Iconic Mississippi restaurant closing after 78 years of serving famous fried chicken, biscuits to locals, tourists

Published 8:37 am Wednesday, April 3, 2024

An iconic Mississippi restaurant is closing after 78 years of serving its famous fried chicken and tiny biscuits to generations of locals and tourists.

The Carriage House restaurant in Natchez is closing, according to Marsha Colson, president of the Pilgrimage Garden Club, which owns the restaurant.

Colson said the club’s board of directors made that difficult decision on Monday.

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The restaurant will close effective at the end of April. The last day it will be open to the public is April 9. However, it will honor any events already scheduled, such as weddings, luncheons and private parties.

Two Natchez civic clubs — The Rotary Club of Natchez and the Natchez-Trace Kiwanis Club — held their weekly luncheon meetings at the Carriage House. Leaders of both clubs are now seeking new locations.

“In a lot of ways, the Natchez economy and tourism are very much different now than what it was when the restaurant opened in 1946 and through the heydays of historic tourism in the 1950s, even very different than it was in the 1980s and ’90s,” Colson said. “The Carriage House has typically been a lunch-only venue. We have been advised by people with years of experience in the restaurant industry that it is very difficult to make a restaurant succeed with lunch only. Our wedding and event business is wonderful and appreciated, and we will continue to make the space available for those who bring in their own catering.”

“We have tried several different models and found it is not working. It is no one’s fault. Everyone involved, from the board members to Executive Director Wayne Bryant Canon, to the staff have done their best to make it a success,” Colson said. “For those of us on the board, and for Wayne, it is probably one of the hardest decisions we have ever made.”

The facility will continue to be available for rent for weddings, group tours and party bookings.

She said the Pilgrimage Garden Club board, which owns Stanton Hall and all of the property on the block it takes up, will also evaluate the future of the building in which the Carriage House is located, known as the Gay ’90s building.

“It has small meeting rooms that may be a space for people who play bridge, or if someone wants a downtown office. Or maybe even an apartment. We’ve been talking for a while about how to use the rest of the building the Carriage House is in. Now, we will take time to evaluate the best way to use the whole building,” Colson said.

“For people who grew up in Natchez, it is part of their history. A lot of memorable events and sentimental events for many took place at the Carriage House. For some of us, the Carriage House is a major part of our identity,” she said.