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60% of memberships have been sold

Oxford University Club plans early-September opening

OXFORD — The skyline of Oxford’s Town Square has not seen many changes through its history, but this year the Oxford University Club — a three-story building — was added.

A town of about 10,000, Oxford has acquired a national reputation for its thriving nightlife and dining scene. So it was only natural that Oxford business owner Forrest Hinton and Holly Springs resident Mike Lynn III, former general manager of the Minnesota Vikings, develop the Oxford University Club.

The Oxford University Club is a one-of-a-kind facility offering fine dining and cocktails, a European spa and a state-of-the-art fitness center. Set to open in early September, the club will cater to Ole Miss alumni and anyone with business or social ties to Oxford, one of the most celebrated small towns in the South.

In addition to its exclusive dining scene, fitness center and spa, the members-only club also offers golf at the nearby Kirkwood Golf Course in Holly Springs, as well as quail hunting at the Fitch Farms Hunting Resort, a 7,000-acre hunting preserve.

“You will be catered to,” said Hinton of club members. “This is a very service-oriented club.”

The other two main ingredients of the club are the food and ambiance.

“A lot of times club food is not necessarily the best in the world, but we’re the only club in town and we’re going to have the very best food that is available,” Hinton said.

Already, the Oxford University Club has hired Norbert Barruel, former longtime manager of the University Club of Memphis, to manage the club. Barruel, a French Algerian now living in Holly Springs, is considered the dean of university clubs in the Southeast. He retired from managing the University Club of Memphis in August of 1989, but Hinton and Lynn helped to persuade him to go back into business for the Oxford University Club (OUC).

“It is our goal to make this club a true asset to Oxford,” said Barruel, 75.

Matt Jones, executive chef for the OUC; Francois Mathias, sous chef; Tom Hinton, sous chef; and Fanny Bourdeilh, pastry chef, will lend their culinary expertise to the club’s eclectic menu, which will cover a range of cuisine, including French, Italian and American.

Jones, a University of Mississippi graduate, trained at Johnson and Wales Culinary School in Vail, Colo. and comes to OUC from The Palm, a five-star Denver steak house.

Mathias, who trained in France, comes to OUC from Le Notre, a prominent catering service in Paris.

Hinton, another Ole Miss alumnus, trained under executive chef Joseph Carey at the Memphis Culinary Academy and presently cooks at Five Oaks Grocery in Oxford.

Bourdeilh trained in France and comes to OUC from the famous Maison Blanche (The White House), located atop the Theatre des Champs-Elysees in Paris.

“Fine dining is only one aspect of the Oxford University Club, but we certainly understand that what comes out of the kitchen sets the tone for the total club experience,” Hinton said. “This club is dedicated to establishing a tradition of fine food and excellent service unmatched by any restaurant in the South. We will settle for nothing less than the absolute best.”

There are three entrances for the club: one in the front, one on the side and another in the rear.

By entering through the front door, one will be greeted with OUC’s shoe and handbag boutique. A possibility for other space at the front of the 20,000-square-foot facility is a retail store for spa products.

The spa and fitness facilities are also on the first floor and are located behind the retail stores, and are complete with state-of-the art equipment as well as steam and sauna rooms.

By taking the stairway or one of two elevators, one can get to any of the three floors in OUC.

The second floor houses OUC’s smoking lounge. Toward the rear of the building, the second floor features multifunction-meeting rooms, complete with audio, video and computer hookups. The second floor is the only smoking floor in the club. Food is also available to club members on this floor.

The third floor features atrium dining on the balcony, as well as a dining room, parquet dancing floor, grand piano and room for a small string ensemble. It also has a separate dining room for parties of up to 14.

OUC has sold 60% of its memberships, and Vision Creek Enterprises, which is handling the club’s membership sales and marketing, is confident that the club will reach its total of 500 members by the end of the year. And it is not only the locals who are taking advantage of the club. People from all over the United States have joined as well.

For information about OUC membership, contact Vision Creek Enterprises at (800) 777-4210 or (662) 236-1794 or visit the club’s Web site at www.oxforduniversityclub.com.

Contact MBJ staff writer Elizabeth Kirkland at ekirkland@msbusiness.com or (601) 364-1042.

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