Woman re-opens her grandmother's iconic Ocean Springs restaurant

OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - Henrietta's Cafe in downtown Ocean Springs closed in 1995 after owner Henrietta Savage was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. But now her granddaughter has decided to follow in her footsteps and re-opened the iconic restaurant.

"It's surreal," Angela Cvitanovich Vermillion said, "I feel like I'm reliving my youth."

Her grandmother and dad ran Henrietta's for 52 years. It was when her dad, Sammy Cvitanovich, was diagnosed with dementia three years ago Vermillion resigned from her job and decided to follow her dreams.

"My grandmother, Mrs. Henrietta, is excited upstairs. And my daddy has a twinkle in his eye now. He is just so excited and that makes it all worth it," Vermillion said.

Sammy Cvitanovich comes to the restaurant four days a week to visit with customers and sip a whiskey and 7up.

"It's great to be alive," Cvitanovich said. "It reminds me of old times when I was younger."

To honor her dad's wishes, Vermillion turned the old apartment in the back into Sammy's Whiskey Bar.

Laughing he said, "It's great."

"There was not even questioning to do it or not to do it," Vermillion said. "It was like, we are going to have to do it as quickly as possible."

It took a year and a half to restore the restaurant to be like it was 18 years ago. When customers walk inside, they will see the same floor, cash register, tablecloths; even the same daily specials. The food has the same flavor because one of the original chefs, Jeannie Foster, is back in the kitchen.

"She stood by my grandmother for 29 years, and so the potato salad is just like my grandmother's," Vermillion said, "and the red beans and rice is just like my grandma's."

During the lunch hour, many familiar faces sit at the counter.

"There's been a big void ever since it was gone. We kind of grew up in this restaurant," Jerry Dalgo said.

It has been just a little more than a week since Vermillion opened the doors and she has enjoyed every minute of it.

"My dreams and prayers have come true," Vermillion said.

The restaurant even got its original phone number back. But here's one thing the old Henrietta's never had - a Facebook page. Check it out to see more pictures from years ago: https://www.facebook.com/HenriettasCafe

Copyright 2013 WLOX. All rights reserved.