By CARL SMITH
Chef Ty Thames said he’s always had a grand vision for Bin 612, and now his dream can become reality as the restaurant is set to expand into two neighboring businesses on Maxwell Street.
Thames said the moment opportunity arose to expand into Si Belle, a neighboring hair salon, and Desert Rose, a Middle Eastern restaurant also located in the building housing Bin 612, he took action. Expanding Bin 612 has always been on the forefront of his mind, Thames said, because expansion dynamically changes the quality and diversity of the restaurant’s authentic Italian menu.
“Bin 612 is kind of a landmark now in the Cotton District. I’m super excited about this move. I’ve been wanting to expand for about three years, but the opportunity had not come up. We held off and were patient,” Thames said. “It’s definitely going to be a game changer. I’m excited for us, and I think this is good for Starkville and the Cotton District. I want to make this the definitive and most authentic pizzeria in Starkville.”
Overall, the expansion will triple Bin 612’s total seating capacity. The restaurant’s current main room will be transformed with hinged windows, allowing an open-air, European dining experience, Thames said, while the side dining room will become a conference room available for private reservations.
“We’ll have a projector, television and Powerpoint available for clients to use,” he said. “If a group decides to rent that room out, we can shut the doors for privacy.”
As for outdoor seating, the patio area in front of Bin 612 and on Maxwell Drive will be consolidated for a wrapped, fenced-in area. Outdoor seating will also be available in the back of the restaurant.
While extra seats potentially means extra customers, Thames said he is very excited about the expansion’s impact on Bin 612’s menu.
“Our problem at the Bin has always been storage and space. There’s never enough place to put things,” Thames said. “(Expansion) gives us exactly the size we need to operate.”
The Bin’s kitchen will move into the former Desert Rose location. A full-size kitchen, Thames said, is the key to having a menu with strong, signature items.
“We can really upgrade our products and menu with this,” he said. “(For example) I’m on my way next week to Memphis to buy a really good pizza oven.”
One way Thames said he wants to expand the Bin’s services is by offering a sophisticated brunch menu in the style of Restaurant Tyler.
“One of my favorite things is brunch,” Thames said. “I can see turning (the Si Belle location) into a ‘food extravaganza’ for brunch.”
Work has already begun at the former Desert Rose location, and Thames said renovations will begin at Si Belle in January. The restaurant will begin moving its kitchen at the end of December during the slower business period. He said he expects the overall process to finish by February or March.
“We won’t have too much construction, just a little painting and opening up the rooms. It’s mainly cosmetic and getting everything to function properly so we can execute brunch, lunch and dinner at the quality I expect,” he said. “I have the vision; it’s just about putting things in play. (Spring) is when this will really mature.”
Jennifer Gregory, GSDP vice president for tourism, said Thames’ plans for expansion reflects Starkville’s growing popularity as a dining destination in North Mississippi. Local restaurants, she said, not only attract people to the area to eat, but also to shop, feeding the local retail and 2 percent food and beverage tax base. New and expanding restaurants are good for other restaurants and the entire community, she said.
“We know from our retail analysis that we have people from in and out of the Golden Triangle who regularly drive to Starkville to eat. When our local restaurants expand, that only adds to the appeal of Starkville as a dining destination,” Gregory said. “It’s also a great sign when we see our restaurants succeed and grow because it shows confidence in our local economy. We didn’t experience as hard of an economic and tourism downturn as some of our neighbors did, yet we’re still seeing people come to Starkville to spend their money.
“Ty is a wonderful asset to our community,” Gregory added. “He is a very generous and community-oriented person. Having his reputation and skills here really does point to the fact that Starkville is a place with an eclectic mix.”