NEWS on LIFE, WORK, & PLAY in Mississippi's College Town

Viewpoints: Brian Kelley on Why “Local” Matters So Much to Our Community

We’re starting a new series for Starkville Insider today… Viewpoints, an opportunity for us to share the unique perspectives of people who are impacting Starkville and Oktibbeha County in positive ways. With upcoming installments, we’ll be seeking out residents, business folks, leaders and other influencers to find out their views of the Starkville community — in their own words!

Last month, we caught up with Brian Kelley, an attorney with Ross, Kelley and Martin and co-owner of the Eat Local Starkville restaurant group along with Chef Ty Thames. Eat Local Starkville includes Starkville restaurant favorites, Bin 612, The Guestroom, and Restaurant Tyler. We asked Brian to offer some insight on what it means to be a “local” restaurant, his company’s commitment to local sourcing, and the impact of the upcoming Starkville Restaurant Week. Here’s what he had to share…

by Brian Kelley

One of the delicious offerings from Restaurant Tyler’s brunch menu — voted Best Brunch Spot in the 2014 Mississippi Magazine Best of Mississippi reader poll.

One of the delicious offerings from Restaurant Tyler’s brunch menu — voted Best Brunch Spot in the 2014 Mississippi Magazine Best of Mississippi reader poll.

I think that when it comes to local businesses, it’s all about supporting our community. They don’t serve Vardaman sweet potatoes or pecans from Duke’s in West Point at Applebees. But it isn’t just about the farmers. We hire local engineers, designers and builders when we make renovations. We use local accountants, local graphic designers, local insurance brokers and local sign makers. The list goes on and on in the ways that local businesses support and feed off of one another.

Local business owners, like Ty and myself, have invested the majority of our savings into our businesses. We have a huge interest in the long term health of Starkville. Big box chains don’t share that same interest. Economic study after study has shown that when you buy from a chain, the majority of the money you spend leaves the community. In contrast, those same studies show that when you buy local, the majority of what you spend stays in the community. We have an interest in our neighbors doing well because at the end of the day, we depend on their patronage for our own survival. I see so many local restaurants with the sign “Eat or we both starve.” I think it’s great because it’s so true.

I think we are getting better as a community in realizing the importance of supporting local businesses and as a result have more restaurant options than ever but we still have a long way to go. It always disappoints me to be driving in town and see a relatively empty local restaurant only to see a parking lot full of cars at Chili’s, which I still think occurs too often. As a whole, we need to take more pride in what our local community has to offer as well as take more pride in ourselves. You really want that Ruby Tuesday’s meal where they are taking pre-made junk off of a truck through the back door and warming it up or do you want to go the place that offers fresh vegetables from your neighbor and proteins from local farmers and seafood from our Gulf Coast? That is an easy choice in my opinion.

We simply cannot do what we do without our local farmers. They make us look good. We look forward to seeing their faces on a daily or weekly basis. From local organic pork to Starkville honey to beautiful vegetables grown just down the road, sometimes our job is simply to not screw it up! As for our Eat Local Starkville restaurants, we are going to keep supporting those guys and hope that our community continues to support us!

The Partnership has done a great job of promoting Starkville Restaurant Week and we are looking forward to it’s expanded 10 day timeframe this year. One of the really exciting things for us is the new customers that learn about Restaurant Tyler or Bin 612 or The Guest Room through the promotion and hopefully like what we are doing so they come back!

For 2015, we are really excited to be expanding the farm to table concept to “farm to glass” with The Guest Room, our new craft cocktail bar located under Restaurant Tyler that opened September 24, 2014. We have truly been overwhelmed and humbled by the way the community has supported the new venture so far. Local interior designed Amanda Shafer did a truly phenomenal job designing the space that far exceeded our loftiest expectations. One of my favorite things to see is the facial expressions of customers when they walk into the space for the first time and how blown away they are by the beauty of the space, which is truly a credit to Amanda.

We have hired Amanda to design our new concept, Upstairs at Tyler, which we anticipate opening in early spring 2015. It will be a casual version of Restaurant Tyler. Chef Ty has created a great casual food menu at a great price point that we hope Starkville will enjoy. Starkville has treated us so well and we look forward to continuing to bring new things to the community.