It was where people celebrated anniversaries and special occasions, and now White Pillars, which has been closed for 30 years, is only months from reopening.
Celebrating a “new beginning” Monday, invited guests nibbled on elegant hors d’oeuvres, sampled craft cocktails and met the new proprietors, Chef Austin Sumrall and Tresse Sumrall, who moved to South Mississippi from Birmingham.
“I was excited by the enthusiasm, for sure,” Chef Sumrall said after he unveiled the new logos and mingled with guests. Architect Buzzy Bolton is hurrying to complete plans for the kitchen, he said, so construction can be completed. Much of the rest of the building was restored five years ago to repair the damage of Hurricane Katrina, while the kitchen remained unfinished so that it could be rebuilt to the new chef’s specifications.
Sumrall, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, said he plans to be open by mid- to late-November and is working on menus that will make the most of seasonal Southern ingredients. He’s also started on the craft cocktail list, and guests Monday sampled his essence of elderflower cocktail.
Even before they open, Sumrall said there is a lot of interest in the community. “We booked one Mardi Gras party and one wedding already,” he said.
It took 5 years to find the right people to carry on the tradition of excellence the Mladinich family wanted for the restaurant they operated for 40 years. Brooks Holstein, managing member of COMVEST Properties, said he and his wife, Debbie, made a commitment to her father before he died that they would return the building and the restaurant to the prominence it had when he and Virginia Mladinich operated it and he and Debbie worked there.
“I have a lot of memories in this room,” Virginia Mladinich said Monday as she sat in the bar and watched the response as the new proprietors prepare to open the restaurant.
“The building itself is gorgeous,” she said, and the family hopes the restaurant becomes something for the Coast to enjoy again.
Bill Raymond, Biloxi’s historical administrator, grew up just up the street.
“This was the place,” he said, and he complemented the restoration that left the original bar and other features. “You can still get the sense of the history that’s here in this project,” he said.