OXFORD - After three years with a retail space that was more than she'd ever needed, Beth Vickers is closing her Provisions gourmet specialty shop. Customers who've grown to depend on her gourmet-to-go casseroles, dips, sauces and other cooked-from-scratch dishes, however, need not despair.

Today will be the last day in Provisions' West Jackson Avenue strip mall location. On Tuesday, Vickers will reopen with a booth of her signature frozen and refrigerated foods and a small selection of branded jellies, salsas and mixes in the Sugar Magnolia Antique Mall on University Avenue.

Sales have understandably dropped with the economic downturn, Vickers said. Customers have even called to reassure her that they hadn't left but were cooking more at home.

"I knew, regardless of the economy, that I needed to downsize," she said. "This was just a tremendous amount of square footage for me, and I did want to concentrate on the part of the business that we do best - the 'gourmet to-go' part of it."

It's unfortunate to have to make the move during the University of Mississippi's football season.

"We'll miss this weekend's game with Northern Arizona, but we'll be back in business for the Tennessee game," she said.

One of the specialty items she'll continue to sell both for tailgating and for home is pepper jelly.

"I like to keep things that are easy to have for entertaining, that you'd have on hand if you wanted to invite the neighbors over," Vickers said. "You can open a bottle of wine and grab a jar of pepper jelly and a block of cream cheese, and you're set."

For the time being, Vickers will lease a commercial kitchen part-time for marathon sessions of making garlic cheese grits, poppyseed chicken, bleu pimiento cheese and slow-cooked lasagna with tomato-basil-vodka cream sauce - among other specialties. When the economy recovers, she'll resume looking for a place better suited to cooking and teaching than her current storefront.

"I'd love to offer more cooking classes," she said, noting that she grows most of the herbs used in her cooking. "Ideally, the perfect space for me would be an old house that I could convert to mostly kitchen."

Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal

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