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Weidmann's group rallies investors

By Staff
DOWNTOWN REVITALIZATION Actress Sela Ward talks with Mississippi State University President Malcolm Portera Monday night before a meeting to discuss the future of Weidmann's. Photo by Carisa McCain/The Meridian Star
By Ben Alexander/The Meridian Star
July 10, 2001
A group of prominent residents hopes to persuade business and civic leaders to help buy and renovate the historic Weidmann's Restaurant, a move they see one more step toward revitalizing downtown Meridian.
Businessmen Fred Wile, Bruce Martin and Rick Snowden pitched their proposal to more than 75 people Monday night. Also attending in support were actress Sela Ward and Mississippi State President Malcolm Portera, both instrumental in Meridian revitalization efforts.
The nearly 90-minute, invitation-only meeting at the Meridian campus of MSU marked the first time anyone publicly mentioned interest in buying the 131-year-old restaurant.
Weidmann's was established in 1870 and has served diners at its present location on 22nd Avenue since the late 1920s. The current owners are Poo and Gloria Chancellor, descendants of the Weidmann family.
Outlining the plan
Wile, Martin and Snowden, who call their project "Weidmann Square," said they hope to persuade at least 50 people to invest $20,000 each for the project. They said they already have 20 investors committed.
Wile estimated that purchasing and renovating the restaurant would cost $1.5 million. Investors would front $1 million and a $500,000 loan would be obtained through a bank that has already agreed to the deal.
In addition, Weidmann's Square would also give the Chancellors 1.25 percent of the total gross sales for a period of seven years.
If purchased, the renovation would take about nine months. When finished, Weidmann's Square would lease the restaurant to Jackson-restaurant owner Nick Apostle for daily operations.
Apostle is the owner of Nick's Restaurant in Jackson.
The restaurant would offer a causal menu of entrees such as chicken, beef, seafood, pasta and pizza at prices from $12-$21. The establishment would also offer a specialty menu of more extravagant items priced between $24-$34 and a "high end" assortment of wines.
Leaders praise project
The renovated restaurant not only would offer patrons fine dinning, but it also would include a second-story bar overlooking 22nd Avenue and two banquet rooms for private parties.
Portera said that projects like the redevelopment of Weidmann's shows a special passion citizens have for not only their history, but their growth. He said he is "excited about Meridian because I sense there is an energy in this community that can cause it to be reborn."
Mayor John Robert Smith said he believes a renovated Weidmann's would thrive with the development of more apartments and condominiums and the renovation of The Grand Opera House.
Ward, a long-time patron of Weidmann's, called the rebirth of the restaurant one of her "passion projects." Ward also has been a key player in renovating The Grand Opera House.
Ben Alexander is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. Call him at 693-1551, ext. 3226, or e-mail balexander@themeridianstar.com.

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