the door, as well as the background music, lighting and the general ambiance.
“We like our customers to feel better when they leave than when they came in the door,” she said. “The biggest part of our customer base is office workers – they work in a cube. We want them to feel refreshed when they leave here.”
And it’s easy to see why they do.
The sounds of piano jazz by Beegie Adair of Nashville fill the room, which is largely decorated in red, black, gray and white against a background of mocha-colored walls.
The front of the restaurant is a small gift shop, with items such as candles, home decor, lamp oil, china teacups, crystal, jewelry and kitchen accessories for sale.
“We don’t have a lot of gifts, but what we do have adds to our atmosphere,” she said.
‘You’re at home here’
Lee bought the Blimpie sub shop on West Main Street in 2001 and decided to make it her own – and that included changing the name.
“I named this shop after my mom, Elouise ‘Weezie’ Lee,” she said. “It was my way of honoring her for the simple woman she is. We’ve always felt quality was huge here and we would so go out of business before I’d lower my quality. We can never lower that under this name.”
Weezie, 85, comes to Tupelo about once a month from her home in Red Bay, Ala., to help out in the deli a couple of days a week.
“She is a lady who has devoted her life to serving others, especially her children, grandchildren and neighbors,” Lee said.
In 2003, Lee moved her deli across the street into the shopping center to the east of Walmart, which also houses Dollar Tree, Edible Arrangements and Game Stop.
“This is a destination restaurant,” she said. “We get very little foot traffic.”
Lee’s customers also include retirees, schoolteachers, professionals and families.
One day last week, James “T” Shells of Saltillo was waiting at the door when it opened at 11.
“I like to eat in here – I like the atmosphere,” said Shells, who patronizes the restaurant once a week. “The people make you feel welcome, like you’re at home here.”
He likes to order the Cheezy Steak Wrap, which is sliced steak cooked in onions and peppers, with tomato, lettuce, provolone cheese, mayo and a cheesy wine sauce, all rolled into a spinach flour tortilla.
That’s one of the best-sellers, along with a reuben sandwich and the Scarlett Sampler, which is a scoop of chicken salad on a bed of lettuce and tomato and served with your choice of three sides.
Weezie’s Deli serves a variety of hot and cold sandwiches and wraps made with Boar’s Head products as well as salads, soups, sides and homemade cakes.
On any given day, Lee figures she serves about 100 customers in her restaurant, which seats 48 in the main dining room and an addition dozen in a more private, elegant setting, called The Inez Room. Carryout is also available.
“There are a lot of good food options in this town,” Lee said. “People don’t have to come here – there are a lot of choices out there. We feel truly blessed.”
ginna.parsons@journalinc.com

Details
WHAT: Weezie’s Deli and Gifts.
WHERE: 2230 Rabbit Drive, in the shopping center to the east of Walmart on West Main Street.
WHEN: Monday-Friday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
MENU: Hot and cold sandwiches, wraps, salads, soups, homemade cakes.
CALL: (662) 841-5115.