Oxford residents and University of Mississippi alumni Kyle and Jordyn Thornton rely on their tailgating company, SevenSouth, as their main source of annual income. However, with the recent fall tailgating ban from Gov. Tate Reeves, their business and others like it will essentially be shut down for the entirety of what is typically their busy season.
The couple said that before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, 2020 “was shaping up to be a very big year” for their business. Still, the Thorntons said the company will survive this fall and will be ready to serve its customers in 2021 in a way that is “truly unmatched.”
Reeves’ current executive order limits tailgating companies’ abilities to open and do business with regularity on campuses statewide, but Kyle Thornton said SevenSouth’s stance on the order garners the utmost respect to decisions made by the governor.
“As much as we want to serve our customers this season, our desire as a business is to follow all state and local regulations respectfully,” he said.
What came as an idea to maintain an income in college, former Ole Miss baseball player Kyle Thornton hung up his cleats to start a tailgating business full time. The idea, he said, came out of a bit of a necessity since arm and shoulder injuries left him unable to perform on the mound.
“With no scholarship and no income, I had to figure out a way to make a living while double majoring in marketing and HR management within the business school,” he said.
After joining in on small tailgating inquiries with a friend during his freshman year of college, Thornton decided to take the business into his own hands. In 2009, he served four customers which totaled to seven 10-by-10 tents each game. In year two, he hired friends and set up 38 tents. By his junior year, he went all-in, even marrying co-owner Jordyn the summer between his junior and senior years.
SevenSouth Tailgating consists of 65 men and women staff members who provide hands-on customer service by providing TV packages, linen services, beverage services and game day service where any request by a customer is provided for. Game day services offer unloading assistance, food delivery, ice delivery and “runners” who assist customers with any other needs throughout their game-day experience. At the end of the game, SevenSouth takes care of cleaning up for its customers.
“From start to finish, we want our fellow Ole Miss fans to have everything they need when they need it, so their Grove experience is as effortless as possible,” Thornton said.
Last year, the company averaged about mid-300s for non-conference games and about mid-400s for SEC games. For example, the 2019 LSU game resulted in 453 tent set-ups, whereas the Southeastern Louisiana game that year resulted in 346 tents.
Not only does SevenSouth cater to Rebel fans, but the company sent their services all the way to Boulder, Colorado, at the University of Colorado in 2016 where they averaged about 106 tents. The University of Colorado is in the PAC-12 conference, one of the Big Five conferences that postponed its season until Jan. 1 2021.
Hope is not lost for the company, stating they will brainstorm ideas for fine-tuning their business and preparing for potential growth for next year.
“As much as we are saddened by the news to not be able to provide our services this fall, we are excited to see how things rebound and blossom next season,” he said. “The Grove, Oxford and anyone who loves Ole Miss will be greatly affected by the circumstances this fall, but we’ll all survive and come back stronger together.”