While attending the university, USM alumni Paul Sims and Trey Viehweg were brothers in the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity. In the fraternity house, they discussed partnering to build a business. Sims was an entrepreneurship major, and Viehweg studied hospitality management.
Viehweg was working for a company in Jackson when Sims introduced him to a place there called the Crawdad Hole. From this grew the idea to bring a relaxed crawfish restaurant to Hattiesburg.
South Mississippi Crawfish Company hosted its grand opening Saturday at 11 a.m. The little shack off Old Highway 11 in Hattiesburg reflects the pair’s desire for an informal, come-as- you-are atmosphere.
“It’s too easy of a format and too easy of a business model to not have something like that in a college town,” Sims said. “It kind of fits Hattiesburg, kind of fits the vibe.”
The SMCC originally started as a catering business and served private parties and functions for a year before the owners decided to create the restaurant- style dining experience. It currently inhabits the little steel shack that was once another seafood restaurant.
Sims said the company plans to add a kitchen soon. The owners currently use a vat on the side of the shack to cook the crustaceans. Sims said he could see the possibility of the company running two locations in the future. He hopes to expand to Downtown Hattiesburg soon and have a similar setup.
Sims and Viehweg said the hole-in-the-wall restaurant style is part of the SMCC’s brand.
“[It’s] a place for people to come eat crawfish or take them to go with an outside atmosphere instead of being inside a building,” Viehweg said. “You don’t have that much here in Hattiesburg.”
The SMCC experience is unique to Hattiesburg. Sims said the restaurant will be open Thursday through Saturday until the crawfish sell out. He hopes it might promote the growth of college-tailored restaurants and places where students can relax and hangout.
“I would hope that we would have a cool little vibrant college community,” Sims said. “I think college towns like Hattiesburg and Starkville and Oxford and all those need little places where people can just come and hangout.”
Within an hour of the company’s opening on Saturday, they had an abundance of customers. A group of friends came to the grand opening and shared their thoughts on the experience.
Debbie Brown of Oak Grove said the group came to SMCC’s location before, when it was a different restaurant that sold fish. Brown said they heard about the opening through Facebook.
“We need a place like this,” said Brown.
Rachel Crosby, who came with the group, said she liked the establishment’s setup. She said it fits the Hattiesburg vibe of eclectic things to do. “[I] really hoped they would do great,” Crosby said.