TUPELO — There are people who can prepare excellent food to be served in a restaurant. And there are people who are good at running the financial end of a restaurant business. Often the two don’t meet.
That’s why it is a bit unusual to find that the owner of Park Heights restaurant, which serves New American cuisine, has an extensive background in the banking industry. Blair Hughes spent 13 years in Washington D.C., working for the FDIC before the lure of “home” brought her back to Mississippi to start a second career in the restaurant business.
“Owning a restaurant is something I’ve always wanted to do,” Hughes said. “I loved living in D.C., but after 13 years the big city wore on me, and I was a little homesick. I decided it would be easier to open a restaurant here than in Washington, D.C. So I came home, opened my own business and got married all within six months.”
Hughes is originally from Columbus, and her family has eight restaurants in the area. Hughes’ mother, Myrrl Bean, and her two sons, John and Bernard, started in the restaurant business in 1982 and own Harvey’s restaurants in Columbus, Starkville, Tupelo and Tuscaloosa, Ala., The Grill restaurants in Starkville and Columbus and Pepper’s Deli outlets in Columbus and Tupelo.
Hughes originally looked at Columbus, but found space in Tupelo she used to start Park Heights. She felt like Tupelo was growing and possibly more ready for the type of restaurant she envisioned.
It is a small, upscale restaurant open only for dinner that is very popular with the local business community. Hughes estimates seven out of 10 customers are associated either with the furniture industry or health care.
“It isn’t a real fancy place, but comfortable with outstanding food,” Hughes said. “A lot of customers say they feel like they are in the big city somewhere.”
Hughes has gone from working for a huge quasi-governmental agency to a self-owned business with 12 employees. She loves it.
And diners love Park Heights. One such testament comes from a writer for the Chicago Tribune who was writing an article on the Natchez Trace. The writer, Alan Solomon, ended up profiling the restaurant in an article for the Chicago Tribune, which is one of the country’s largest daily newspapers.
Solomon’s favorite entr