"I'd never been there," Cotton says of the long-defunct restaurant attached to Metrocenter Mall, "but there are people who come in and say, 'I came here for my prom dinner; that's neat that it's still there.'"
But Jacksonians aren't just visiting for nostalgia's sake. They're coming to eat at the new Eme's Restaurant, which is part of the expansive Next Level Experience project at the Metrocenter. Though the mall and much of west Jackson has declined since its heyday, Cotton says she believes that it can come alive again; it just needs a little nudge.
"There are other restaurants that are coming to the Metro(center) that wouldn't have if we weren't here—Big Apple Inn, Stamps Burgers," she says. "That means, maybe we can do the (Highway) 80 corridor. Maybe west Jackson is really coming back."
Eme's, an upscale restaurant, is just one part of Next Level Experience. The banquet halls, Soul Sensation Lounge and the W2 Rooftop Cigar Lounge outside round out the complex.
Altogether, Next Level Experience has four distinct stages for entertainment—stages that Cotton says can, and will, be used simultaneously. The venue has already hosted concerts, comedy shows and other events, including its all-you-can-eat Gospel Sunday Brunch from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. each week.
"The restaurant is just icing on the cake for all the rest of the things we have going on," Cotton says.
Though Cotton serves on the management team for Next Level Experience, she is just one of the many people working to bring the puzzle together.
"It's been a learning experience," Tameka Garrett, assistant general manager and head of sales and marketing for Next Level Experience, says. "But the support that we've gotten so far—oh my goodness. We are so grateful that people are supporting us."
"When you have foot traffic for food, your retail stores have foot traffic, too. That will bring retailers back inside the mall. It's the talk of the town already, and we've only been open two months. So we see ourselves being the destination for entertainment and food in the city. Period."
The Next Level Experience is located at 3645 Metro Drive inside the Metrocenter Mall's upper-south level, above the Jackson Police Department. Next Level is open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. for lunch daily and reopens from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. each night.
<em>For more information, call 769.447.4518 or visit nextleveljxn.com.</em>