Photo by Blair Ballou
Victoria “Vikki” Terrell’s life has not necessarily been an easy one. Growing up in Hattiesburg, Terrell was faced with the challenge of living up to the legacy of her father, Southern Miss football legend Clemon Terrell.
However, Terrell is creating her own legacy as the owner of her restaurant, Vikki Layne’s Bar and Grill.
At 32 years old, Terrell is one of the youngest restaurant owners in Hattiesburg.
“I opened my first restaurant when I was 28, but I’ve owned different businesses well before that,” Terrell said.
Being from Hattiesburg, she originally chose to go to Jackson State but found herself back at Southern Miss after struggling with homesickness and missing her young daughter.
“I went to USM for two semesters, and I hated it. Everyone knew my dad, so I would be late for class, and they would call him and tell him. It was too much,” Terrell said.
Although she said it was difficult living up to certain expectations from the community, Terrell decided to open Vikki Layne’s around four years ago.
Her first building was located close to Camp Shelby, and the business flourished due to people on the base eating plate lunches almost every day.
Despite her success, the storm that damaged William Carey University also hit her restaurant.
“I had to go back to the drawing board, get a regular job, which I hated,” Terrell said.
Terrell had the opportunity to open another restaurant in Hattiesburg around two years ago. She reopened on the Highway 42 Bypass, and the restaurant outgrew the location within six months. After seeing an opening in downtown Hattiesburg, Terrell felt like that was where she needed to be.
“I look at an area and see what’s missing, and I want to do that. My passion isn’t really restaurants; my passion is building. Taking nothing and building it into something,” Terrell said.
Southern Miss alumna Rosiland Jenkins grew up with Terrell and praised Terrell’s entrepreneurial spirit.
“Vikki was always a hustler. She was the kid that would let everyone else eat up all their Halloween candy and then save hers until theirs were gone. Then she would go to school and sell it for 25 cents a bag,” Jenkins said. “Her father always instilled in her and her siblings, ‘if you don’t work, you don’t eat.’”
Jenkins remembered Terrell being so determined to get a job that she went and got a permit from the school to be able to work at the early age of 14.
Despite her hard work, Terrell did not anticipate how successful she would be.
“We pray for things and we ask God for all this stuff. I figured I would get something, but I didn’t think it would be like it is,” Terrell said.
While she is grateful for her success, Terrell said it is difficult to be a business owner in her hometown.
“I feel like people don’t take me as seriously as they do other people. People will wait forever at McDonald’s, at the Crab House, but I kind of feel like I have to work twice as hard,” Terrell said. “People don’t want to admit it, but I feel like some people counted me out, because I have been in trouble before.”
She said that she felt that people who have watched her grow up did not expect her to be able to move past her previous struggles.
“When you overcome things, when you stand up and do better for yourself, when you’re resilient, I think people envy you for that,” Terrell said. “I’m a solution-oriented person, so when things are difficult, I just push through.”
Junior communications major Da’qūan Holloway knows Terrell and has frequented Vikki Layne’s.
“[Vikki] is very down to earth, and she has great customer service,” Holloway said. “She is a very genuine woman. The restaurant was amazing, and her food is fantastic.”
Despite struggling, Terrell said she is truly living out a dream of hers.
“I’m just a little black girl from Hattiesburg. I’ve been able to show people that you can make it out of any situation. I want to show little girls that they can do this, because there aren’t a lot of female restaurant owners here. To be able to break these barriers, even with backlash, it feels amazing,” Terrell said.
Terrell said that her plans from the beginning were to end up where she is now, but she hopes to continue to expand and give back to her community.
“We take the best talent and send it to other areas, and those areas become great. I want to use my talents here,” Terrell said.
In addition to expanding her menus, Terrell plans to establish scholarship foundations for local students.
“Her father would be so proud of her success,” Jenkins said.