After years as customers, Guidos enjoying ownership

Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 14, 2010

Paul and Suzanne Guido used to eat lunch at Bellemont Shake Shop three or four times a week. But now they eat there together six times a week.

The only difference is, instead of sitting in their car and enjoying a hamburger from the Natchez icon, they share a small table situated between refrigerators, ice cream machines and coolers.

“We always sat in our car and ate,” Suzanne said. “Usually our dog was with us, and it was just good family time for us.

“I always ordered the same thing, and I still eat the same thing.

The Guidos moved to that special table when they purchased the shake shop nearly nine years ago.

“One day we were eating here, like usual, and Paul told the woman that owned it at the time to give us a call if she ever felt like selling it,” Suzanne said. “Within a couple of months, she called us and now we are the proud owners,”

Since their first day on the job, Paul and Suzanne have worked alongside each other to take orders, preparefood and make sure the “customers are enjoying the experienced,” Paul said.

“During the busy lunchtime we are both here,” he said. “When the afternoon slows down, one of us may slip out. But for at least some part of each day we are here together.”

Bellemont Shake Shop opened in 1963 in its corner spot in the Bellmont Shopping Center on U.S. 61 South. It is open from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Call-in orders are welcome at 601-445-4581.

Both Paul and Suzanne grew up in Natchez and treasured childhood memories of eating at the shake shop. So when they took over as owners, they wanted to make sure they were providing those same type memories.

“People tell us all the time that places like ours don’t exist anymore,” Suzanne said. “That makes me a little sad, but I’m glad we can be a part of that experience for people who eat with us.”

And to make sure they were creating the same memories they cherished, the Guidos did not make any major changes after taking over.

“The food is basically the same,” Paul said. “We added a few things, but the basic structure of the menu is the same.

“It wasn’t broken, so we didn’t feel the need to try to fix anything.”

One thing that has been added is the Big Belle, the Shake Shop’s biggest burger. Paul said he always wanted a “single patty big burger” and the Big Belle was the answer.

“One thing that I think sets us apart is that we make our own patties with meat ground fresh locally,” he said. “A lot of places have gone to frozen meat, but we think the fresh meat gives a better flavor.”

While it was the food that originally drew Paul and Suzanne to Bellemont Shake Shop, it has been the people that have made the ownership experience worth the long hours and hard work.

“I think we were both surprised about just how much work went into the restaurant,” Suzanne said. “But we have met so many different people that we might not have crossed paths with otherwise.”

They’ve also figured out there are lots of customers who are just like they are.

Paul said at least half of their daily business comes from regular customers.

“Having people here, enjoying the food, enjoying the atmosphere, that is what has made this venture enjoyable,” he said. “We have some customers who drive up and just give us a wave and we start writing down their order.”

Suzanne said after seeing the same people several times a week, they become more than customers — they became friends.

“Some people eat with us two, three or four times a week and we know them by name,” she said. “If you eat with us four or five times and we don’t know your name, we’re going to ask you.”