By JB Clark/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Downtown Nettleton isn’t vacant but there are more empty storefronts, and a few downtown business owners are hoping to change that.
Steve Holland expanded Holland Funeral Directors into Nettleton in July 2011.
Holland said he wanted to move the family business to Nettleton because it is home to his family.
“This is home to us,” he said. “All of us graduated from Nettleton High School and Sadie (his mother) was the first woman mayor of this town. We just felt like we wanted to come home with the chapel, and the truth is I really just wanted to renovate these buildings.”
The funeral home is the last of the historic downtown buildings on the left if driving up Young Avenue from Main Street. It occupies three buildings.
The first building, now the viewing area, was built in 1900 and served as a barber shop and Masonic lodge. The middle building and funeral home foyer was Nettleton’s first pharmacy, built in 1917. The chapel is in the old Whitehead Furniture store which was built in 1927.
Holland said they originally bought five buildings but tore two down to make a parking lot.
“One of those was falling down and the other wasn’t far behind,” he said. “We had to get them from five different owners and it took me six months to get them all. I was bound and determined when I picked this location. I said this is it, and if it didn’t make it as a funeral home I was, by gosh, going to live in it.”
While restoring the funeral home, Holland also restored the Masonic lodge above the viewing room.
The building’s gray trim on red brick color scheme was inspired by a New Orleans condo and the walls are decorated with old photos and relics of Nettleton.
“I sort of put out the word that I was doing this and wanted it to be historic, and folks just started bringing their pictures to me. Here is a pew out of the original Presbyterian church,” he said, pointing to a pew in the viewing room. “It’s just amazing when I started this project how things surfaced.”
Holland was attracted to the buildings because he is a self-proclaimed historical preservationist of extraordinary proportion.
“I love this genre right here – this downtown scene and the fact that these old buildings could be remodeled,” he said.
Across the street from the Holland Funeral Home, Kim Best, owner of Kim’s Place, is renovating the building next to her restaurant to serve as an outdoor eating area.
The building changed hands several times over the past few years and the ceiling was falling in, so Best decided to purchase it. They have taken out the ceiling and left the walls to make an enclosed, open-air dining area.
She hopes to provide live entertainment on the patio area.
Best said she hopes others in Nettleton decide to invest in downtown.
“I hope it catches on,” she said. “There are still several vacant buildings downtown.”