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. 

Essentials for Downtown Thursday

The start of Downtown Thursday is only a week away so we’ve rounded up some items from our downtown merchants that will make your trip to the Laurel Farmers Market and Downtown Movie Night a breeze even if there’s not a breeze in sight.

Make Your List & Check it Twice

Take your grocery list with you to the Farmers Market and buy what you can locally grown!  The Gift Shop at Oak Street Place, housed inside the same building as popular downtown hangout Lee’s Coffee & Tea, offers beautiful paper goods, gift items, and these Market List notepads by Rifle Paper Co.

Country Farm Market List by Rifle Paper Co. | Gift Shop at Oak Street Place | Click to Shop

Citrus Floral Julep Market List by Rifle Paper Co. | Gift Shop at Oak Street Place | Click to Sho

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Be Cool

Summer sun in South Mississippi is no laughing matter.  Keep your cool and show your love for downtown with a Downtown Laurel cap from Lott Furniture Co.  Stay hydrated with luxury tumblers by Sovaro from Patina’s.  Sovaro coolers are also available for purchase if you want to pack a picnic for movie night!

Downtown Laurel Cap | Lott Furniture Co.

Sovaro Coolers & Tumblers | Patina’s

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

See and Be Seen

Downtown Thursday is more than a market or a movie; it’s a weekly social event!  Keep your cool and look your best with shades from Guild & Gentry or a cute new outfit from Sass & Class Boutique on Central Ave.

Maho Shades | Guild & Gentry

Top and Shorts | Sass & Class Boutique

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Totes Y’all

You’re sure to load up on lots of goodies at the Farmers Market and you’ll definitely want a hand getting them home!  These tote bags are the perfect size and shape so be sure to pick one up before the market!

Beehive Market Bag | Adam Trest Home | Click to Shop

Canvas Tote | Laurel Mercantile Co. | Click to Shop

Downtown Laurel Canvas Tote | Lott Furniture Co.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dinner and a Movie

On Thursdays, pack a picnic or grab dinner downtown!  These huge microfiber beach towels from Guild & Gentry are perfect for a picnic during Downtown Movie Night.  Vintage quilts also make fantastic picnic blankets and can be purchased at Peddlers’ Junktion.

Dock and Bay Microfiber Beach Towels | Guild & Gentry | Click to Shop

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Knight Butcher will be open until 7:00 p.m. every Thursday in June and will offer tax free jerky, fudge, and brown bag dinners!  If you don’t want to take your dinner to-go, grab a seat on the patio and enjoy live music on The Knight Butcher stage from 5:00 – 7:00 p.m.

Knight Sugar Homemade Fudge | The Knight Butcher

Knight Jerky | The Knight Butcher

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We can’t wait to see all the vendors and visitors next Thursday for the first Downtown Thursday of the season!

Countdown to Downtown Thursday!

The temperatures are rising and we’re counting down the days to summer!  Locals and visitors alike are looking forward to the longer days and activities that summer brings.  A favorite summertime event in Laurel is “Downtown Thursday” and this year, it’s getting a makeover!

Downtown Thursday is a series family-friendly evenings every Thursday night beginning May 31st and lasting until June 28th. Friends from all over Mississippi and beyond are welcome to attend this exciting, fun-filled season of fresh produce, live entertainment, movies, and community.

 The evenings will kick off with a Farmers Market from 5-8 pm and will continue with a family-friendly movie at The Backlot. Each night will feature live music on the Farmers Market Stage outside of Southern Antiques, along with great food and endless fun. 

The Laurel Farmers Market

The Laurel Farmers Market is definitely not your usual farmers market! It offers a street fair environment with something different going on each week… from kids’ activities and food trucks to live music and a car show! At its new location on North Magnolia Street, the Laurel Farmers Market will be open for business from 5 pm – 8 pm under the lights of downtown. Aside from stocking up on fruits, vegetables, and an assortment of homemade foods, visitors to this market can also stop by the many merchants along Magnolia Street and the entire downtown. This seasonal market attracts local farmers, gardeners, artisans, and craftsmen, resulting in an impressive variety of merchandise. Check out the Laurel Farmers Market for yourself every Thursday starting May 31st – through June 28th.

If you’re interested in becoming a vendor at the Laurel Farmers Market, click here to register.

Farmers Market Entertainment Line-up

MAY 31 –    KERRY THOMAS  (FIREWORKS AT 8PM)

JUNE 7 –    TOPHER BROWN  (with special guests BEN & ERIN NAPIER)

JUNE 14 –  GRAYSON CAPPS (FOOD TRUCK NIGHT)

JUNE 21 –  JOHN MILHAM JAZZ TRIO

JUNE 28 –  DJ JIM SCOTT (RED, WHITE & VROOM CAR & BIKE SHOW)

Downtown Movie Night

Downtown Movie Night is a highly anticipated summertime event and gets bigger and better each year!  Join us in The Backlot at the end of Magnolia Street after the Farmer’s Market for family-friendly movies under the stars.

Downtown Movie Night Line-up

coco movie

May 31st

ferdinand movie

June 7th

boss baby movie

June 14th

peter rabbit movie

June 21st

despicable me movie

June 28th

A new addition to the Downtown Thursday entertainment schedule is the Red, White, & Vroom Car & Bike Show.  It will take place on Thursday, June 28th from 3pm-8pm on the 400 block of Central Avenue.  Registration is going on now!  Click here for more information or to register!

car show

These fantastic events would not be possible without signature sponsor, Central Sunbelt Federal Credit Union.  Laurel Main Street is proud to partner with The Agape Church and Central Sunbelt FCU to continue bringing Downtown Thursday fun to Laurel!

Vote Now for Best of the Pine Belt and Best of Mississippi

Voting for the Best of the Pine Belt and for the Best of Mississippi are both currently open. Help us celebrate the best of Jones County by voting in BOTH polls.  It just takes a few minutes to submit your ballots online!

Best of Mississippi

Best of MS 2018

Mississippi Magazine publishes an annual list of the Best of Mississippi — dining out, getting out, and seeking out .  Laurel and Jones County businesses have been featured many times in the past and we hope to see even more representation this year!  Vote for past honorees and new favorites from across our community to be featured as the Best of Mississippi.

You must enter votes for a minimum of 20 categories and you can only submit one entry per e-mail address.  Ready to vote for your favorites?  Click here to access the online ballot for Best of Mississippi 2018.  Voting is open until April 15th.

Best of the Pine Belt

BOTPB logo

Festival South and Signature Magazine will announce the Best of the Pine Belt winners on June 2nd and there are many local businesses nominated.  Look for these categories featuring Laurel/Jones County businesses: Best Bank, Best Men’s Clothing, Best Jewelry Store, Best Vintage/Antiques, Best Full-Service Bakery, Laurel’s Best Ambassador, Best Pine Belt Personality, Best Music Venue, Best Locally-Brewed Beers, Best BBQ, and Best Music Festival.

You may vote ONCE A DAY until April 29th, so keep voting!  Click here to access the online ballot and vote for Best of the Pine Belt 2018.

Thank you for supporting our local businesses.  We can’t wait to see who is recognized this year!

Then Comes the Thaw

January is a cruel month.  It’s cold, credit card statements from Christmas are in, and everyone seems to have the flu.  This is, by far, the strangest winter I’ve experienced in my lifetime of living in Mississippi.  I can’t recall the last time it was so cold for so long, yet this week brought about temperatures that would bring daffodils into premature bloom.  If you’re over the cold weather or sick of being cooped up with sick people, you’re in luck because downtown Laurel has something for everyone.  You’ve recovered from your Christmas coma and your holiday hangover… now it’s time to return to the land of the living.

If you want to get creative, downtown Laurel is DEFINITELY the place for you!  One of our newest merchants, Magnolia Alley Artists’ Co-op, has a calendar jam-packed with chances to let loose.  Your kids will love the “Drop & Dine” events on select Friday nights while you enjoy date night at one of our downtown restaurants.  No kids?  No problem!  Magnolia Alley also hosts couples’ painting nights, photography, quilting, and doll classes!  Give them a call at (601) 342-5188 and plan your next night out downtown!

The folks at HAND+made always have something going on too.  From their DIY open studio to Mommy and Me and calligraphy classes, you’ll definitely find something to pique your interest and stretch your creative boundaries.  If you’re looking for something a little more laid back, why not try Lott Furniture’s “Wine & Design” workshops every second Tuesday of each month?  I’m not sure if they intentionally planned it on Mary Poppins’s day off, but it’s practically perfect in every way if you ask me. 😉 Stop by after work, enjoy a beverage, live music, and design tips to make your home your haven.

If you still appreciate the creative and entrepreneurial spirit that thrives in downtown Laurel, but prefer to be the subject rather than the artist, you’ll want to reserve your appointment for a one-of-a-kind family heirloom as Guild & Gentry hosts portrait artist Michael Foster.  He will be at the store on February 17th doing ambrotypes, so click here to reserve your appointment!

Most of our downtown retailers have just wrapped up their buying trips and soon the shelves of their stores will be brimming with more goodies than your house can possibly hold.  Keep an eye out for the overloaded delivery trucks making their way down the brick streets of downtown!

The YWCO will be the new home to the monthly downtown book club, which meets on the first Tuesday of each month from 6-7PM.  Follow Cottage Books on Facebook and Instagram to keep up with the current book selection and for updates on meeting times and new arrivals in the store. The YWCO also hosts numerous community events throughout the year, many of which are free, so be sure to check them out on Facebook to see what’s happening!

Slowboat Brewing Company hosts trivia and live music on alternating Friday nights and live music every Saturday night of the month starting at 7PM.  Check out their Facebook page to see which of your favorite groups are coming to town or maybe even discover a new favorite at Laurel’s liveliest local music scene and Jones County’s only locally owned brewery!

Lee’s Coffee & Tea provides more than a good cup of coffee and the best pimento cheese you’ll ever eat.  They also have some pretty cool events lined up for the month of February!  Enjoy Open Mic Night on the first Friday of the month, Board Game Night on the second Friday, and Vinyl Night on the third Friday.

Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the Magnolia State Bank Chili Cook Off happening downtown on February 10th.  We’ll have lots of cold beer, lots of hot chili, and plenty of fun too!

If you’re like me and spend 90% of your waking hours behind a computer screen, all of these opportunities for actual human interaction might be a little intimidating, but I PROMISE YOU, you’ll thank me later.  If not, your next cup of coffee’s on me.  Get downtown y’all!