Everybody has been in situations that could be easily remedied with a low maintenance meal. Restaurants can’t always be the answer. Pizza delivery doesn’t necessarily provide the most prudent choices. And microwave dinners can prove unfulfilling. But over the past few years, the Jackson metro area has sprouted several businesses that offer gourmet prepared meals.
In some instances, the items come in the form of frozen family-style entrees. One can also choose from refrigerated non-green salads by the pound. And there’s also the possibility of purchasing hot plates of food from these shops.
Three such ventures in the area are Foodies in Deville Plaza, Paul Anthony’s Market in the Highland Village parking lot by the intersection of Old Canton Road and Northside Drive and Three Sisters And A Mixer on Lakeland Drive between Old Fannin Road and Grant’s Ferry Road.
Although each offers relatively the same service, the motivations behind the enterprises differ.
Breaking free from fast food
Former Iron Horse Grill owner, Ken Crotwell explains his reasoning. “Foodies originated at the ball fields in Jackson. With four kids all playing sports, we were constantly at the ballpark, and it was fast food, fast food, fast food. Other time-stretched parents were saying they, too, wanted something more healthy, but convenient.”
Three Sister’s Paul Moore and his mother got their start by taking cakes to the Belhaven Market on Saturdays. Momentum and a little state regulation led to their opening a commercial kitchen on Lakeland Drive. The Moore’s began selling casseroles to capitalize on the thousands of commuters who drive past their window daily.
Paul Koury opened Paul Anthony’s based on his desire for a good steak. “I wanted prime beef and could not find it in the Jackson area. [I] realized Jackson did not have this type of market and thought we needed one.”
In addition to prepared meals and hors d’oeuvres, these establishments also stock specialty food items to be used when one does have the time to prepare one’s own fare. Paul Anthony’s and Foodies keep cases and racks of gourmet cheeses, sauces and spices, in addition to fresh, frozen and aged meats. And Three Sisters still offers their charter confections.
But why is Jackson suddenly ripe for a new sector of high-quality prepared meal providers?
“I really think it’s prime because of the busy schedules of people,” suggests Moore. “We have a lot of people that stop by and get casseroles. They can go and put that in the oven and in 30 minutes that’s ready. And they’re going to have time the get the kids’ homework done.”
Crotwell attributes growth on two levels. “If you look around the metro area, you can see rapid changes. There are great things happening in Jackson, Miss. We have the same mix of businesses you’ll find in larger cities. People today want and demand this diverse mix.”
Koury concurs. “Families continue to be on the go and are more in tune to cooking more these days — mainly due to the media. Cooking is a big passion now more than ever.”
And the future?
There is also agreement as to where the gourmet prepared meals segment is heading. “Have you ever read the ingredients on some of the frozen or packaged stuff at the grocery? There’s enough salt and ingredients that you can’t pronounce to freak you out, “ says Crotwell. “Healthy eating, that’s the trend for the future.”
Moore sees that, as well. “We have a lot of people requesting casseroles made with wheat pasta and things such as that. People are on the Adkins diet can come get some vegetables and chicken breast — and they have their meal right there. I really think that the healthy meals [are] going to be the next trend.”