Craig Noone, chef and owner of Parlor Market restaurant, knew that a thriving downtown needs thriving restaurants. Noone fulfilled his lifelong vision of opening a restaurant and did it successfully while being part of downtown Jackson’s revitalization efforts.
Noone’s death Oct. 14 from a car crash is a loss for the city and particularly for those passionate about improving Mississippi’s capitol city.
In a March Mississippi Business Journal interview Noon said he had always dreamed of opening a restaurant, and the King Edward Hotel’s renovation inspired him to go for his dream in downtown Jackson.
“I didn’t know if I was ready, but I knew it was the right time,” Noone said. “I knew if downtown did come back, and I didn’t come immediately, I might not be able to get a place, and I wanted to help out with the renaissance downtown.”
A graduate of Jackson Academy and Mississippi College, Noone obtained a culinary degree from the Texas Culinary Academy in Austin and a master’s from the Italian Culinary Institute. Before opening Parlor Market in September 2010, he cooked under James Beard Award-winning chefs like John Besh in New Orleans.
Ben Allen, president of Downtown Jackson Partners, admired the 32-year-old Noone’s persistence, tenacity and vision.
“The excitement that Craig generated just shows that the excitement is here. You’ve got the young warriors who are here … It gave everybody such hope and encouragement of what our downtown could be,” Allen said.
Breck Hines, executive vice president of nearby Duckworth Realty, said Noone’s passion for his work ensured the success of Parlor Market, which just celebrated its first birthday.
“Craig had the very rare ability to literally light up any room he walked in, any time of the day. He was so incredibly selfless. He just wanted everyone around him to be happy, and that really showed through Parlor Market. It was this perfect mix of trustworthiness, creativity, and just unabated passion for what he did that brought about the success of Parlor in the face of early critics who did not think he could pull it off in downtown Jackson,” Hines said.
Investor and building owner Mart Lamar had renovated the strip of buildings on West Capitol Street that now includes Parlor Market and had wanted someone to put in a restaurant.
“I was talking to my culinary friends, and they were all a little scared of downtown at the time (but) Craig called me up,” Lamar said.
Noone drew on the building’s history for inspiration, as Parlor Market was the name of a grocery store housed in the building in the 1920s that sold local produce and smoked meats. He put in leather banquettes to honor former tenant Continental Leather, cypress beams in the ceiling to pay homage to a former lumber company, and a raw oyster bar to pay respects to the old Al’s Half Shell.
“We worked really hard — not only on the food, but on the restaurant itself. We wanted the restaurant to tell a story because everybody in the South is definitely a storyteller,” Noone said.
Despite the great loss of Noone, due to the quality of the people he hired, the restaurant will go on “without a hitch,” Lamar said. “Craig hired a bunch of great people. While Craig was definitely the creator and center and front man for this thing, the people he hired can make the restaurant work.”