By Bethany Byrd
When you want to see your city succeed there is a deeper part of you at work, a part that wants to do more than find success for yourself, but for others around you. You seek out those with that same spark and, together, you begin to see change come about.
Jim and Mallorie Rasberry found this spark years ago and began to work to see Laurel, MS restored to its historical luster and to help it grow into the vibrant, bustling city that they, and others like them, have envisioned for so long.
The restoration and revitalization of a city doesn’t happen by chance, and it doesn’t happen through the hard work of one, but through the collective efforts of many.
Our job at Laurel Main Street is to give those like the Rasberrys a place to find others with that same spark and to help them find ways to work together to satisfy that deeper part of themselves, that part that wants to see us all lifted up. When they do succeed we celebrate with them, because we know their successes aren’t limited just to themselves but to all who call our beautiful city, home.
On September 18 we celebrated with Jim and Mallorie the realization of a small part of that dream, the restoration of one of Laurel’s most historically significant buildings, a new home for their growing businesses and a long-awaited addition to Downtown Laurel – the Laurel Welcome Center.
Their businesses, Rasberry Financial Services and Rasberry Producer Group, were moved into the First National Bank building on Central Ave during the weeks before the event and the building is now bursting with life as employees and clients step through the original revolving glass door. They look up to see a beautiful copper inlay, iron railings the original columns – all restored to pristine condition.
Jim says, “The building still has the same architectural character that it did when it was built in 1903 and is a true cornerstone of downtown. We are proud to be here and happy to continue doing business in a building that has meant so much to the history of Laurel and Jones County.”
A new story to tell
But the building isn’t just home to the Rasberry’s businesses. When you do find yourself pushing through the revolving glass door you’ll notice an unusual addition – a huge, red and black, 8-wheeled log wagon, the very same wagon that helped build this city over 100 years ago. The same wagon that inspired the creation of many of our town’s most important businesses; the same businesses that likely employed more than a few of our ancestors and provided the foundation for so many entrepreneurs to come.
You see, Jim & Mallorie understand that our city wasn’t built by one family, one business or one dream. They know that our incredible city was built by that collective spark and the efforts of many.
For now the wagon serves as a glimpse into the past as well as into the future. The wagon’s presence in its new home is only the first sign of the soon-to-come Laurel Welcome Center.
Thanks to the space provided by the Rasberrys and the efforts of many within Laurel Main Street, the City of Laurel and other community organizations, The Laurel Welcome Center will house everything from historical artifacts and photos, information about our city and upcoming events to Laurel-themed apparel and other items. When folks step foot in Downtown Laurel the Welcome Center will be there to help them find their way around our busy streets as well as to help them experience the storied history of our beloved town.
For the locals, the Welcome Center will serve as a meeting place and a place to come together to excite that spark that drives us all to work together so that we, like the Rasberrys, can see the power of many hands and hearts working together to build up all around us.
Judi Holified, the LMS Executive Director, spoke with WDAM at the Rasberry Open House about the purpose of the Laurel Welcome center and what you can expect soon:
First Laurel welcome center to be housed in old First National Bank building – WDAM TV
Do you have the spark?
If you want to help see Laurel restored and our future brightened then we want your help. It takes more than a spark to change a city, it takes action and the support of many.
If you are ready to take action or want to lend a supporting hand, reach out to us. We will help you find creative ways to help build up our beautiful city. Through membership, partnership or volunteerism – Laurel Main Street is supported by people just like you. We’d love to bring you aboard.
Photos of the Historical First National Bank Building from the OLMM Facebook Group
(Original photo posted by Bill Boyd here)
(Original photo posted by Van-Del Boisvert here)
(Original photo posted by Lonnie Wilson here)
(Original photo posted by Thomas Williams here)