New shop offers art and architectural treasures

Published 12:18 am Sunday, April 23, 2017


NATCHEZ — Capitalizing on the recent trend of turning architectural leftovers into modern masterpieces, a pair of locals believe Natchez is the perfect place to draw in people from many miles around.

Natchez Architectural & Art Discoveries grand opening isn’t until May 8, but owner Jim Smith invites customers  on Saturdays and Sundays to show off his growing collections of art prints, wrought iron fencing, fireplace mantles, rugs and window frames, some dating back to the 1800s.

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“Growing up in an environment like this, you sometimes don’t appreciate all the interesting architecture that surrounds you,” Smith said. “Seeing it on TV, and the way they incorporate it with the modern day life style, is fascinating.

“With the history of Natchez and all the fascinating architecture of the houses in the area, why wouldn’t this be a perfect place for an architectural salvage business?”

Smith also sells art prints from artists including Caroline Youngblood of Monroe, La., Peggy Francis of California and local artist Carolyn Gwin. Youngblood is a friend of Smith’s, and Francis and Gwin are family.

“I met Caroline through a friend and her work just incorporates everything local — cotton, pelicans — so it fits,” Smith said. “She re-purposes newspapers and fabric from her youth in her work.

“My sister (Francis) paints the blues artists and animals and just things we grew up with. It all fits together with the architectural salvage and history.”

Since February, Smith has been opening the store at 515 Main St. on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sundays from 1 to 4 p.m. and said business has been going great.

“The business has been well received,” he said. “It has increased steadily each month as news has gotten out by word of mouth. There is nothing like this in the area.”

Mac Hazlip is one of the business’s main suppliers. Hazlip said unless you are willing to travel, nothing like this shop exists in the area.

“There is nothing in the area and nothing above us as far up as Shreveport,” Hazlip said. “We would like to grow the business and hope to become a destination for people who want to come to Natchez looking for architectural stuff for a home project.”

Architectural salvage is something many people are looking for and Natchez is the perfect place to look for it with the city’s history, Hazlip said.

“People, for a lot of reasons, like old doors, windows, arch pieces and wrought iron fences,” Hazlip said. “One thing about this old architectural stuff, it is well made.

“It comes from a time when things were a little slower, the cost of labor was not as high and people took a lot of pride in their work. It makes for beautiful pieces.”

Hazlip and Smith both said they believe in Downtown Natchez.

“We want to work to help make Natchez a better downtown — a better place to be,” Hazlip said.

Smith said additionally that he appreciates the FOR Natchez plan being developed and he believes something positive will come out of the plan. Smith said he could even envision adding aspects to his store depending on what is needed.

Looking at the store and space around it, Smith said it is beautiful. He believed the business could be used as a venue.

While giving up his day job isn’t easy, Smith said he believes in the future of Natchez and he thinks this is the right move.

“This is a passion of mine and I believe we have a business plan that will work,” Smith said. “I just want to figure out a way to make a living and fill a need.”

Smith, who is still employed by Concordia Metal, said in Natchez he will continue to support recycling.

“I am going to support the Green Alliance and try to work as a volunteer to continue the program,” Smith said.

Smith said the business’s Facebook page, Natchez Architectural and Art Discoveries, is the best way to keep up with what he’s getting in.

Starting May 8, the hours will be 10 a.m. to 6 p.m, Monday through Saturday.