Downturn forces Boondocks to close

TUPELO – Diners have until Saturday to get their fix of New Orleans-style food from Boondocks Grill, which will close its doors permanently at midnight.
“We were doing quite well until the economy slowed down,” Boondocks’ owner Tom Pope said. “I really don’t want to be negative but the economy is hurting the food industry in general.”
Monday morning, Pope and his daughter and the restaurant’s daytime manager, Jessica Pope, posted a sign in the window facing Troy Street to thank their customers and encourage them to come in one last time to say goodbye to the staff.
The restaurant has about 20 employees. Three have left for other jobs since Tom Pope broke the news last week about the upcoming closing.
It was the second Tupelo restaurant to fall victim to the economy in two weeks, following Santa Fe Cattle Co., which closed its Gloster Street restaurant a week ago.
Boondocks started in downtown Pontotoc in June 2004 with a menu full of New Orleans-style food such as po’boys, muffulettas and seafood dishes.
Pope said that while he was in Pontotoc, most customers came from Tupelo and New Albany so in November 2007, he moved the restaurant to the former Rib Cage building on Troy Street in downtown Tupelo.
Pope remodeled the building, accentuating the exposed brick walls and hardwood floors. He said business was good for a while, with customers responding well to the live music.
But with the economy in a recession for nearly two years, consumers have cut their spending.
Pope said he’s seen more of his diners eat at home, a trend that has cut into sales. Pope, who will be 74 this month, also said the commute from Pontotoc and the long hours are getting to him and he’d like to retire.
Pope had the restaurant listed for sale for about eight months before he and his daughter decided to close.
“We met a lot of good people and made a lot of good friends,” Tom Pope said. “We’ll miss the business … All in all, it’s been a good five years.”
The good news, he said, is the possibility that someone else might buy the building and keep it as a restaurant. He said he’s had five or six inquiries since rumors started circulating last week about the closing.
“If people would support the small businesses and the mom-and-pops, it would just make all the difference in the world,” Pope said.
The restaurant will be open from 11 a.m. to midnight until Friday and from 5 p.m. to midnight on Saturday.
Contact Carlie Kollath at (662) 678-1598 or carlie.kollath@djournal.com.

Carlie Kollath/NEMS Daily Journal