100 Main restaurant selling; Owners of The Camp hoping to bring new life to location

Published 5:44 pm Wednesday, May 31, 2023

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NATCHEZ — The 100 Main restaurant closed its doors Friday, but the opening of a new business at the same location with a new name and new owner is not far behind.

Mike Wagner and his wife Stephanie, owners of The Camp restaurant at Natchez Under-the-Hill, plan to branch out with a new business reminiscent of the former Bowies Tavern at the 100 Main location.

“To address the rumors that we’re moving The Camp up the hill or are planning to have a Camp 2, we’re not,” Mike Wagner said. “We’re still going to have food, but it’s not going to be food-focused. It’s a place to have fun.”

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They’ve called it Bowies Rabbit Hole, or simply The Rabbit Hole — though Wagner said many locals who know the location well will inevitably still call it “Bowies.”

“When we first moved here nine-plus years ago, I felt (Bowies) was the place to go Fridays and Saturdays,” he said. “It had this bar feel, but with a fun energy.”

He added, “The name sort of fits how we feel about it. We don’t know what to expect, but we know it’s going to be fun. Like Alice when she falls into the rabbit hole, we don’t know what sort of fun we can get into.”

The couple moved here from southern California nearly a decade ago and, since then, have established The Camp as one of Natchez’s most highly recommended restaurants.

Wagner said there is a weighing expectation from those who frequent The Camp.

“The Camp, when we set out, was a beer-focused sports bar. Over time it has morphed into more of a restaurant, and we’re totally OK with that. We’ve learned a ton doing this.

In our first year, we were struggling. I will never forget a lady who came in and posted a review that said this place would be lucky to survive its first year. That stuck with me, but we were determined that we were going to get this right.”

Wagner said he and his wife had had an eye on the former Bowies at 100 Main since the restaurant went into foreclosure in 2019. However, they weren’t quite ready to do anything with it at that time.

Wagner said that right when The Camp had “reached its peak,” COVID-19 hit the industry hard.

“It was almost like starting from scratch again,” he said. “The pandemic completely changed our philosophy on how we do things, in how to be efficient and still produce the quality of food and service customers expect. We figured on the backend how to reinvent our operations and still meet our customers’ expectations.”

When John Parks, owner of 100 Main and other restaurants throughout downtown, put the location up for sale, the Wagners seized the opportunity.

“Looking at Bowies and what Bowies can be, we felt the time was right to take this on,” Wagner said. “It was easy to open The Camp when no one knew us, and so there were no expectations. Now there’s the expectation and that’s the scary part.”

Wagner said they have exciting plans for the new establishment that they’re not quite ready to announce just yet. Wagner did say that their goal is to create a family-friendly space for people to hang out, eat and enjoy refreshments during the day that also lends itself to nightlife entertainment.

“We want to create another entertainment destination,” he said. “Something locals like and tourists will want to fly too also. We like to have fun and have our kids with us.”

Wagner said he aims to open near the end of June and should start lining up interviews for all positions by mid-June. The dream team includes a staff of around 15 people, including bartenders, barbacks, kitchen staff, servers and possibly one or two bouncers. Applications are currently available to be picked up at The Camp restaurant for any who want to apply, Wagner said.