Growing up in Lexington, Miss., Cody Cox’s world was flavored by food.
His grandmother owned Fran’s Drive-In there. His mom car hopped at the restaurant and made all the pie crusts throughout high school.
“(Every night) we did dinner together, around a table” he remembered. “My dad made breakfast every morning. Food has always been attached to family for me — congregations and groups, potlucks — they’ve always appealed to me greatly.”
It makes sense then that the longtime general manager of Cups Fondren is diving deep into a food venture of his own.
Cox will work his last shift Friday at Cups as he prepares to open a pie shop in early 2019 in the burgeoning Belhaven Heights area on North Street.
Called Urban Foxes, a nod to the abundance of United Kingdom wild foxes that wander up around local cafés, Cox and wife, Molly West, will serve sweet and savory varieties of pie, plus coffee, tea and beer, and offer a relaxing place for a reprieve from the busyness of the day.
“I don’t want to be a beer store or a coffee shop,” Cox explained. “I want to be the bake shop, first and foremost. And even close to that, a comfortable place for a ten minute unplug from the workday… to just sit and enjoy a slice of pie, a tea or a coffee.”
The “pie thing,” he says, has “been there forever,” an idea Cox has dreamed of since his college days.
“When I was at Mississippi College, there was this truck stop down from campus with $1 coffee and standard fare pie. I would hang out there and read all the stuff I was supposed to (for class).”
Far from standard fare on his menu, Cox is calling for a rethink on the classics.
“Instead of chicken pot pie, I want to make a chicken pie with curry, coconut milk and sweet potatoes,” he explained. “It’s still very much (the traditional) buttermilk biscuit on top. It’s just an interesting take on a southern staple.”
Look for hand pies and sausage rolls, “something you could grab for a quick breakfast with coffee on the way to work.” He is also working on a recipe for a traditional Scottish meat pie (“not necessarily health food,” he laughed, “but hearty, a comfort thing”).
On his first menu and “for the foreseeable future,” a bacon and cheddar scone with honey hot sauce, a barista favorite when he brought test batches into Cups for employees there to try. He reiterated, “I’m trying to steer clear of typical. Sure, it’s apple pie, but mine’s filled with custard. Instead of just strawberry pie with regular filling, I put rhubarb in. It’s me, taking my favorites and doctoring them a bit.”
A rotating selection of local and regional coffees from small-batch roasters will be served,” Cox said, alongside with a variety of “cheap beers” and a rotating draft selection of Mississippi beers.
“We want to be a place where people can bring their kids, an all-ages spot. We’ll have a comfortable courtyard/backyard hangout out situation, but it’s not a bar.”
Live music – occasionally – looks like one show a month, an after-hours sort of setup since the shop plans to be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. “We may make it a ticketed event with a regional headliner and two local bands, sometimes inside, sometimes outside, time and weather depending,” Cox, a musician himself, said. “Right now, all kinds of things are still up in the air.”
Reflections on Cups
After nearly a decade with Cups, the last six or seven years managing the shop, Cox said there was a strategy behind his time there.
“Taking the job managing was part of a bigger plan,” he explained. “I wanted to learn all the stuff I needed to in a very successful, long-running local business. ‘Why has this business been here this long? What can I do to add to that, to grow that?’”
Leaving now felt right, for himself and for those he managed for years.
“I felt a transition needed to happen somehow,” he said. “There are some people who work here and they’re primed and growing. If I didn’t go somewhere or change, they would be stagnant. I mean, the reason you lose your baby teeth is that there are adult teeth behind them, pushing them out. For me, it needed to happen, one way or another.”
Cox said leaving has been a tough decision to make. “I stewed on it and thought about it a lot before I made that call.”
And his boss, Cups owner Janice Cameron, understood.
“Janice did a lot of great things for me,” Cox said. “She’s always been there, always helped out… always answered the tough questions. She took a chance and let me run the place. Fondren is her baby! The trust and faith she put in me is exponentially amazing.”
Why Pie, Why Now?
Like so many people in Jackson, Cox felt a push to bring his idea to fruition. “I don’t know anyone else who will do it, so I’m going to do it,” he said, repeating the old adage for self-starters here.
Cox said he’s felt a need to justify the decision to people he sees on the street who wonder about his future.
“We still have a house in the neighborhood. If anything, opening Urban Foxes makes me even more Jackson-centric. We love Jackson, not only living here but supporting the stuff around us. It’s definitely the ‘lifer’ kind of situation. I’m a Jackson lifer. I’m not going anywhere.”
Update, May 2019: Urban Foxes plans a May 20 opening.