#039;Southern Living#039; features two Pike County businesses

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Sylvia Hughes and O.K. McDowell are getting a little taste of the celebrity life these days, and they're enjoying it.

Hughes has been hopping tables for 19 years at Mossy Grove Restaurant, and anyone who dines more than once at the restaurant knows Sylvia.

She has been in great demand since her photograph appeared in the September issue of Southern Living magazine; and subscribers to the magazine are bringing in their copies for her to autograph.

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"This is probably as close as I'll get" to being a celebrity she said, laughing.

After the September edition of Southern Living hits the stands on Sept. 2, even more readers other than subscribes will want to know where Troy and Brundidge are located.

"Southern Living is a good little thing to get into,"

McDowell said with a broad grin. "I've had folks calling me all day from all over -

Mobile, Birmingham, Atlanta, Tennessee, South Carolina. Some folks have never heard of Brundidge. Can you believe that?"

While McDowell may be surprised, he admits that the publicity is welcome.

"This publicity is going to be good for City Antiques and for all the other antiques shops in Brundidge," McDowell said. "People that are calling ask about other shops and I tell them all about everything that we have."

McDowell has been in the antiques business in Brundidge for more than 14 years. His shop was first located on the corner of Church Street and Highway 10 east. After a couple of years, he moved just down to the railroad track

and began to put together a village that now includes, five "old country stores" that house his antiques, most of which are for sale. A few are not. Those few are great finds and personal treasures.

Four of the structures are part of Pike County's past. One store was on the Leverette Place at Pronto; another was Nellie Shipman's store at Shilohm; and a third was Leon Hussey's store at Banks.

The old Tennille Post Office is the other original structure.

"I built this one from old materials," McDowell said, gesturing toward a building in the back. "But the Coca-Cola sign is original. It came off an old bottling company. You won't see another one like it."

McDowell credits another antiques dealer in Brundidge, Frank Green, for getting him interested in buying and selling antiques.

"Frank really got me interested in old signs," said McDowell, who has acquired the name, The Sign Man. "Nobody's got more of them than I do."

McDowell's interest is in primitive pieces and they are also his specialty. Dealers and collectors from many miles away frequent his shop. He also sells over the Internet.

"What I specialize in is Alabama homemade furniture," he said. "I'm partial to anything made in the South. I'll buy a little of the northern stuff, but not much."

McDowell pointed to a couple of primitive pieces that "you could hunt all over the world and not find another one like them."

Both were hanging pie safes.

"They hung from the ceiling so kids and rats couldn't get to them," he said. "Never seen anything like that, have you? They're killer pieces - killer pieces."

And someone had paid killer prices for them.

"If somebody's got the money, most things are for sale," McDowell said, laughing. "Just most things."

McDowell said with the exposure in Southern Living he expects there soon could be an influx of antiques enthusiasts roaming around


"I like talking to customers but what I like most is going knocking of doors and hunting stuff," he said. "That's the real fun part - finding things that kind of give you goosebumps."

Carolyn Hooks may not get goosebumps browsing the grocery market to


her business, but she was equally excited and honored to be featured in Southern Living and the hopeful of the guests the exposure will bring to her unique and popular Mossy Grove Restaurant.

In September, the same month in which the restaurant is featured in the magazine, Hooks will celebrate

12 years as owner of the restaurant.

Hooks and her husband, Lathan, bought Mossy Grove from Jack Finley as a diversion from what she was doing.

"The restaurant was already very successful and Jack, being a good friend, offered to sell it to us," she said. "I was teaching school at the time and really wanted to try something different. So we bought it and went into the restaurant business."

Sometimes things can get mighty hot in the kitchen and there might have been times when Hooks had doubts about changing

careers. But, not for long.

Mossy Grove with its unusual location (next to a cemetery); cozy, old schoolhouse atmosphere; friendly service; and some of the best food anywhere around is one of the most popular dining places for locals and connoisseurs of fine food from states as far away as Indiana and Washington.

"Word of mouth advertising works really well for us," Hooks said. "We're along the beach route and tourists see us and stop. Once they do, they'll usually become regulars when they are passing through. We have some customers who make it point to be

in Troy so they can eat with us."

Hooks said it's not unusual for travelers to stop and call to tell her they're on the way.

"Sometimes people who have made it to Birmingham will call to make sure that we'll be open when they get here," she said. "Most all of our customers are repeat customers. That makes us feel good - like we are doing things right."

The Mossy Grove menu is basically the same as it has been for years, with the signature appetizer, Northern White Beans and pepper relish, getting raves all around.

"People like it so much that we offer the beans, pepper relish and salad or coleslaw as an entr\u00E9e, for those who want the beans and nothing else," Hooks said and adding laughing. "Our fried dill pickles are popular, too. Some of those who have never tried them think they are whole dills dipped in a batter and fried. They are surprised and most people really like them."

The Mossy Grove menu is varied and, therefore, appeals to most every taste.

"There have been few changes on the menu," she said. "We have dropped raw oysters and we've added steamed vegetables for the Atkins-friendly folks. We want to make every item as pleasing as possible."

Friendly service is always a given at Mossy Grove.

Shelia Jackson, director of tourism for Troy, organized the Southern Living tour of Pike County two years ago.

"Southern Living works far in advance and Tanner Latham,

who wrote the articles, was very interested in several sites," she said. "Larry Godwin and Art Wurks of Brundidge were featured in an earlier edition this year. Mossy Grove and City Antiques are being featured this month and that is great publicity for our area.

"It just doesn't get any better than being recognized by Southern Living. And, we are very honored and appreciative that Southern Living is putting a spotlight on Pike County."