People always ask me if it was difficult to adapt to MS, coming from NY. As a restructuring professional I was nervous about being forgotten, but my email and phone numbers had not changed, and continued bring new work to me, so I soon got past that. It was interesting to assume the exalted station of being a Southern wife, but never a challenge to be Coley’s wife, which was where I belonged.
There were a few habits, though, that I found hard to adapt to. One of them is the tendency of people to drop in to chat. In fact, the general sense is that stopping in to see someone is far more courteous that calling them to arrange a time to meet. So, with my office on the front of the house, I used to hit the floor to avoid being seen through the windows, and wait for the person to go away. Whew.
This led us to purchase our first building downtown, at the corner of Church and First Streets. It has several doors and was known as both 236 First and 31 S Church Street, until FedEx delivery men repeatedly complained that there were two 31 S Church Streets, and one was a crack house. We looked at the street numbers and simply decreed that ours was really 81 S Church, which worked well as we could simply close the open side of the 3 and the number became an 8.
The building, built in 1972 as the headquarters of Sunburst Bank, was very strong. It had not one but two vaults, and a drive through underneath so folks could use the cash window. It was designed in the Bauhaus style, with every dimension squared off in multiples of 12 feet. The interior space felt wonderful due to these strong proportions, but the exterior, which had been covered in glass, was not only a wreck but also made heating and cooling very difficult.
So, working with our neighbor who had done the original design, we redid the exterior, covering it with good insulation and new stucco, and adding lovely new windows. Coley and I occupied one end, while Pablo’s Economic Development District was at the other end. In between were spaces for Grenada Community Foundation, and our Prevail Fund (www.PrevailFundConnect.org), and both Solon Group (www.SolonGroup.com) and Prevail Investments were housed there. (More on these or does that go elsewhere)
I drove downtown every day, a long commute of 2 miles, and let other people answer the intercom we installed at the door. Coley and I had connecting offices with a conference room in between, and we invested in great internet and a high speed color copier. It was indeed a relief to have the option to be busy and not have to hit the floor. And to be growing the various enterprises we housed there.
Four years later, it was time for Pablo to spread his wings and take his own space, and other ventures grew: the Grenada Film Project (vimeo?), in which my team created and organized roughly 100 hours of archival film about Grenada, interviewing many fascinating characters. Who was the team? It started with NY and LA creatives, who came to film, and asked for interns. Voila, a neighbor recommended Katrina and Isabella Kinder. Soon they took over the whole project, and we worked together to imagine the Grenada Afterglow Film Festival (www.GrenadaAfterglow.com). Their family owned one building downtown at that time, and have since purchased 5 more, and they have started Wild Blue Yonder Resale Adventure at 58 Main Street, just a stone’s throw away, and Diamondback Studio across First Street, which has yet to be revealed.
Another early member of the Grenada Community Foundation team, attorneySabrina Howell, was leaving her partnership and starting up her own firm. She took an office while we were renovating the next building we bought, at 42 Main Street, which became Howell Law Offices (http://www.lawfirmms.com).
Then along came the Mississippi Association for Infant Mental Health team, who used the building and its large screen to conduct onsite and remote training. Then Uptel, which uses the drive though area as a location for telecommunications equipment and relays, and then AFLAC, for which our offices serve as a rallying point for their far flung team. And then came the three member of Ozark Trucking’s Customer Service Department, eager to locate in town having worked in a remote location for 20 years. Ms. Mamie Swims is our most recent arrival, building her counseling business. And we have a few more offices available. . .
Our own operations expanded as well as we manage our properties from there, and now have multiple residential properties as well as 19 buildings in the Grenada Downtown Historic District to fuss over. Two of the buildings have been fully renovated with business thriving on the ground floors (Howell Law Offices and First & Green Celebrations) and 4 gorgeous loft apartments on the second floors. All fully rented now, we are moving along to work on finishing the next round of buildings.
Following several models including our own, we plan to add more apartments to increase residential density in a town that is starved of good rental properties. We are also planning to expand the First & Green event space by adding Miss Emma’s Dining Room, a smaller, more intimate space next to First & Green, and then will create Molly’s Place, a Grill & Bar, opening into our existing Courtyard.
And then. . .