Downtown house bustles with business

By Carlie Kollath/NEMS Daily Journal



TUPELO – The corner of South Green Street and Magazine Street has undergone a serious transformation in the past year.
The former Mad Dog bail bonding building – once known for its affinity for hot pink paint – is now home to five women-owned businesses.
Phyllis Robinson is the force behind the change.
“I kept seeing this eyesore of a house down here,” said Robinson, who owns several other properties in Mill Village. “I’ve got the sweetest husband, Jerry. While he was out of town, I bought this house. It was horrific. It was beyond horrific. I had a moment of weakness and inspiration at the same time.”
She thinks the house was built in the early 1900s by the Moore family.
“That’s why we call it the Moore-Robinson House – because the Moore family built it and the Robinson family re-established it,” she said.
The building was home to several homeless people and drug addicts when she bought it with the intention of fixing it up and leasing it to other businesses.
“I showed it to several people and kept telling them what I wanted,” she said. “I wound up keeping it myself since I had cried a river of sweat, blood and tears over it for the past three years.”
Robinson’s sister, Ginger Renick, was the first business owner to move in. She had a therapeutic massage business in Saltillo that she relocated to the building.
Robinson then started recruiting businesses that would complement Renick’s. In the end, she wound up with Sugar Rush Unique Cakes, Emi Lou’s Boutique, Devilish Mary’s and Cafe Improv.
Merchandise from the retailers is interspersed throughout the building.
Emi Lou’s Boutique, owned by Emily Floyd, is an offshoot of the main Saltillo women’s apparel store.
Devilish Mary’s sells antiques, clothing and jewelry.
Cafe Improv is a restaurant that offers lunches for special events. For example, last week the restaurant served a Mardi Gras-themed meal for $15. It also has meals with guest chefs throughout the year.
Robinson, along with owning the building, owns Devilish Mary’s and Cafe Improv.
Get a message – and a cupcake
Sugar Rush’s owners, Heather Adams and Pyar Brazile, previously were making treats for their family and friends. Adams said the multiple-business venue is a good fit for them as Sugar Rush grows.
“Someone can come in for a massage and leave with a cupcake,” she said.
Added Brazile, “We could pull in customers for them and they pull in customers for us.”
The women have monthly board meetings to discuss their businesses, their goals and any issues they are having.
“We all promote each other, support each other,” Robinson said. “We’re all in different stages and phases. … I’m like the old granny up in here taking care of all these babies.”
While the businesses fill up the house, Robinson said the building is her primary focus, along with the neighborhood. She estimates that she and her husband have invested about $500,000 in blighted properties in Tupelo.
“When you do historic properties, you have to love punishment,” she said. “It’s not instant gratification but it feels so good to know that you’ve made a positive impact on the neighbors and the community.
“I sometimes feel that people see me as the crazy woman that buys a lot of crappy houses, but it really does something for me to see them come back to life. Maybe I’m not as crazy as they think.”
“What our hope of all hopes is that the neighborhood will turn around and come back and our investments will come back twofold – monetarily and for the community.”
Contact Carlie Kollath at (662) 678-1598 or carlie.kollath@journalinc.com.