Changes on the way: Dorsey business seeing growth from Toyota Boshoku plant

[PHOTO: Dora Bell, a waitress at Comer’s Restaurant in Dorsey, wipes her temple as she cleans up after the lunchtime crowd. Dorsey businesses like Comer’s are already beginning to see growth from the under-construction Toyota Boshoku plant. - photo by Adam Armour]

By ADAM ARMOUR
Staff Writer

Dora Bell didn’t even pause as she wiped the sweat just starting to bead on her forehead. She kept chugging along, stacking dishes on her cart and cleaning off the table.

When the lifelong Dorsey resident and Comer’s Restaurant waitress had a spare moment, she offered a friendly smile and comments on the business.

“Yes, yes … it’s been very busy in here,” she said. “But, we’re glad to have the business.”

Of course, lunchtime has always been busy at the Dorsey eatery. But though the business remains steady, it’s the faces that have changed since work began on the Toyota Boshoku plant, which is less than a mile away.

“We are seeing a lot of new faces, but we still have a lot of old faces, too,” said restaurant owner Marilyn Comer, adding, “I have always had a tremendous amount of support.”

Many of those new faces belong to the workers handling construction on the Toyota Boshoku plant, who make it habit to drop by the restaurant for breakfast or lunch.

“A lot of workmen do eat here during lunch,” Comer said, adding with a chuckle, “I’ve even had a few people tell me they drove by and saw the parking lot
full and decided to eat at home instead.”

In a way, their presence represents some of the first tangible signs of the turning tide for the small community. Big things are happening in little Dorsey.
The Toyota Boshoku plant represents an $83 million investment in Itawamba County and the Dorsey area, which will undoubtedly see the effects of that investment long before the rest of the county.

Comer believes that her hometown is on the precipice of drastic change, something that’s hard to dispute when passing by the plant site. The entire landscape and terrain of the area has been altered. With approximately 500 to 600 employees estimated to be working at the plant when it opens, Comer believes even more changes are in store.

“I think that the area will definitely grow up,” Comer said. “I think that, five years from now, you won’t even recognize the place.”

For local business owners like Tim Gillentine, who owns and operates Dorsey Food Mart, that growth has already begun.

“We’ve seen a big increase in our gas sales and deli business,” Gillentine said, adding that mornings and early afternoons in particular have seen increases in visitors, many of whom are coming from the plant. “Business is up. I wouldn’t say it’s up a drastic amount or anything, but it’s definitely noticeable.”

Driving south on Fawn Grove Road, one can already begin to see the signs of growth, with new houses going up in several places. Gillentine has noticed the same and believes these new homes represent the first of many that will spring up throughout the area.

“I’m sure there will be a lot more traffic in the area and a lot more houses being built in the area. It will be a good thing,” he said.

Back at Comer’s, the lunchtime crowd was beginning to die down, but Bell was still hard at work. With a grin, she reaffirmed her belief that the eatery was only going to get busier and busier from here on.

“It’s busy now, and I think we’re looking at getting even more business,” Bell said. She laughed and said that all of the sudden attention and change had come on so fast that it was almost hard to fathom how her community will differ in the coming years.

“I still can’t believe it,” Bell said, her grin returning. “I mean, this is Dorsey. A lot of people didn’t even know where Dorsey was before Toyota came in. I used to have to tell people I lived in Fulton.”

Not anymore. Things have changed.

*Adam Armour can be reached at 862-3141 or by e-mailing adam.armour@itawamba360.com