New business owner says clean look of city attracts visitors

Published 12:56 pm Wednesday, July 17, 2019

By Allen Brewer

Batesville is headed in the right direction according to recently opened restaurant owner Ben Liles.

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Liles, the founder and owner of serval past and present restaurants/bars in Grenada, recently opened the Kennel Club Steakhouse in Batesville earlier this spring.

During an interview for the upcoming Batesville and Beyond Magazine, Liles explained why he chose Batesville as the site for his new restaurant and why he thinks more businesses will be too.

“I was looking in several different towns,” Liles said, “Batesville turned out to be the most appealing to me.”

Liles said he chose Batesville because of its visual openness to travelers on I55. From the bride directly above Hwy. 6, travelers can see a stretch of the town with businesses that may peek their interest for a pit stop, he said.

“What is so appealing about Batesville to me is the vision from I-55 that you have for such a long driving distance,” Liles said. “On a lot of towns you drive through on the interstate, you can not see what you are getting. Batesville has a very scenic route, and you can see both directions and see what is going on.”

Travelers headed north to Memphis or south to Jackson, as well as those coming to or leaving Oxford on Hwy. 6  will help bring business to the area.  Liles said that he expects the new Northwest Community College Campus will also boost traveling numbers.

“If you are going to make up in the long term in the restaurant business, a lot of tourism and traveling people and business people are very important, which I think Batesville will have a lot of. I think in the future when you look at going north and south on 55 it will be solid.”

Liles hopes to attract some of this business with his restaurant which is located off Hwy. 6 by the Batesville Civic Center. This month marks its third month in business.

Liles’ assessment of Batesville doesn’t surprise another longtime restauranteur. Stan Harrison, owner of Cafe Ole, said a plan set in place by the Mayor and Board of Aldermen several years ago has produced positive results for the city.

“Mr. Liles is a prime example of why as a city we must make Batesville the neatest and most appealing place that we possibly can,” Harrison said. Next to Cracker Barrel, the Mexican restaurant is the city’s busiest restaurant, and Harrison said his business must be able to attract residents outside Panola County to thrive.

“We draw from a forty mile radius and that’s what businesses have to do these days. You have to be able to attract people to your town and with the way we have worked to maintain the highway it’s made a real difference we think,” Harrison said.

An Mississippi Department of Transportation grant provided the high-set lights for the interchanges at the North Batesville and Batesville exits and the well-lit areas are maintained by the city. Additionally, Harrison said, the decision to install the decorative lights and plantings on the median on Hwy. 6 East has been a game changer for the city.

“When you drive into Batesville from Oxford, or if you look down the highway as you pass by on I-55 you will see one of the most attractive views of any city in North Mississippi,” Harrison said. “When you see how nice and well-kept the entrance to the city is on the east side where most of the traffic is, it’s easy to see why people would want to stop in Batesville.”

The city spends about $1,500 a month on rent and electricity for the 24 decorative poles and lights,  but it’s well spent, Harrison said. “I’m in the restaurant business, which means I’m in the business of getting people to stop in Batesville. When the average person who has never been to Batesville drives into our city they are impressed with how it looks. At night it’s really pretty with the lights and it makes people feel safe and somewhere they want to stop and shop.”

Cutline:  Ben Liles recently opened the Steak & Kennel Club off Hwy. 6 East in Batesville. (Allen Brewer)