Classic treats tie community together

Published 12:01am Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Sugar and grease have a powerful pull on a person in these parts.

As Southerners, it’s to be expected that we’ve reared generations of our children to respect the two — sugar and grease — as key ingredients, nutrients if you will, in almost every meal.

From sweet tea to deep fried chicken, few locals go a day, much less a week, without their supply.

So that must explain the outpouring of love for a local greasy spoon that’s not much more, in outward appearance, than a few stacked cinder blocks and a pointy roof.

It was a bit overwhelming last summer when residents, former residents and those who just drove through once or twice came out of the woodwork to express sympathy for The Malt Shop after a speeding vehicle crushed the building.

Few asked about the condition of the driver, the only human being involved in the wreck.

The story replicated itself Sunday, unfortunately, when another moving vehicle crashed through nearly the same spot of The Malt Shop’s recently repaired storefront.

Everyone that heard the news had one of two initial reactions, “That’s old news, it happened a year ago,” or “Not again!”

But then the grief began to boil.

Reminiscing, much like families do after a funeral, commenced and plans to help out started anew.

It seems unreasonably unfair that the same destruction has befallen the same beloved landmark twice in less than two years.

Many are sorry for the owner and the financial hardship the wreck is likely to bring to her.

But most are sorry for their taste buds.

Despite the message spray painted on the plywood now covering the front of the restaurant, which reads, “I’ll be back in a minute!!” most folks know repairs will sideline their afternoon treat trip for at least a few weeks, if not more.

Few have expressed sorrow for the driver of the vehicle, who clearly meant no harm, the neighbor who had a car poke a hole in her house or the two injured occupants of another vehicle hit in the accident.

None of those folks serve $6 hamburger plates (complete with two burgers, fries and a drink) or corn dogs.

It’s unclear what other Natchez landmarks would evoke such a community outpouring of love if struck by disaster. Would City Hall? The library? Longwood?

Mammy’s Cupboard would, I’m sure.

Loving a landmark creates no harm, and the tribute posted in front of The Malt Shop now, I’m sure, warms the owner’s heart.

The restaurant has proved that it can return from the rubble once, and it appears poised to do the same again.

Though I can’t claim to fully understand the level of love for the restaurant, I do realize there’s likely a simple answer for my confusion — I’m not originally from here.

So as the community awaits reconstruction and the return of needed nutrients, it’s nice to realize that Natchez has ties that bind all people, black, white, rich, poor, old and young.

The Malt Shop is one of those ties, and that makes us stronger … and maybe a little heavier, too.


Julie Cooper is the managing editor of The Natchez Democrat. She can be reached at 601-445-3551 or









  • Anonymous

    I think the reason the public didn’t ask any questions about the condition of the original driver – he was a thug running from the law?

  • Anonymous

    Julie, as oldsouthgent says, the first accident involved a thug who destroyed a piece of Natchez childhood when he splintered that table that had been carved with everyone’s names throughout the years. I think it’s safe to say that not only did we not care if he got hurt, but might have even hoped he was — at least a little — hurt.

    As for the second accident, the paper had already informed us that no one was hurt, so there’s not much point in pondering why there weren’t more queries on that topic.

    And while, no, you’re not from Natchez, surely you must understand that this place has been the gathering place for generations of children and teens who remember with great fondness stopping on their walk home from school to enjoy a snack and conversation with friends, meeting them after the football game to celebrate a victory, riding by in their cars and waving at friends gathered there, carving their initials and those of their true love, surrounded by a heart, the year they graduated, etc. Parents could take their children there and show them where forty years before, they, too, had been young and shared those experiences together. Some of my earliest and fondest memories are of being a toddler, safely nestled in the back seat of the car with my siblings while my parents placed our order from the front seat. It’s an Ozzie-and-Harriet moment, a Mayberry moment, that is sweet and safe and damned near perfect.

    It is much more than just a building. It’s a participating member of the family, a loved one, that many Natchezians lay claim to. To not understand why its destruction was so grieved is to say that a family shouldn’t care if their house burned down. It’s not just a house. It’s much, much more.

    As for your remarks about how most were simply concerned for their taste buds while being critical of the food served there, I simply don’t know what to say. I can only assume they don’t advertise with you, as surely you wouldn’t insult a paying client so blatantly. It isn’t a McDonald’s or a Burger King. It’s a small-town, privately owned business that’s not found on the stock exchange. Just on that corner of Homochitto, Orleans and MLK.

    Yes, I know that the only constant is change, and the better we are able to adjust to changes, the easier life will be. But sometimes, it’s just hard. And sad.

  • Anonymous

    Well put.

  • Anonymous

    Well put.