From waitresses to managers: coast restaurant to open with new managers

Published 4:29 pm Thursday, August 31, 2006

The Annex restaurant, struggling since Katrina, will be under new management with an old twist.

Three former waitresses, Barbra, Linda and Chris, are buying the lease and with the help of Sylvia Haines, who owned and ran the city icon for 40 years, plan to reopen soon with the old menu and cooks and lots of familiar faces.

In March, Haines leased out the restaurant, closed by Katrina, to four people who tried a new menu, banned smoking at the tables and shortened the hours. She said they are just ready to let it go.

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Barbra Hudson, along with Linda Sclease and Chris Rasmusson, plans to sign the papers and take on the restaurant this morning. She said they will restore hours to Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. and if things go well by the first of the year, they’ll consider opening again on Saturdays.

The restaurant, popular among police, firefighters, lawyers and the blue-collar crowd for decades, sits on a triangle of land at U.S. 90 and Pascagoula Street.

It was known as Sylvia’s Annex until March because she made it what it was, a long-term success.

“All together, these women worked for me a combination of 38 years,” Haines said. “They know what to do. They carried on for me when I left to get married.”

She said she plans to come in and show them how, what and when to order and how to do the books.

“I know they can do it,” she said. “I told them I’m behind them 100 percent. Everyone needs a little boost now and then.”

The three were scheduled to sign the papers Friday, but there was a delay. They plan get all the transfer technicalities finished and to reopen as The Annex before Labor Day.

“We’ve been hoping for this for a while,” said Sclease. “Sylvia talked about retiring, and we hoped that when she did, we’d have the money to take it from her.”

Now it’s finally coming together, she said.

Sclease described the Annex as “like a piece of home. It has always been like family down there with the customers and the people who worked there.

“When we put it back like it was, the food and everything, business will come back,” she said. “It will be like coming home again.”

Rasmusson said, “We’re going to kick the doors open as soon as we can.”

She said she’s looking forward to seeing all the customers and catching back up on what everybody has been doing.

“We can do things the way we want to, take what worked for Sylvia and put our spin on it,” she said. “We’ll use her format because it was successful – Southern cooking at good prices, good service and good waitresses.”

They had to come up with money to buy out the existing lease, then they’ll make monthly payments. They all plan to work the floor, said Hudson. They are all in their 40s or 50s and put a lot of thought into the venture before making the decision.

“I have a lot of faith,” she said. “We all have a lot of faith.”

All three will be first-time business owners.

“And what better way to do it, “Hudson said. “We all enjoyed working there.

“It’s just a matter of getting the word out to the old customers,” she said. “They’ll call and tell you they’ve heard rumors. We tell them the rumors are true.”