In the latest issue of Our South magazine you’ll find a wonderful article on our efforts here at The Bakery Building, not only our home, but our biggest project ever! Thanks so much Laura and Joanna for your amazing work!Here’s the full article.
The Bakery Building: Not Just Making a Visual Impact; Making a Communal Impact
Everyone is familiar with the mantra: “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.” But Rodney Richardson of RARE Design in Hattiesburg is adding a new “R” word: “Reverb.” This vision of impacting, or reverberating, in the community has propelled him to re-purpose the old Bakery Building in the Hub City’s downtown. Not only has Hattiesburg gained a magnificent new retail space that brings a fresh vibe to the growing downtown district, but party planners all over the area will be itching to book the fabulous event space inside the building known as The Venue.
The Bakery Building, located at 127 Buschman Street, was originally built in 1927 and operated as the headquarters of Mattingly’s Bakery until it was sold to a Birmingham based bread-maker in 1939. The doughy tradition continued when the building changed ownership again in 1948. For the next 40 years Smith Bakery cooked up more than just bread. Ask any lifelong Hattiesburg resident and they’re sure to remember the smell of fresh bread coming out of the oven when they visited the bakery on a class field trip.
It’s that kind of history that drew current owner Richardson to the space. Richardson and his wife Christy, who both grew up in McComb and attended USM, moved to Portland, Oregan for a short time before returning to the Hub City twelve years ago. In 2006, about a year after Hurricane Katrina, Richardson was searching for a new home for his creative design firm, RARE. They had outgrown their second downtown office, but he was searching for more than just a place to set up cubicles and hook up a phone line. Richardson remembers that despite the fact that the hurricane had wreaked havoc on the building, “I ventured in the building and was amazed at what I saw. Yes, there was the utter nastiness, but God saw fit to gift me with the ability to see beyond such nastiness. What I could clearly see was the space that RARE needed, but I also saw the potential for shops, bistros, galleries, and even an area for an event space.”
Having always been drawn to the raw strength found in utilitarian, industrial architecture, Richardson realized that the steel, exposed brick, and natural wood “all combined for an aesthetic that you just can’t reproduce in a more tame, professional space.” He recalls visiting the building before purchasing it, and “looking up through one of the holes in the drop-in ceiling – the holes that were created by the water that streamed through the patchwork roof with every rainfall.” When he saw the massive steel trusses that formed the skeleton of the building, he knew this building was what he’d been looking for.
What’s more, owning The Bakery Building has offered him the opportunity to contribute to the downtown community and give off what Richardson likes to think of as “REVERB”- a vision that is front and center in the design company’s purpose. This vision is a “reminder that we all have an impact – a reverb – wherever we are,” explains Richardson. “And by that reminder, we want to ensure that our reverb is to magnify, amplify, impact, and project positively on everything and everyone around us.”
His vision for the space, as he puts it, was that it would be a “place where life is experienced. Where people could eat, shop, work, enjoy a cup of coffee, entertain, worship, and enjoy all sorts of life’s great moments.” Richardson, who wore many hats as the designer/architect/creator during the remodel, has definitely met his goals with this magnificent redesign. Every square inch of the building has been thoughtfully updated yet the character of the building remains intact. The original steel trusses that drew him to the building were a jumping off point for the look of the space, something that he refers to as “Modern Urban Industrial Living”. Richardson explains that “it was never my intention to restore the space, in the traditional sense,” but instead to remove the layers of wear and tear that had built up over the years in order to “expose the inherent beauty and character of the space, and repurpose it for life today.”
The event space, known as The Venue, is the crowning jewel of The Bakery Building’s comeback crown. Not only is it a magnificently designed area, but it perfectly fulfills the vision that Richardson has for the entire building as a place where people can come together. He doesn’t just want his business to exist in the community- but to contribute and, as he would say, reverberate. And with The Venue, he wanted to be able to “create a space where people could celebrate, congregate, and experience life – and some of life’s big moments – together.”
The Venue is a 9,600 square foot event space in the heart of the building that can be rented for all sorts of events. Already, this space has hosted weddings, receptions, club breakfasts, business luncheons, fund raisers, parties, college & high school dances, and private dinners. And every Sunday The Venue is also home to something that Richardson had truly hoped for, The Venue Church. Church member Trinity Bonner explains that “the church’s role in the downtown community, as well as everywhere we go as Christians is to take the Gospel of Christ to a lost, broken and dying world.”
Besides The Venue and the RARE offices, the building has several tenants, including Blooms: A Garden Shop, which Richardson himself describes as the “most perfect little boutique in which to shop for all things gift, garden, and floral.” Blooms, now back in the capable hands of original owner Joyce Hicks and daughter Adrienne, carries artwork and pottery by many well known Mississippi craftsmen and artists such as Pace Pottery, Robin Lee handmade jewelry, and artwork by Carol Draughn. But Blooms also serves as a full-service florist for the events at The Venue and other special events around town. “My daughter and I love working together,” Joyce says, “and we are so happy to be here at this location.”
Also calling The Bakery Building home is The Depot Coffee Shop and Bistro, which was recently taken over by co-owners John Neal and Stuart Gates. Not only does the Depot offer amazingly crafted direct trade premium coffee, but they are now serving a revamped menu featuring funky takes on old favorites: crawfish sliders with sun-dried tomato remoulade and chipotle chicken salad are just a few of the tastey items on their lunch menu. The Depot also serves as the in-house catering company for the events at The Venue. Gates explains that he is proud that the Depot can “create a menu completely customized to your budget and according to your tastes- there is no set menu.” He goes on to explain that The Venue- along with the florists at Blooms and The Depot catering – is “really a one stop shop for anyone wanting to get married or have a party.”
No matter where you go in the newly remodeled Bakery Building, you’ll notice that the use of materials is consistent. Because Richardson wanted to champion the unique characteristics of the building, you’ll see the re-use of steel tiles inside the Depot Bistro, in the front patio, and inside RARE. Wood that was salvaged from within the building has been re-used, and the exposed ceilings and brick walls throughout combine to provide a simple, modern backdrop for the many different spaces in the building.
Venue Church member Trinity Bonner sums up the transformation of the space well. “When I think about what The Bakery Building looked like the first time I saw it,” says Bonner, “it was old, dirty, broken and filled with junk. The fact that someone saw something beautiful there, despite all of this, and took the time and effort to restore it to what it was made to be… it reminds me of how our lives are filled with brokeness and sin and how our loving God sees through all of that, and sees us as what He created us to be if we allow him. That’s a pretty amazing parallel!” It sounds like the reverb that Richardson had hoped for is already happening.