The iconic Blow Fly Inn restaurant in Gulfport unexpectedly closed it's doors on Tuesday, and the future of the popular eatery is uncertain. In 2015, SunHerald profiled popular Blow Fly Inn waitress Connie Sullivan. Read her story:
Blow Fly Inn customers don’t need to remember Connie Sullivan’s name if they want to request her as their server. They need only ask the hostess to seat them with “the one who wears the glasses.”
Sullivan, who has been working at the iconic Gulfport restaurant since 1998, wears glasses that match whatever color T-shirt she’s wearing that day. She has red, purple, lime green, paisley, neon orange and hot pink frames and often lets customers borrow them to see the menu if they forgot theirs. “It’s something to enlighten the day, to make the day fun,” she said.
Sullivan loves when men borrow her flashy eyewear because it gives the whole restaurant a laugh.
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And it’s hard to miss Connie’s laugh. Her chuckle fills the open dining room often during the lunch rush.
“I do try to laugh a lot, because if not, it will make for a long day,” she said. “You try to make everything as fun and as exciting as you can.
“Laughter is much better than frowning all the time.”
Sullivan works 60 hours a week at Blow Fly Inn as manager and a waitress. If a party has 10 people or fewer, she doesn’t bother writing the order down; she has the menu memorized. She prides herself on getting everything right, and if customers come in and sit with her again, she’ll remember what they ordered, where they sat, if they got banana pudding for dessert.
She works the lunch shift, when the restaurant is always busy, and never stops moving. She hustles among tables taking orders, refilling drinks and serving meals. Sometimes, she makes time to dance down the steps to bid her regulars farewell.
At lunch, she said, the staff’s goal is to get customers in and out as quickly and efficiently as possible, as most are on their lunch break.
“The goal is to get the table sat, and food and drinks out in a 20-minute window,” she said.
That goal requires effort and teamwork.
The staff, which Sullivan describes as a unit, works together to make sure shifts run smoothly. If Sullivan has a lot of tables, a hostess will take drink orders and or process checks. The buser keeps the tables clean and the back-of-the-house staff gets orders made in a timely manner.
“We take care of each other,” she said. “We’re a unit. We’re a family. We fight like siblings, but at the end of the day we come together as a big group.” Sullivan started as a fry cook in the original Blow Fly Inn, making $5.75 per hour. She learned how to prep, cook and fry foods, and run an industrial dishwasher. But she found her niche as a server. When Blow Fly came back at its original site in a new building after 2005’s Hurricane Katrina, she learned to be a bartender.
Asked why she still serves tables even though she’s the manager, Sullivan said the customers and regular faces are what keep her going and makes her happy.
“It’s not always about you making them smile,” she said. “Sometimes it’s about them making you smile.
“I like to serve tables because I can’t just stand around. People are fun. People are enjoyment.”
For Sullivan, the restaurant is a family tradition. Both of her children worked at Blow Fly Inn at one point, and her mother goes to work with her three days a week and helps fold napkins.