The Woman Behind Joni’s Nook

After completing our first rounds of interviews in Mound Bayou Wednesday morning, we decided to meet all together for lunch. It didn’t take long to find somewhere to eat because there is only one dine in restaurant in this small town – Joni’s Nook and Laundromat. 

Joni’s Nook is run by a sweet lady named Tamika Gant, who named her restaurant and laundromat after her late daughter. It’s a narrow space with a small booth, a table with six chairs, and large pink paper flowers that lined the walls. Joni’s Nook quickly became the place where we would eat and rest in between interviews. 

Students deciding what to order at Joni’s Nook

Since my story focuses on local businesses, I quickly got my recorder out and started to gather scene of Tamika getting our orders ready in her kitchen. She was overwhelmed by our massive group order since there was only one other cook, but she didn’t mind me taking up space in her tiny kitchen, following her around with a microphone five inches away from her face. Immediately, I sensed that she was a hard working lady, but also very kind.

I soon learned that she embodied that entrepreneurial spirit Mound Bayou had from its heyday, when they were a thriving, self-sufficient town with multiple laundromats, grocery stores, restaurants, theaters, ice cream parlors, and more. In addition to running the restaurant and laundromat by herself, she also drives a school bus at 6:45am and at 2pm. Then she comes back to her restaurant until closing at 8pm and prepares food for the next day.

Yet she is still thinking about new businesses that she could start to help her community. She noticed many people complaining about having to drive to Cleveland just case checks and pay bills since there isn’t somewhere to do that in Mound Bayou. So she started envisioning building an add-on to the restaurant where locals could do just that, saving both gas and time. 

Something that I quickly picked up on is how much the community means to the people of Mound Bayou. People don’t start businesses solely to profit from for themselves, but because they see a real need for it in their community. That was a big part of Tamika’s reason for opening Joni’s Nook since there was no proper dine in restaurant for Mound Bayou residents before. 

That deep sense of serving your community was not as familiar to me as I wish it was because I grew up in an area where individual success was valued more than serving the community you live in. And it was refreshing to see that theme not only in Joni’s Nook, but almost everywhere else in this small town of Mound Bayou.