'I still believe in South Jackson’: Local restaurant thrives in deserted area

Gumbo Girl owners believe in the community

'I still believe in South Jackson’: Local restaurant thrives in deserted area

JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - South Jackson has a reputation for being deserted and abandoned by businesses and residents alike. However, there are some businesses that continue to look passed the fact and continue to stay.

“I just found a place that I could make an oasis in the desert,” said Marilyn Kithuka, owner of Gumbo Girl.

It’s a thriving restaurant on Highway 18 that shares a lot with a gas station.

“A lot of people were saying are you crazy, there’s nothing in south Jackson,” Kithuka said.

She is partially right. Many businesses have moved out of South Jackson to make money elsewhere.

Her husband James agrees. “I think that a lot of them are following the residential population. We have a lot of people that are no longer residing, a lot of professionals that no longer reside in the Jackson area," he said. “I think a lot of businesses are looking at that and thinking that’s where they need to be.”

Despite that fact, in 2015, the couple opened up Gumbo Girl. The little shop is open right down the road from Metrocenter Mall, a shopping center that was once extremely popular but is now closed permanently.

James doesn’t believe it’s a bad area. “It’s just an area that doesn’t have a large shopping influence or anything like that, which generates or drives traffic.”

The Kithukas said that they took a chance and started their restaurant in the area because they believe in the community.

“I believed in this side of town and I still believe in South Jackson," said Marilyn. “And I’m hoping that it’s gonna come back.”

“The residents themselves have to believe in the area. They have to patronize the area more," added James.

Though some businesses continue to close their doors, Marilyn said she has no intentions of leaving south Jackson.

“I do plan to expand, but i don’t have any intentions on leaving south Jackson. If businesses come, and they plant themselves here and give it a chance, I think it would work and i think that will make the area flourish once more,” she said.

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