Written by Sophie McNeil Wolf | Photographed by Paul Wolf
When life gives you lemons – a whole lot of lemons – it is easy to harden yourself to the world. Not Mimi Grigsby.
The 53-year-old Minneapolis native will always remember the date she came to Jackson and stayed longer than she planned. December 3, 2015.
“My mother had cancer. I came out here for four weeks to help her with her chemo. My sister called me on a Tuesday, said it was bad, and I was here on a Thursday.”
Four weeks turned to five and longer. Unfortunately, her mother wasn’t getting better.
“I kept having to extend my flight plans back to Minneapolis. We wanted goodies to take to my mom in the hospital and my sister said, ‘Oh, I’ve got to take you to this place. You’re going to love it.’ I saw that (pastry) cabinet and I thought, ‘I want one of those, one of those, one of those, one of those…’” she says, sitting near that very cabinet. The place was Broad Street Baking Company in Fondren.
Her sister introduced her to general manager Michael Thomas. By mid-January, she was hired. Her mother passed away the day after Valentine’s Day.
“I knew that God had brought me to Jackson for more than just the last three months of my mother’s life. There was a bigger plan for me here,” she says.
Anyone who has spent much time in Broad Street recognizes Grigsby. With a warm voice and kind spirit, patrons are drawn to her, hoping she will be at the register when they order a meal.
“My customers give me so much. The highest point of my day is when the (Banner Hall) lobby is full of people and I’m trying to run that line. Let me get this order in. Let me get this right, exactly how you want it,” she says. “People worry about being a pain. Listen – when you spend your money on your meal, it should be what you want and you should never have to apologize for it.”
“Customer service is my thing,” Grigsby says emphatically. Sure, she has worked office jobs, but the face-to-face interaction with people is second to none, she says. “I have a couple customers that come in in the mornings just because I’m here. That makes me feel like I am doing what God wants me to do, which is to put a smile on someone’s face.”
Broad Street service manager Katie Leach recognizes how special Grigsby is to the team. “We have never had someone with that much passion for people and someone who actually enjoys brightening someone’s day. People love her. When she is out of town, people ask where Mimi is.”
“I believe in Broad Street. If I can’t sell your product, I won’t do it. We make fresh food. The food here is fabulous.” So much so, Grigsby recalls a customer who came in that very morning, only ordering toast and coffee. When she learned his order was colored by a previous experience, she immediately asked if she could treat him to a do-over breakfast.
“I take it personally when customers don’t have a great experience. When I checked in on him later, his plate was clean,” she said with a big grin. “He said, ‘That was amazing.’ He was satisfied and that made me feel like I had done what I was supposed to do, which is to give him the service and give him the food he comes to Broad Street for.”
Grigsby’s mother used to tell her being silly was part of her charm. “It is much easier to smile and easier to be happy than to be so hateful. I have a big problem with the negative energy in the world.”
Serving has always come naturally for Grigsby, even at home. At family gatherings, she is always the family member helping others fill their plate, getting out the to-go boxes and cleaning.
“I really thrive off of people. It’s so easy to be nice to someone. What is hard about that?”