Laurel entrepreneur seeking to build a vibrant downtown, one booth at a time

Story by Ethan Davis, LMS Intern and Bethany Byrd

Imagine opening a business in a viable, expanding market with little to no risk or overhead.

That is Andrea Milham’s vision for local entrepreneurs: high return with low investment.

Andrea is the incredibly successful owner of Laurel’s own Southern Antique Mall, and her dream is to build a vibrant downtown one business at a time, and Laurel Main Street wants to help her do it.

Humble beginnings & restoring the past

Andrea could not always claim to have a business that attracts visitors from across the southeast.

What began as an idea and a single $20 shelf in a building she adored became an entrepreneurial passion.

With her single shelf she saw an opportunity, not just for herself, but for so many others like her – to build something out of nothing, to test out their dreams without risking everything.

The first step towards Andrea’s dream was to purchase the Southern Antique mall and to restore and rebuild it into a magnificent jumping-off point for the dreams of others. She knew she needed to create a uniquely modern/historical appeal inspired by her love of the classic buildings in Downtown Laurel, where she lives and works.

Southern Antique Mall Before Facade Renovation

Like Andrea, Laurel Main Street believes that the restoration of our beautiful, historic downtown buildings should be a carefully guided process driven by a desire to restore their original luster while also appealing to modern cultural tastes.

Andrea and LMS looked to Erin Napier, a nationally renowned graphic artist, owner of Lucky Luxe Couture Correspondence, Laurel native and LMS member, for help in guiding the design process and helping Andrea find the perfect graphical touches for new signage on both Central Ave and Magnolia St. Bill Holloway, an architect and former LMS vice president, gave careful advice, guidance and encouragement on many of the implemented improvements and restorations.

The Laurel Main Street Facade grant helped Andrea to pay for her building’s new signage and serves to motivate and encourage entrepreneurs just like her to help restore Downtown Laurel to its original luster and to push it forward into an even brighter future.

With the guiding hands of two of Laurel Main Street’s finest, the LMS Facade grant, and Andrea’s own personal tastes, passion and drive, her building came to life with a grand new facade and stunning new signage.

Restored and ready for growth

Southern Antique Mall After Facade Renovation

Now, both old and young come to a place that’s anything but a stuffy antique store. Gone is the dim lighting and grunge stereotypical of an old building. The newly-restored windows allow ample sunlight to shine on the beautiful wooden floors, and once-sealed doors now open onto Central Avenue.

Besides streamlining influxes of people, the new doors permit entrance through the street connected to Southern Antique’s actual physical address, and one of downtown Laurel’s busiest thoroughfares.

The artfully arranged booths are now showcased in what is now one of Downtown Laurel’s finest buildings. From artwork to antiques, one-of-a-kind treasures to long-awaited designer pieces, Southern Antique Mall has become the hub for tiny businesses in Downtown Laurel. But it doesn’t stop there!

southern-antique-laurel-main-street-facade

Southern Antique Mall New Sign on Magnolia, St

Antiques, art and a new facade are just the beginning

The bigger picture is Andrea’s vision to create a vibrant, business-filled Downtown Laurel.

She has eliminated the largest obstacles to growth—overhead, investment, risk—and constructed a system of safe increase.

One low fee is all it takes.

One fee – no employees to manage, no utility bills, no property taxes, no fear of trying something new.

Andrea is inviting you to test your big idea, to build and create, to see where your passion takes you.

Then, just like Andrea, from shelf to booth to store. Maybe the next LMS Facade Grant will be yours – restoring your very own downtown treasure to it’s original luster, and presenting your now-proven idea to the world.

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It’s happening now

Andrea’s dream isn’t some far-away, unachievable vision – it’s happening, right now. Soon, the downtown bookstore you’ve all been waiting for will be opening inside the Antique Mall, and your favorite Farmer’s Market baked goods are now offered weekly.

The Bake Shop by Julie ShowsLily Trest's GranolaStop by every Thursday to pick up some of Julie Shows’ wonderful baked goods and some of Lily Trest’s delicious granola treats.

These are examples of two ideas being tested and futures being imagined. Without debt or risk, and with ample time to build awareness and interest in their products, these two businesses could find new homes in their very own buildings soon.

But first – time for their ideas to grow, and a beautifully restored place in which to do it.

Have an idea for a booth? Contact Andrea at 601.426.2322 or reach out to her on Facebook, or come visit her at the Southern Antique Mall on the corner of Central Ave. & Magnolia St., Downtown Laurel, Mississippi.

Do you, like Andrea, have bigger dreams for your downtown building? Click here to learn more about the LMS Facade Grant.