For eight years, he called Jackson his home. Now, he’s leaving for Boston – and a higher calling.
Jonathan Webb, known simply as “Webb” to his customers and friends, worked his last shift at Sal & Mookie’s in Fondren this week. He’ll spend a summer in Asia before enrolling for his Masters in Theological Studies at Boston University. “It’s the first time I’ve been 100% comfortable in this type of work,” he tells us. “I never feel like I’m working.” That’s what he’s discovered after his time on staff at Millsaps, working in their interfaith and community engagement department. He also served as director of the Lewis Art Gallery. That’s meant 40 hour weeks at Millsaps in addition to his restaurant shifts.
Originally from Jackson, Tennessee, Webb moved here for college. “It’s been an ever-changing journey,” he tells us. “I thought I was going to be a Methodist minister but got my degree in studio art instead.” He tried art school in 2009 for two months, but said, it wasn’t for him. Then he became certified to teach as a fall back plan, all the while working for Sal & Mookie’s.
Webb started busing tables and quickly worked his way to manager. “I’ve done everything but work the kitchen,” he says. And, he says, he loved it. “Working for Jeff (Good) and Dan (Blumenthal) and Aven Whittington – I learned so much.” Webb says the experience helped him to learn a lot about himself. “I have my liberal arts education from Millsaps, but I have my real world education from the restaurant business.”
Webb made an impression on his customers – and his former boss. Sal & Mookie’s principle Jeff Good calls Webb “one of those rare finds.” “He is creative, cheerful, competent and engaging,” Good said. “He is the perfect food service employee. I know that his new career path will make him a gift to whatever population he serves.”
That kind of praise – and this kind of city makes it tough for Webb to leave. “I was driving through town the other day, almost teary eyed,” he says “thinking, ‘Jackson’s such a special place.’ I can’t even express it. There’s so much beautiful history and culture; it’s been inspiring to watch it grow everyday.”
And, he says, the heart of it all is Fondren. “This place is wonderful and the people are beautiful.”
For now, we say goodbye to Webb but remain hopeful that, by his own admission, he wants to return here one day. We hope so. As Good summed it up: “He’s a stellar kid. There are very few Webbs out there.”