Doug Pellum, owner of Zachary's in Columbus, stands behind the bar of his restaurant. Pellum has been recognized by the Mississippi Main Street and the National Restaurant associations for his philanthropic efforts locally. In the past 18 months, his restaurant raised more than $50,000 for charitable causes. Photo by: India Yarborough/Dispatch Staff
June 28, 2018 10:43:56 AM
When owner Doug Pellum opened Zachary's restaurant in 2001, he wanted to create the kind of space he'd like to visit -- a community-oriented dive bar with great food and a lively atmosphere.
And that's exactly what has kept customers coming back to the Columbus staple over the years, he said.
"We take care of people when they walk in the door," Pellum said. "Most of our business is repeat business, regulars. We'll see some people in here four or five days a week."
Those regulars inspire Pellum, a Starkville native, to give back to his community.
"You hear all this stuff about 'eat local, eat local,' but we've got to give them a reason to eat local," Pellum said. "If we're not giving back to them, why should they come in and help? Why should they eat local?"
Through charitable fundraisers, Pellum and his staff have raised more than $50,000 over the past 18 months. The restaurant held one of its largest fundraising events in March 2017, in honor of local musician Hayden Allen, who had passed away earlier that month due to heart failure. During the six-hour event, Zachary's raked in more than $36,000 to donate to Allen's family.
"(His wife) was a customer of ours and needed help," Pellum said. "So we had to step up to the plate."
During a St. Patrick's Day fundraiser this year, Zachary's raised more than $10,000 for the Columbus-Lowndes Humane Society. Just this week, the restaurant collected more than $2,000 for the Autistic Self Advocacy Network -- a cause Pellum said was "near and dear" to an employee's heart.
Zachary's has also donated to the Susan G. Komen Cancer Walk, raised funds for Hurricane Harvey relief efforts, and given to countless other causes. In October, they'll do it again, this time benefiting the Columbus Arts Council.
That generosity earned Zachary's a 2018 Restaurant Neighbor Award from the National Restaurant Association. Zachary's was one of three restaurants in Mississippi to receive the award, which -- according to the association's website -- honors those eateries with an affinity for charity. And last week the Mississippi Main Street Association presented Pellum with a "Main Street Hero" award during its annual awards luncheon Thursday, recognizing Zachary's role as a local fundraising hub.
Pellum said his restaurant is ideal for fundraisers, as it is closed on Sundays and has the space for live music. Zachary's often partners with other businesses -- and Columbus' Huck's Place on a regular basis -- to make those events happen.
The most important factors, though, are Pellum's employees. They're the backbone of fundraising efforts, he said. They volunteer to help with events and even get a say in what causes the restaurant supports.
Renee Verner has overseen Zachary's catering and to-go orders for three years. She usually volunteers at the fundraisers "just to help out."
Verner said Pellum makes it easy to give back.
"I love working for Doug," she said. "He's a good guy, and he's compassionate about his work."
At this point, Pellum said, his restaurant's got fundraising "down to a science."
"We know who to call for the music, we know who to call for posters, and then the employees really go above and beyond to help," he added.
Outreach by others
Zachary's isn't the only area restaurant giving back to the Golden Triangle.
According to Shannon McPherson, director of sales and marketing for the Columbus-based Eat With Us Group, many of the group's restaurants host fundraising events for local school groups and community organizations.
Eat With Us is the parent organization for the Golden Triangle's Sweet Peppers Delis, Harveys restaurants, The Grills and Bulldog Burger Company.
McPherson said the Starkville Harveys hosts the group's biggest fundraiser each year -- Celebrity Wait Night. During the wait night, held in July, Starkville community leaders and local celebrities serve customers. All tips they earn are donated to the Oktibbeha County Humane Society.
McPherson said Harveys has raised more than $30,000 in the past three years. Though, she notes, it wouldn't happen without community members.
"Local businesses donate items to be auctioned off," McPherson said.
"Last year, Bully came out and walked around the restaurant," she added.
Carole Simmons, general manager for Columbus' Lost Pizza Company, said the corporation encourages fundraisers in its stores.
"We cast our net locally," Simmons said. "That's how we try to give back to the community."
Simmons said the past two years, Lost Pizza has conducted fundraisers to benefit the Columbus Air Force Base's annual ball. She added that this year, her store is donating to the base's summer reading program.
"I was a teacher for almost 20 years, so that's why I'm trying to forge this relationship for the summer," she said.
Columbus' Buffalo Wild Wings raises money twice a year on behalf of the Boys and Girls Club.
Jeff Ousley, director of operations for the Columbus store, said BWWs across the country fundraise for the national Boys and Girls Club organization. The funds are combined and distributed evenly among local clubs.
For the past three years, Ousley said, the Columbus BWW location has tried to involve first responders in its fundraising efforts.
"It brings people out," he said. "Everyone loves seeing those guys compete against each other.
"I wish more businesses would get involved with charitable organizations," Ousley added, "and really make a positive impact in their communities."
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