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Bridal Expo

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Outdoor Wedding

es-to-be. id r b r fo g in -stop shopp e n o o p x E l Brida Southwest

Pray for sunshine!

In this issue: • Brumfield-Mitchell wedding Couple forms lasting relationship at the restaurant

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• Oak Hill Estates Debbie McWilliams opens event venue

On the cover:

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Pictured is the beautiful bride Christina Brumfield Mitchell from her recent wedding in New Orleans, Louisiana.

• Pulse Points Bayou Girlz Basin are the (bath) bomb

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Photo by Image Maker Photography - Beth Hemeter

In Step With

Benton Thompson brings bus service to city.

Staff From the Publisher

My favorite story in this edition is the one about Kendall Calhoun’s outdoor wedding. Kendall’s family lived in my neighborhood and she spent a lot of time at our house with my daughter. It was great that her outdoor wedding was so perfect.

Publisher - Jack Ryan Editor - Matt Williamson Advertising Manager - Vicky Deere

But what gets my attention is the stories about two new businesses in Pike County: Oak Hill Estates, a wedding and event venue in a 19th century house; and Bayou Girlz Basin, which has grown from a part-time kiosk in Edgewood Mall to a store open every day there.

LeWair Foreman, Tam Greene, Christy Thornton & Margie Williams.

It’s no secret that the local economy has been in neutral for a number of years. Things may be better nationally, but a lot of that hasn’t filtered down this way yet. Nevertheless, the owners of these two businesses, along with a few others, have decided the local market has potential. As long as we have some people who are willing to take a chance in this manner, Southwest Mississippi will be just fine.

Advertising sales-

pulse is a publication of J.O. Emmerich & Associates Inc. and is produced in association with the Enterprise-Journal, 112 Oliver Emmerich Dr., McComb, Mississippi. For more copies or advertising information, call 601-6842421, write P.O. Box 2009, McComb, MS 39649 or e-mail advertising@enterprise-journal.com. Volume 11, Issue 3

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Model Ataizha Holmes makes her way down runway at last year’s Bridal Expo.

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One-stop shopping for Brides-to-be By Matt Wi lliamson Couples planning their big day will find everything they need to get hitched without a hitch at the upcoming Southwest Bridal Expo. The event is 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 27, at the McComb Mill on South Broadway, featuring vendors who provide goods and services ranging from attire to catering, venues and limousines. “We’re going with the same format that we typically have gone with in the past because everybody loves it,” said Expo chair Debbie McWilliams. As of December, 43 vendors had signed up to participate and more were expected to join in. “They’re signing up now,” McWilliams said. As visitors enter the massive former textile plant-turned events venue, they’ll see booths from various vendors — some offering samples of their goods and foods — lined up against the walls. Rows of chairs form long lines in the middle of the room, where a fashion show will take center stage later in the afternoon. Doors prize give-aways and games take place throughout the day. “Every vendor has a door prize to give way,” McWilliams said. “There’s 43 door prizes you can draw for. Just about every bride that comes through

walks away with something because we have so many prizes.” The grand prize is $300 in bridal bucks that can be used with any of the Expo’s vendors. McWilliams is counting on a good crowd this year — both in terms of vendors and brides and grooms, adding that the Expo has picked up some new participating vendors in the past couple of years. “We have a lot of new exciting people,” she said. “A lot of people are starting to see the wedding business is a big deal.” McWilliams is no stranger to the wedding business. She started out in the field as a photographer’s assistant, then started her own catering business. A few years ago, she opened A Perfect Event Wedding and Party Rental. Most recently, she bought a nearly 200-year-old Pike County house, Oak Hill Estate, and has been renovating and adding on to it as a wedding venue. Caterers, jewelers, venue operators, travel agents, photographers, dress shops, florists, bakers, salons and more will be on hand at the expo, she said. “Most of the people who are going to get married in the next two years are going to some bridal expo somewhere, so why not one local?” McWilliams said. And while the wedding whirlwind may seem overwhelming for prospective bridegrooms, they can duck

Southwest Bridal Expo

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What: Southwest Bridal Expo When: Sunday, January 27 1-4 p.m. Where: The Mill South Broadway, McComb

Attendees at last year’s Bridal Expo await the fashion show.

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into the event’s man cave, where they can binge on junk food and maybe watch the NFL Pro Bowl as their fiancées peruse gerber daisies, chocolate fountains and spray tans. For grooms who want to leave all of the planning up to their fiancées, McWilliams suggests they consider attending the Expo too. The man cave offers a door prize, and they’ll need to be there to enter the drawing. “It’s important that the groom attend so they can win this nice prize for their future home,” she said.

Lisa Barnes, foreground, cuts a piece of cake during last year’s expo.

Georgia Blue head pastry chef Becky Walden speaks to a potential client.

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One of the many items that brides have to choose from include chocolate fountains with strawberries!

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McWilliams noted that the reigning Miss Mississippi has been a featured guest in years past, but this year planners are doing something different, with wedding singers, bands and DJs expected to provide music during the event. Vendors who may be on the fence about joining the fray should consider their arm twisted, McWilliams said, adding that the potential to get new clients makes participating in the Expo well worth their while. “It’s aways been beneficial to me over the past years,” she said. “You can book a lot of business.” n


In Step With:

Benton Thompson Story & Ph otos by Ernest Herndon If you want to keep up with Dr. Benton Thompson, you’d better step lively. The 66-year-old pastor is president of a community center, a real estate broker and a transportation director. His latest venture is the Community Transportation bus system for the city of McComb. Funded in part by a Mississippi Department of Transportation grant, it cranked up Nov. 1. In its first month it carried 352 customers at $1 per trip. It started with five or six people a day, then got up to 20 or 25. “It’s increasing,” said Thompson. One day recently Thompson hosted a reporter on one of the four CT buses, this one driven by retired South Pike teacher and school bus driver James Rayborn. “Most folks that ride it think it’s a great thing,” Rayborn said. “They can’t believe the cost, $1. Most of them don’t have transportation. Most of them that ride it are old or on the lower economic scale. They say people charge $7 to $14 and they don’t have that kind of money to spare.” The system has 16 stops with three more planned. Locations are all over town in places people are likely to need a bus. Sites that don’t produce passengers are changed.

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The buses normally run from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Starting Dec. 15 the hours increased to 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. five days a week for the holidays. Passenger Jessica Porter rides the bus to her job at Sonic Drive-In. “I like it,” she said. “I was in Iowa and we had a city bus. When I came down here it was weird not having a city bus. I try to use it every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Sometimes I just ride it.” Before the bus route started, she would catch rides to work — or walk, which took 35 to 40 minutes. Thompson plans to install electronic advertising in the front of the buses and hopes local businesses will sign on. Rates will be as low as $50 per month. “When people ride the bus, they’ll see different businesses advertising, which may drive them to go to the individual businesses,” Thompson said. He saw the need for a city bus system by being in charge of buses at Mount Zion Economic Community Center east of Summit, where he is founder and president. Those buses are available to people with Medicaid waivers or who are able to pay a fee based on distance. “I discovered at the Mount Zion area there were people paying outrageous amounts of money to go to the store, even by family members, which I consider a ripoff,” he said. “That told me there was a need.”

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He noticed buses in other cities tend to be full, and he had a particularly eye-opening experience on a recent cruise to Mexico. A bus especially for cruise ship passengers charged $25 for a ride to town, while a local bus just yards away charged 50 cents. Thompson rode the 50-cent bus. That just confirmed the need for cheap public transportation. The MDOT grant provided a $257,000 grant, and Thompson is depending on passenger income and business advertising to cover the remaining costs. “Hopefully the businesses will get on board and advertise and

‘As long as we can cover our expenses, we are happy to provide transportation for the people.’ Benton Thompson help us with our match,” he said. “As long as we can cover our expenses, we are happy to provide transportation for the people.” If enough people ride, Thompson can show the need for the system, and hopefully MDOT will

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renew the grant. “Right now I’m trying to identify the best dropoffs,” he said. “I don’t want to stop somewhere if there’s nobody there.” He bought the buses new from a Jackson dealer and hopes they’ll last eight or nine years. Each bus averages 90 to 100 miles a day. “We’ve got a good maintenance program,” Thompson said. “Every 3,000 miles it goes in for service.” One problem he’s encountered is a reluctance by some business owners to let him install bus stop signs on their property. Thompson doesn’t understand the hesitancy. “I’m trying to bring business to you,” he said, noting people come to a business to spend money. One restaurant owner flatly refused. “He said he didn’t want anyone standing around waiting on a bus like that,” Rayborn said. The bus will stop if someone flags it down on its route, but it won’t go to individual residences. A dispatcher notifies the driver if a customer calls needing a ride from a designated stop. A phone number on the side of the bus and bus stop signs tells where to call, 1-833-TOO-RIDE. Thompson is pastor at Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church

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City Transportation pickup sites • Parklane Fire Department Dr. Benton Thompson, left, discusses a bus stop location with Southgate Apartments manager Phillip Tucker.

• Corner 14th and Nelson • Alpha Center in Baertown • Locust Street at Pearl River Blvd. • Summit Street • MLK Center

at Ruth, of which the economic community center — which includes a senior day care center — is a subsidiary. And he’s a real estate broker. Taking on a city bus system might seem ambitious for someone past retirement age, but Thompson said simply, “There’s a need.” If all goes well, Thompson would like to expand the territory beyond McComb and increase the number of buses. At Southgate Apartments on 14th Street, Thompson got out to meet with apartment manager Phillip Tucker about a designated bus stop with a sign and maybe a shelter. Tucker said he was fine with it. Up the street, a man in a vehicle waved the bus to a stop and asked for flyers to distribute at his place of employment. Rayborn didn’t have any handy but said he would drop some off. The exchange brought a smile to Thompson’s face. “We’re going to grow.” n

• Department of Human Services • Walmart • Edgewood Mall • Southwest Mississippi Regional Medical Center • Medical Arts Building • Delaware Shopping Center • Kroger • McComb Market • Pike Center Mart • Pike County Health Department

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Through the lens with Beth Hemeter By Gopika Nair Photographer Beth Hemeter was unloading her gear at a small Catholic church in outside Natchitoches, La., when everything went pitch black. A massive summer storm had blown in, cutting all power. “There were no lights, there was no air and there was no power for me to run my lights to photograph the bride and groom,” Hemeter said. “At the last minute, luckily we had thrown in a battery pack to take, so the battery pack saved the day.” Hemeter photographed much of that June wedding in darkness, but right during the middle of the ceremony, during a prayer, the lights came back on. “We went from no lights in a 100-degree, small, little church and it was packed with people,” she said. “You could not breathe. And when I tell you it was pitch black, I’m telling you had I not had that battery pack and auxiliary lighting, it would’ve been a big bummer.” Having photographed thousands of weddings over the course of her career, Hemeter has seen things go wrong firsthand. “We’ve had the car that the bride and

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groom are leaving in not make it except the block down the road before it died,” she said. “There have been lots of things, lots of memories with doing my weddings.” Hemeter got her start in photography by working for the yearbook at McComb High School. She received a degree in photojournalism from the University of Southern Mississippi and became a professional photographer in 1986. “I used to be hot and heavy in the wedding business,” she said. “Now I’m limited to about 10 to 12 a year, but in my heyday, I would do 30 a year, so I’ve done thousands of weddings.” One of the reasons Hemeter said she enjoys photographing weddings is because of the deep relationships she forms during the process. “I think for me it’s really exciting to see the evolution of these people that I have photographed since they were very young, growing into an adult and watching their dream come true. That’s amazing to me,” she said. “There’s a lot of loyalty that’s formed also between these people and me and my profession and it becomes very important to me to play it through and watch it through from beginning until marriage until children, so that’s exciting to be a part

Beth Hemeter of Image Maker Photography. of the celebration.” One such couple is Chris Mitchell and Christina Brumfield, who Hemeter said she watched grow up. “Chris and Christina were just an amazingly sweet and laid back couple and they made everybody have a great time,” Hemeter said. “It was just like one of those fairytale-type deals where nothing went wrong. At a wedding, something always goes wrong.”


Before the wedding, Hemeter said she meets with the bride and groom and takes detailed notes on how they want their day to go. “We spend lots of time planning and coordinating the day of the wedding with the photography schedule,” she said. Planning the schedule involves breaking it down in increments between family, the wedding party and the bride and groom. The schedule is then printed on wallet photographs of the couple and handed to the wedding party and the family so everyone knows what time they need to be available. “That really streamlines our process and it makes it much more pleasurable for everyone involved because they don’t have to come and sit and wait around for two hours just to have a picture taken,” Hemeter said. Hemeter said she also ensures the bride and groom’s day goes exactly how they want it to. “We end up being their go-to at the end of the day to make sure what they want to have happen happens because you get a lot of people involved and sometimes the bride and groom get lost when there’s so many strong forces saying what you’re going to do, so we help make sure that their day goes exactly how they want it to,” she said. Today, Hemeter keeps up with her education by going to continuing education seminars. “There’s a real difference between what I do in that I have an education base behind me and I know light than someone who has an iPhone camera and think they do the same thing, so that’s a big difference,” she said. n

Some of the more memorable weddings that Beth Hemeter of Image Maker Photography has captured.

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Brumfield-Mitchell nuptials Their love blossomed and grew in the restaurant and continues to flourish! By Mack Spe ncer Ph otos by Image Maker Ph otography Food brought Christina Brumfield and Chris Mitchell together, and it continues to be a tie that binds. Secondary to their marriage vows now, of course, but integral nonetheless. The couple met at the New Orleans restaurant Herbsaint, where Christina served an externship while studying at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y. She later returned to a full-time job there and eventually rose to become the chef de cuisine. She grew up cooking and wasn’t sure what she wanted to

Christina Brumfield Mitchell stands in shadows before her wedding at the historic Race and Religious wedding venue in the New Orleans Garden District.

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do once she finished her fine arts degree at Millsaps College in Jackson. A job at Broad Street Bakery and then Bravo in Jackson help to steer her onto the culinary path that led to New Orleans. Mitchell moved to New Orleans after graduating with an economics degree from St. Mary’s College in Maryland, following his Tulane-graduate brother and Loyola-student sister to the Big Easy. A friend of his brother got him hired on as a server at Herbsaint. “It was more chance than anything else,” Chris said. He didn’t end up in college in New Orleans as well because he was a lacrosse player and being recruited to play in college. For schooling, “I was looking Northeast,” he said. He had no background in food service, but he studied the business “like crazy” once he got in and eventually was promoted to be Herbsaint’s manager. The couple started dating when he was still a server and she was sous-chef, and mutual interest was soon apparent. “I would take any chance to talk to her, and carry pots for her,” Chris said. Christina clarified that meant stockpots full of raw chicken weighing up to 150 pounds. She was dumbfounded by the timing of his asking her out the first time — but then again, maybe she needed a pick-me-up that night, a Saturday. “The restaurant flooded. There was half an inch of standing

Christina Brumfield Mitchell pictured with her parents, Pat and Tina Brumfield of McComb, before her wedding in New Orleans.

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water in the kitchen,” Christina said. “It was the night of Loyola’s graduation, and all of Chris’s family was there. Then I spilled four gallons of duck fat. That was really the time I needed to be asked out on a date.” After that date, though, “we spent almost no time apart,” she said. That meant four years of almost constant togetherness before they married in New Orleans in September. The New Orleans setting was special and convenient for both of them. “We met there. Our core group of friends is there,” Chris said.”We got married on a Sunday so our friends from work could make it, because Herbsaint is closed on Sundays.” “Our friends are there, and my friends from McComb go there often,” Christina said. “His family loves it.” She picked their wedding venue — Race and Religious, named for the intersection where it’s located — without much input from Chris, because “I knew he’d love it. It’s beautiful. I just love the artwork.” “I barely saw it online,” Chris said. “I went there for the first time two days before” the wedding. After a beautiful ceremony and a honeymoon in

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Chris and Christina share a culinary background and enjoy the many cakes at their recent wedding.

Paris, the couple is settling into their new home in Pike County and working while preparing for the future. Chris, while a native of Kensington, Md., in suburban Maryland near Washington, D.C., and resident of New Orleans for many years, has acclimated well to rural Mississippi. The Magnolia State may be a bit different, but the rural is nothing new. “St. Mary’s is in a rural part of Maryland, and a buddy’s family owned a 60-acre farm where we would go ride dirt bikes and go shooting,” Chris said. As for Mississippi, “I find it very open and friendly and giving here.” “From the outside looking in, he’s had no adjustment period,” Christina said. Chris may have to adjust more to traveling for work with Performance Food Group, which sells restaurant-related equipment and cleaning supplies as well as offering consulting services to help boost efficiency and profits. “It keeps me in restaurants every day, where I can help them become better busineses,” Chris said. “Managing Herbsaint was helpful, because I can help these other restaurants get where they need to be.” Christina, meanwhile, is in the family business, Brumfield Oil, which owns the PJ’s Coffee and Baskin-Robbins franchises in McComb as well as Marathon gas stations. Her official title with the company is food service director, but in reality, “I fill in whenever I’m needed,” she said. “I develop menus, price out products, work on payroll, track our charge customers. “Working with my grandmother, who is 93, is such an inspiration. It’s good to be able to do that.” With a new home to settle into and work to do, the couple are in a position where they can start looking ahead. “We’re getting more involved in the community and want to help it grow,” Christina said. “We’d like to have a restaurant of our own that’s bustling and vibrant. If we can use what we’ve learned to open our own place, it would be nice to come full-circle. We just need a building.” n

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Outdoor Weddings Go for it! But have a backup plan By Ernest Herndon Kendall Calhoun Sullivan fell in love with Camp Wesley Pines at age 6. She fell in love with Austin Sullivan a dozen years later. So it was only natural they got married at the Methodist retreat near Gallman. Outdoor weddings can be dicey affairs with the changeable weather of southwest Mississippi, but Kendall is all in favor of them — as long as there’s a Plan B. Kendall grew up in McComb and attended Centenary United Methodist Church. She first went to Camp Wesley Pines on a mother-daughter retreat when she was 6 or so. “When I was 8, I went by myself the first time. I cried the whole week and said I’d never go back — and I wound up going back every summer,” said Kendall, who later worked there for several summers. The place was so beautiful and romantic, “when I was a little girl I said, ‘I want to get married at Camp Wesley Pines barefoot when I grow up,’ ” Kendall said. She met Austin at Amite School Center when she was in the ninth grade and he was a senior, but it wasn’t until she after she graduated that things got serious. “My freshman year at college, we ran into each other at Walmart. We remembered each other. We talked to each other for three hours,” Kendall said. “A year after we started dating, he took me on a surprise trip to Daytona Beach,” she said. “The last night, he proposed to me on the beach.” This past August she and Austin attended the Cursillo weekend retreat at Camp Wesley Pines. “It’s just a really spiritual, meaningful experience. It’s life-changing,” Kendall said. “Austin loved it. He wanted to move there.” “That’s where my life completely changed, at Cursillo,” Austin said. “What I tell people about Camp Wesley Pines is when I’m there I feel like I’m in heaven.”

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The weekend after Cursillo they went to a songfest at the camp, and when it was over they visited the camp director, the Rev. Johnny Crosby, whom Kendall had known since she was little. They asked him if they

Childhood dream becomes reality for Kendall Calhoun Sullivan could get married at the camp, and he said sure. The couple drove up there on two weekends to plan everything, setting the date for 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 27. After sending out invitations, Kendall belatedly realized 6:30 would be dark that time of year, so she texted all 150 invitees to change the time to 5

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p.m., close to sunset. She was up all night decorating and just got a couple hours sleep. In the morning, the weather outlook was uncertain with a forecast of 60 and raining. “That morning when we woke up, we walked the prayer trail, and it was 60 degrees and chilly,” Kendall said. As the day progressed, the skies cleared and the temperature rose to a perfect 70 degrees with a light breeze. The wedding got underway that evening with Kendall’s brother, Zac Calhoun, playing an instrumental version of “God Gave Me You” on guitar. The Sullivans’ daughters — Kynlie, 5, and Masyn, 2 — served as flower girls and walked out to “Butterfly Kisses.” “It was one of my family’s favorite songs growing up,” Kendall said.

The bride, Kendall Sullivan, emerges from getting dressed for her outdoor wedding at Camp Wesley Pines.


She walked the aisle to a country music version of “The Wedding March” wearing a white dress and cowboy boots (ants dashed her girlhood dream of getting married barefoot). The Rev. Glynn Hoskins took 1 Corinthians 13, the Bible’s famous “love chapter,” as his text. The couple poured “unity sand” — pink for her, blue for him — into a container. The reception was in the nearby tabernacle, an enclosed building. That was the fall-back plan in case the weather had turned bad. But Kendall was determined to go through with the outdoor wedding even if it was drizzling rain. For their honeymoon they went to Gatlinburg, Tenn. Conditions remained perfect, Austin said. “Leading up to the time (of the wedding), there was a bad storm that was supposed to come through,” he said. “The way that God worked that out was just absolutely amazing. The next day at Camp Wesley Pines it flooded, and the day after we left Gatlinburg, it hit there.” The Sullivans live in Liberty, where Kendall works at Trustmark National Bank and Austin works at his family’s business, Bargain Furniture. For others contemplating an outdoor wedding, Kendall says, “Go for it! And have a fall-back plan.” Austin suggested choosing a cool time of Kendall &Austin Sullivan with year if possible, like Octodaughters Kynlie and Masyn. ber. He said he’s attended outdoor weddings in the summer and, while beautiful, they were uncomfortably hot. “Seventy degrees with a little bit of breeze — oh my gosh, you can’t ask for better,” he said. Rev. Crosby has officiated at 150 weddings during his career, and about 16 to 18 were outdoors. “I’ve had them in a cow pasture. I’ve had them in a back yard garden,” he said. “They’re great if everything goes right.” But there are potential problems, weather being chief among them. “If you’re doing one, always have a backup plan,” Crosby said. “They can be beautiful. They can be picturesque. But they can have some problems.” Logistical challenges include moving furniture and dealing with unlevel ground. “When Kendall got married, they moved probably 150 chairs outside,” Crosby said. “The upside is a setting sun over the lake was in their background, and a new dock. “Their wedding turned out great. But there are some hazards. ... I always try to point out in counseling the potential pitfalls, and as long as they’re aware of that, I’m good to go.” n

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Oak Hill Estates Quin family home becomes event venue

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Terry and Debbie McWilliams stand in front of the home that will become Oak Hill Estates, a new event venue.

Oak Hill Estates to host bridal events and more Story & Ph otos by Matt Wi lliamson Debbie McWilliams has been to more weddings than most people, working behind the scenes at various points in her life as a photographer, caterer and wedding supply rental business owner. Now she’ll be going to a lot more as the owner of southwest Mississippi’s newest wedding venue, Oak Hill Estates. “For years I’ve been looking for a venue,” she said. “It’s been my lifelong dream to own one.” McWilliams, who also chairs the Southwest Bridal Expo, fulfilled that dream when she bought a nearly 200-year-old house on Highway 24 just west of the

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Highway 48 interchange in Pike County. Nearly as bricklayers and painters were working to renovate old as Mississippi itself, the house’s history stretches the place and build a 6,000-square foot banquet hall back to the Quin family, as in Percy on the back side of it. Quin, the early 20th Century conOut back, ancient and mighty gressman for whom the nearby oaks stand proudly in a hollow state park is named. She’s read that that, as landscapes go, defines the three-bedroom house dates Southern charm. back to 1820, which is just three “The reason I bought this propyears after Mississippi’s statehood erty in the first place — and the in 1817. only reason — was the gorgeous The appropriately named oak trees,” McWilliams said. “The venue sits atop a hill at the end of oak trees are going to be those outa one-lane driveway. A stately old side weddings that everybody’s goDebbie McWilliams home with columns on the front ing to love.” porch and a roofline punctuated by McWilliams said her new venue will three dormers is the first thing guests see. Recently, be ideal in so many ways. It’s just a mile and a half an army of construction workers, cabinet makers, off Interstate 55, so it’s not difficult to reach. Its

‘The reason I bought this property in the first place - and the only reason - was the gorgeous oak trees.’

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eight-acre grounds are scenic enough for outside weddings, but if Mother Nature has different plans, there’s plenty of room inside the massive banquet hall. “I wanted to make sure that if it rained I wanted to be able to fit everybody inside and they’ll still be comfortable,” she said. Her other business, A Perfect Event Party Rentals, will be folded into the venue space, so there should always be plenty of tables and chairs on hand. The venue will come with different packages for rentals, with varying degrees of access and assistance at different price points. “If you forgot something you can just go into the storage closet and get it,” she said. “All of our rentals will have the tables, chairs and the linens included. That’s already included in every package, no matter what package you get.” McWilliams said some venues forbid their clients from bringing in outside catering, but she’s fine with that and in fact would probably prefer someone else do the cooking — although she can probably take care of that if needed, and forewarned. The house was recently undergoing renovations by Frank Price Construction, with plans for quite a few transformations. Upstairs, a new two-room bridal suite with a makeup counter was taking shape. Downstairs, they were putting in a man cave. McWilliams said weddings are likely to result in the most business, but the space is suitable for most any party. She said work started on the place in August, the goal was to have it ready by the end of December and the first event is booked for February.

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Debbie McWilliams stands amidst oak trees that surround Oak Hill Estates off Highway 24 West.


“We’ve actually already got several events booked and they haven’t even seen the place,” McWilliams said. McWilliams, who’s also a Realtor with RE/MAX Southland Real Estate in McComb, said she’s seen enough housing renovations to know that surprises are to be expected, but this project has been unlike any house renovation. By the time it’s all done, she believes Oak Hill Estates will be one of the area’s top wedding venues. And she might have one of the biggest selling points for those muggy June weddings. “There’s no one in the area that has that many square feet that’s air conditioned, closed and beautiful,” she said. n

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Pulse Points........

Bayou Girlz Basin is the (bath) bomb! By Gopika Nair Braving the weather and selling snap jewelry in a cart outside was just the start for Bayou Girlz Basin co-owners Rebecca Avery and Joy Hughes. Fast forward three years. Avery and Hughes moved into a small space between Bath & Body Works and Traditional Jewelers inside Edgewood Mall, working only weekends. Now, they have a store across from Bath & Body Works, open seven days a week. “Sometimes, when you’re in retail, you have to redesign yourself several times and that’s kind of where we started,” Avery said. An acquaintance began making bath bombs and wanted Avery and Hughes to purchase it wholesale. But when Avery tried it, the bath bomb irritated her sensitive skin. “We started doing a lot of research to see if we could do this (make bath bombs),” Avery said. “We worked on a recipe for about two months trying to get it down and shared it with family and friends to see if they would use them, how it felt and what their reactions were.” When they got the recipe right, Avery and Hughes began selling their bath bombs. At the time, Bayou Girlz Basin was the only store in Edgewood Mall to do so. “We were doing really well with them because it was a big trend,” Avery said.

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“So, we just kind of kept with it Rebecca Avery stands and then when we moved, that beside some of the kind of opened us up for more merchandise for sale in opportunities to expand our their Edgewood Mall line,” Avery said. store. Now, Bayou Girlz Basin offers a range of items including lotions, shower gels, soaps, aroma mists, perfume oils, beard oils and laundry detergents, though the bath bombs continue to be one of the most popular items. Avery, who has a master’s degree in special education, didn’t set out to become an entrepreneur. “I love teaching, but I like when it’s humid, it’s tough to get them to being my own boss better,” she said. harden up.” Since moving to their store in the mall Avery and Hughes decided to start their in October, Avery and Hughes business in McComb because of the inside haven’t missed a day of work. mall. Additionally, the small-town feel of “We work a lot so people think we live here,” she said. McComb reminded Avery of her childhood home in Nashville. “But when you love what “People in McComb are really sweet you do, it’s not really work, and nice,” she said. “They care about it’s kind of fun. whether or not you’re successful and how “I don’t wake up in the you feel and they get excited, so it’s really morning and think, ‘Oh, my gosh, I have to go to work.’ It’s nice.” For those interested in starting their more, ‘Oh, we get to go and have own business, Avery said it’s important to fun today and create some new stuff and do research, set aside a little money and talk to people who are excited about our start small by selling at fairs and festivals. products.’ ” “The biggest thing is to believe that you Creating a batch of bath bombs can can do it,” she said. “There’s all kinds of take up to 48 hours in total, Hughes said. challenges because you don’t have a pay“They need to dry for at least 48 hours check, so when you own your business it’s to make sure they’re real good,” she said. a day-to-day kind of thing.” n “It’s like making candy. If you make it


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Pulse Jan-March 2019  

The beat of Southwest Mississippi

Pulse Jan-March 2019  

The beat of Southwest Mississippi

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