Legacy & Leadership: Lott Furniture {Established 1917}

Lott Furniture Employees and Families in front of Reuben Lott’s Residence in the Late 1960s

Legacy. The word itself means “something handed down from the past,” and that is what we think of when we hear it.

We think old and dusty.

We think about ancient civilizations that gave us alphabets and statues.

We think about museums and echoes in vast, empty halls.

But the truth is…

Legacy is all around us.

Lott Furniture is about to celebrate its centennial anniversary. One hundred years ago, World War I had just started; 10 mph was the speed limit; and our flag did not have 50 stars.

100 years is a long time for anything to have survived, so can you imagine a store in Downtown Laurel doing just that?

For our friends at Lott Furniture, legacy is not relic of history. For them, legacy is a part of their everyday lives. They acknowledge the past and look to the future, and, by doing so, give us the freedom to do the same.

320 Front Street Laurel, MS 39440

Lott Furniture Company – 320 Front Street

As part of a new initiative to shine a light on those who, like Lott Furniture, have contributed to the past growth as well as the future prosperity of Downtown Laurel, we asked them to give us a peek into what has helped them stand the test of time.

We appreciate their willingness to answer a few questions and help us kick off our new series entitled:

“Legacy & Leadership in Downtown Laurel”

What is Lott Furniture?

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“We are one of the oldest family-owned and run furniture retailers in the Deep South. Our relationship with many of our customers spans generations.

We do our own financing and offer cash discounts, which have contributed greatly to our longevity. As a complete home furnisher we have merchandise for every room in the house, including appliances.”

Lott Furniture Employees in Uniform (1960s)

How did Lott Furniture begin?

Laurel Depot, 1896 copy

Laurel Train Depot, 1896 (Lauren Rogers Museum of Art Archives)

“Founded in 1917 between Laurel’s only butcher shop and hardware store, we were in the heart of the commercial district. The lumberyard and train station across the street were major hubs of regional activity, and the song stylings of Blues legend Blind Roosevelt Graves and his tamborine-playing brother Uaroy attracted travelers to the store.

The early years were difficult, but the business survived two world wars and the Great Depression. By the mid 60s there were 10 sister stores throughout Mississippi.”

How has Lott Furniture changed since 1917?

“Until 20 years ago, our wood body furniture trucks were a local fixture. Many customers never even visited the store. Sales and monthly payments were handled by our outside salesmen.

Although we can no longer go door to door, we still try to keep a friendship with our customers. Most visit us every month and we usually know them by name. In earlier years, we sold a wide variety of merchandise besides home furnishings. Bicycles, small appliances, and even guitars were big sellers in years past.”

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How do you feel Lott Furniture will be different in 5 years?

“Although many believe change is good, there’s a certain comfort in tradition. Bucking the trend in the seventies, we declined to move our accounts to computer.

We still do all bookwork and accounting by hand. Our financing is simple and very accommodating for young or established shoppers. We are utilizing modern social media to reach customers and hope to do more in the future.

Finding and keeping the balance between “old” and “new” is a challenge we are ready to face.”

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Who do you think needs to hear your story and why?

“Anyone who lives in Laurel should be familiar with our story, especially residents and commuters of the Downtown area. The history of our city is just as beautiful as it is interesting. It’s important that our community grows together and shares our past as well as our future.”

What is your best advice for those looking to participate in the growth, revitalization and restoration of Downtown Laurel?

“Get involved. The best way to restore downtown Laurel is to simply participate. Meet your neighbors. Make your storefront inviting. Bring your family to downtown events. Feed social media with exciting information and photos. Share your love for Laurel!

Without the amazing support of this community, we would not still be here. A small business that survives for 10 years is a huge accomplishment, and here we are approaching 100 years! We are very proud of our little store and its rich and interesting story. Stop by sometime. We would be happy to share it with you!”

Lott Furniture Employees 2015

(LtoR) Bridget Pittman, Doug McDonald, Rodney Rowell, Angela Rowell, Keri Rowell, Candy Pevey, Tacardo WIlliams

Thanks for joining us as we showcase the people and places that make the City Beautiful extraordinary. These stories represent the history that helps define and motivate us, and we are thankful that the Lott Furniture family agreed to share their history with us.

Look for more of these posts as we continue our series Legacy and Leadership in Downtown Laurel.

Written by Ethan Davis

Ethan Davis is an English major at Jones County Junior College. He serves as Phi Theta Kappa President and Opinions Editor for the student newspaper, the Radionian. As the current Laurel Main Street intern, he assists in multiple elements of organization, economic restructuring, promotion, and design.