For more than 20 years, Shapley’s on Centré Street in Ridgeland, has been a restaurant that people associate with fine dining, celebrations and corporate meals that impress. Founded by Mark and Mary Shapley in 1985, the restaurant changed hands in 1998 when Scott and Julie Koestler bought it from the Shapleys. “We had some big shoes to fill, because Mark and Mary did a super job establishing a first class restaurant,” said Koestler.
“I started working at the restaurant in 1992, and I watched it grow from a small place to a great establishment. When I took over, I wanted to be able to carry on the tradition they started. I believe we’ve done a good job of upholding that tradition, and our quality has never been questioned.”
In a time when restaurants open and close with the wind, Koestler said their secret to success has been a combination of things. “We keep it simple, concentrating on a few things that we can ensure are done well time and time again. People have come to expect a certain level of quality, and it’s our job to give it to them each and every time they walk through out doors.”
Koestler said the restaurant focuses on “center of the plate” items, including beef, lamb and veal specialties, as well as seafood and poultry. An extensive wine list has earned the restaurant awards from Wine Spectator magazine for many years. The awards are based on quality of selections, number of listings, depth of vintages and growing regions from top producers and the relationship between the wine list and restaurant fare. Koestler is a certified sommelier, specializing in all facets of wine service.
The success of the restaurant can also be attributed to the longevity and dedication of the staff. “It’s critical that we employ people who can relay our sentiments to our customers, and we are fortunate to have an excellent staff, many of whom have been here for 18 years or more.” The staff is led by restaurant manager Jeffrey Shapley, who is the nephew of Mark Shapley. “I worked here for about a year before becoming manager a year ago,” said Shapley. “I am responsible for booking banquets, making sure the restaurant is set up and taking care of any special requests. I also oversee the wait staff.” Shapley is studying to become a sommelier, as well.
“Just like Mark and Mary, I strive to maintain a presence in the restaurant,” said Koestler. “It’s that personal touch. People like to see the owner in the restaurant, and even when I can’t be here, I do all I can to make sure things go on as if I was here. My wife, Julie, used to work the front of the house, just like Mary did, until we had three children and it just wasn’t feasible.”
Having a chip on his shoulder and being arrogant are things Koestler said he tries to avoid. “It all boils down to treating people well, the way you want to be treated. I’m always so humbled by the repeat customers we have. We just do the best we can each day, focusing on our own business and we don’t worry about what anyone else is doing. By doing that, we’ll hopefully continue being a successful restaurant in a really great restaurant town.”