One University Place taking shape

Cassandra Mickens

The Penguin is back.

The fabled restaurant and hangout for past Jackson State University students and faculty will return to campus in September on the ground floor of One University Place, said owner and operator John Hardy.

Hardy, general manager of the University Club in downtown Jackson for the past 36 years,

One University Place

retired from that post last week to resurrect The Penguin and its beloved hot dog special.

“It’s two hot dogs piled with cole slaw, french fries and slathered with a spicy barbecue sauce from a special recipe that no one’s been able to replicate. It’s so different, yet so good,” Hardy said.

Hardy has purchased the recipe from the original owner’s family – a guarantee from the new owner that the special will mirror the original.

“I’ve had people question whether this will be an authentic hot dog special. It will be,” he said.

The Penguin will be open for lunch and dinner from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday. The space seats about 70 people.

The 22,000-square-foot ground-floor retail space at One University Place, a mixed use development that includes apartments, is 75 percent leased less than a year after opening following construction delays, said Kimberly Hilliard, director of Jackson State’s Center for University-Based Development.

Other tenants include optometrist Tonyatta Hairston, who will open a second Jackson location for EnVision Eye Care in September. Hairston already has two practices in Magee and Belhaven.

Hairston said growth in downtown and West Jackson, and her love of Jackson State, factored into her decision to locate there.

“I drove my parents by the office the other night, and Jackson State is downtown Jackson now. It’s almost like it’s one in the same,” she said.

“This is a great opportunity to not only serve the students, but also the community at large.”

Another tenant, Gallery 1 at One University Place, will open in mid-August, said gallery director Kimberly Jaccobs. The Jackson State-owned gallery will display work from the university’s permanent collection, as well as work from local and national artists, Jacobs said.

Hilliard said two additional retail leases are pending.

For Hardy, The Penguin’s return complements the resurgence of West Jackson, an area he says more entrepreneurs should consider.

“I’m tired of people saying nothing can flourish in this area,” Hardy said. “There are 9,000 students across the street and 1,500 staff members. If I can’t make this work, I should fold up my tent and go home.”


12 thoughts on “One University Place taking shape

  1. I’m so excited that we have an Optometrist on campus, not only for the students at JSU but also for the community!!!!!!!!! We are moving towards GREATNESS at Envision Eye Care & Optical Boutique, “Where Everything is Clearer, Envision the Possibilities.”

  2. Congratulations to Dr. Hairston for bringing a 1st class full service eye care clinic to Jackson State University. Thanks for becoming a pillar in the community and being apart of the urban renewal that is taking in West Jackson. God bless. Wish you many years of success and continue to be a great role model for young African American girls. You go GIRL!!!!!!!!!!! Hard work pays off

  3. The “Penguin” with its hot dog special was the greatest. Catchings across the street where the new student center is located also had the best fried fish sandwich you could buy. What a great return and such fun memories.

  4. The decision to build One University Place, a smart one I might add, is attracting quality businesses to the university neighborhood, and so, is helping to revitalize the area.

    The opening of Gallery 1 is exciting. It is a neat compliment to the tenant mix at University Place. These and other businesses bode well for the neighborhood in becoming an attractive option to live and work.

    This is a terrific start Jackson State!

  5. Congratulations John and bringing the venture to OUP…When I’m in town I will definitely come by and encourage others to support the business.

    Great job!!

  6. This is WONDERFUL, I can’t wait until it opens. I know that Mr. Hardy is making the original owners family of the Penguin very happy!

  7. I work down the street from The Peguin, and am excited about its opening and look forward to visiting there for lunch and dinner.


  8. It’s great that some things only get better with age. The Penguin will continue to support generations of Jacksonians yet unborn. Good stuff!!! I had my first hotdog special in June 1968!!!

  9. You and I Mr. Hardy have the same mind, but congratulations on getting there first. I will be your best customer!

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