MMSA Downtown Revitalization Awards: Merchant of the Year

The Mississippi Main Street Association‘s award for Merchant of the Year recognizes one outstanding local business owner who has a flourishing and innovative business and displays an involved commitment to downtown and his or her Main Street program.  On June 21, 2018, Lott Furniture Co. received this honor at the annual MMSA Downtown Revitalization Awards in Jackson, MS. The following narrative was written by Ethan Davis and was submitted to the Mississippi Main Street judges panel.

Merchant of the Year

Lott Furniture Co. is Laurel’s oldest business; they have over a century of history in our small town. Rodney Rowell and his wife Angie believe that their business is more than just a means to an end. They believe that it is a resource for them to put down roots in their community.

Lott Furniture

The business is most certainly a family affair. Rodney’s mother, Nelly, worked there for over 50 years, with Rodney and his sister Candy following in her footsteps. In fact, Angie and Rodney met each
other while working at Lott Furniture. Now, their daughter, Keri, is stepping in to continue the tradition. The Lott crew loves history, and they fuse it with present and future in every aspect of their business. They, of course, take payments via credit cards, but they still do their books by hand, still know their customers by name, still care about the person behind the purchase. 

The Lott Furniture business model is revolutionary, but it’s actually not new. The team took Mr. Lott’s original business model—selling furniture on credit—and adapted it to the young couples that move to Laurel. The couples were amazed that they could get amazing furniture and afford it by paying monthly. Lott Furniture is re-educating the youngest generations about building relationships through credit. They also started a series of workshops called Wine and Design that give décor tips and advice on how to turn a house into a home.

However, the most incredible thing about the folks at Lott is their commitment to Downtown Laurel. Their Instagram feed is dedicated to Laurel itself; you’ll only see ads for their products in their stories. Rodney Rowell has been called the cheerleader for Laurel, and a quick look at how much he supports his fellow local businesses attests to that name. He buys everything he can from fellow merchants downtown and is a tireless supporter of Laurel Main Street. Rodney even met with local creative Bethany Byrd of Own Your Hill to create a map of Downtown Laurel and the other merchants there. Lott Furniture paid for the first batch, and it is now a staple in Downtown; every visitor picks one up when they start to explore.

When it comes to Downtown Laurel, the Rowell’s have seen it all: a thriving center of business, a downtown disrupted by urban renewal, the sheds coming down and the streets alive again. Rodney is the go-to guy for all young and older entrepreneurs. He is the epitome of believing, in good times and bad.

Rowell Family

On Thursday, June 21, 2018 the Mississippi Main Street Association hosted their 29th Annual Downtown Revitalization Awards Luncheon at the Old Capitol Inn in Jackson, MS.  Each year Mississippi Main Street recognizes excellence in downtown revitalization and honors local Main Street champions.  This is a wonderful opportunity to show the success of Laurel Main Street, to exchange ideas with other Main Street organizations, and is especially encouraging to see other thriving and successful communities. 

What is Loblolly Festival?

Saturday October 6, 2018 · 9am ’til 4pm

Loblolly LumberjackThe Loblolly Festival is held annually on the first Saturday in October and celebrates Laurel’s heritage as a sawmill town. Parking and admission are free, so bring the family and get ready for a fun-filled day!

Vendors from several states, artists, crafters and craftsmen set up shop in the streets of downtown Laurel for this one day event.

From mid-morning to late-afternoon musicians and songwriters will display their talents on the Loblolly Stage.

Festival goers will be enticed by the aromas of the food trucks lining Oak Street. Enjoy authentic festival food like funnel cakes, chicken-on-a-stick and award winning barbecue.

You won’t be able to miss the flannel-adorned Laurel Lumberjack who stands nearly a foot taller than all around him.  He quickly draws a crowd and is happy to oblige those requesting photos.

Look on as a talented artist cranks his chainsaw and shapes logs and limbs into beautiful artwork at this favorite festival attraction, funded by a grant from the Mississippi Arts Commission.

Teens flock to the Art on Masonite contest, hoping to find the winning ribbon pinned to their own creation.

The Kids’ Zone at the Loblolly Festival grows every year too! There’s something for children of all ages!

Soon, the 2018 Loblolly Festival will be a recent memory, but for now, there is still time to experience the fun and nostalgia as we celebrate our storied past and enjoy our artful, musical, delicious present.

Join us for the 2018 Loblolly Festival in downtown Laurel!

Saturday, October 6th from 9am ’til 4pm

MMSA Downtown Revitalization Awards: Best Adaptive Reuse Project

On Thursday, June 21st, the Mississippi Main Street Association hosted their 29th Annual Downtown Revitalization Awards Luncheon at the Old Capitol Inn in Jackson, MS.  Each year Mississippi Main Street recognizes excellence in downtown revitalization and honors local Main Street champions.  This is a wonderful opportunity to show the success of Laurel Main Street, to exchange ideas with other Main Street organizations, and is especially encouraging to see other thriving and successful communities. This year, Laurel Main Street was honored to receive four awards.  Over the coming weeks, we will showcase each award and the work that went into achieving them.  

Best Adaptive Reuse Project

The transformation of the Burton Building on the corner of Magnolia and Oak Streets was The Burton Buildinghonored as Best Adaptive Reuse Project.  As stated by the Mississippi Main Street Association (MMSA), “This award is granted to the best adaptive reuse of a building that has outlived its former use, including conversion to housing, office space, multiple businesses, public meeting space, restaurants, cultural centers, etc.” The following narrative was written by Ethan Davis and was submitted to the Mississippi Main Street judges panel.

Laurel Main Street Executive Director, Judi Holifield, used to say that rehabilitating the Burton’s building would be the ultimate domino effect; all of the other buildings along Magnolia Street would be sold if only that one could be. After all, anchor buildings like this one can make or break an area. The problem? The Burton’s building needed love and a lot of it, and it needed someone with the vision and patience to breathe life back into the structure. So, the building sat vacant for years—a prominent, depressing eye-sore—that is, until Josh Nowell came along.

Josh had been an oil man until the industry took a turn for the worse, and he needed a new career path. He decided he would invest in Downtown Laurel, starting with the  most ambitious project it had to offer. The renovation took over two years. Floors were removed and structural support added; the old façade was taken to make room for a new one; the outside of the building was washed, and a new paint job was in order; the vintage sign was restored and saved; electricians and plumbers and demolition crews and designers and just about every professional you can imagine contributed at some point. Clearly, it was a labor of love.

The building is now full and is home to two home goods stores, a coworking space, an
engineering firm, and a restaurant. Josh renovated to suit each tenant, which allowed the facades to be different and yet complementary. Each one is beautifully restored with lots of exposed brick and original wood and tiles. The integrity of the building was maintained while allowing new businesses to find a home. The old awnings were replaced with new metal ones of a deep gold color, complimenting the blues and greens on the exterior. CSpire fiber, a cutting edge, hyper-fast internet, was also installed, making the building a fusion between past and future.

The best part of this story is that Judi Holifield was right. Once the Burton’s building was brought back to life, new businesses opened up on Magnolia Street, including Molly Renee’s Boutique, Guild and Gentry, The Loblolly Boutique and Crescent Line Toys. The building has provided not only space for businesses to grow and flourish but has also given the history a chance to continue in new and interesting ways.

 

 

The Park That Safety 1st Built

When baby gear company Safety 1st approached local HGTV personalities, Ben & Erin Napier about sprucing up a park in Laurel for a commercial shoot, their initial response was “All of our parks are beautiful already.  We can’t think of a single one that needs a makeover on this scale.” Then, friend Josh Nowell had a lightbulb moment… What about Trustmark Park on the corner of Oak and Magnolia Streets?  It might be a little tricky though… the park was owned by the bank.  

After a meeting with Trustmark Bank officials, the City of Laurel, Laurel Main Street, Ben, and Josh, the bank agreed to donate the park to the city.  The city accepted the park and agreed to its maintenance.  Neel-Schaffer designed a beautiful and functional space and provided support throughout the construction process.  Laurel Main Street received the funds from Safety 1st for the renovation and work began.  

Old, tangled ground cover was removed to make way for artificial turf.  The turf makes a soft and safe play space for children, and is an easy to clean alternative to grass or wood chips. A hill was created in the middle of the park — perfect for rolling and sliding down!  

 

Beyond creating a safe and welcoming space, we desired a space that would reflect the personality of our town as well.  For that, local artist, Adam Trest, designed custom fence panels which were manufactured locally by C & C Specialties.  For the purpose of the Safety 1st commercial shoot in the park, their logo was painted on the brick facade of the building bordering the park.  Soon, this facade will be repainted with a custom mural, designed by Adam Trest to compliment the fence panels.

We would like to thank Safety 1st for their generous donation to our community.  However, we would be remiss if we did not also thank Laurel Main Street Board President, Lew Yoder, for negotiating the donation of the park.

At the grand opening of the newly renovated park, children enjoyed toys and activities from Crescent Line Toys, and swings from the Laurel Mercantile.  Special thanks to Mimmo’s Ristorante Pizzeria for catering this event with their delicious pizzas, and to Shug’s Cookie Dough and Candy Bar for providing sweet treats!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our Deepest Thanks to:

Safety 1st

The Napier Family

Josh Nowell

Trustmark Bank

The City of Laurel

Neel-Schaffer Engineers

Dunn Roadbuilders

Landmark Landscape

Cynthia Rahaim, Horticulturist

Laurel Mercantile

Crescent Line Toys

Adam Trest

C & C Specialties

Mimmo’s Ristorante Pizzeria

Shug’s Cookie Dough & Candy Bar

Photo credit: Laura Jones

“The One” Awards

Once a year the Laurel Main Street organization honors members of our downtown community for their commitment to the Main Street cause and their dedication to our community with “The One” Awards.  The awards were named for a phrase that pops up again and again during brainstorming or event planning sessions: “Those who say it cannot be done should get out of the way of THE ONEs who are doing it!”  On April 26th, we celebrated the dreamers, the doers, and THE ONES whose desire to leave things better than they found it is evident in all their pursuits.

This year, we enjoyed a beautiful evening at the home of LMS board members, Mallorie & Jim Rasberry.  Attendees enjoyed perfect spring weather, great food, and fellowship with those who share their affinity for downtown Laurel.  Awards were created by local calligrapher and artist Jade Yoder of Paper Studio and were presented by Laurel Main Street President, Lew Yoder.

Downtown Business of the Year

Chad & Terri Knight, owners of The Knight Butcher, were named Downtown Business of the Year.  They are THE ONES who have completed such a tremendous amount of work on their storefront and have also worked tirelessly to create an engaging and inviting atmosphere.  Their work outside their store, in the downtown community, is widespread as well, and we appreciate their dedication to downtown Laurel and Laurel Main Street!  Whether they’re rallying downtown merchants, creating secret Easter egg hunts downtown, or hosting Laurelpalooza, the Knights have shown their love for downtown knows no bounds.

THE ONE Award

THE ONE Award is presented each year to Laurel Main Street’s top volunteer.  This year, James & Nece Hill and Agape Church received THE ONE Award.  The Hills began their service to downtown Laurel ten years ago when few others had a vision of what downtown Laurel could be.  They renovated the former Woolworth’s building and built a modern church in the center of downtown.  Agape Church’s desire to serve the community around them is a direct reflection of the Hill’s heart for service and love of Laurel.  Agape Church is responsible for Downtown Movie Night, one of the most anticipated family events of the summer.  Without their manpower, Downtown Movie Night wouldn’t happen.  Agape Church will also provide the volunteers for this summer’s Downtown Laurel Farmers Market.  We are so incredibly thankful for the Hills and the congregation of Agape Church for their loyalty and dedication to Laurel Main Street and the revitalization of downtown Laurel!The ONE Award