Featured BAM Members
Featured: Jason & Jina Daniels
Jason and Jina Daniels are the dynamic duo of Midtown’s Jax-Zen Float. Their conversation is filled with positivity and tranquility and this is exactly what you can expect for yourself when you enter their business. Whether you want to experience floatation therapy, get a massage, paint, or just bounce around ideas among friends in a peaceful environment, Jason and Jina have just the space for you. Being vested in Midtown is important to them and it shows through the welcoming sense of community they have created for all to enjoy.
The name of your business is Jax-Zen. What type of business is this?
Jina: We call ourselves a wellness and creativity studio. That’s because we have the floatation therapy and massage therapy. Floatation therapy is the main component of the wellness side. The creativity side is the art studio and the music studio. We provide creativity coaching and workshops and we also have life wellness workshops. The umbrella is Jax-Zen, then we have The Community Canvas, which is the art side of things and Jax-Zen Float is the wellness side.
How did you come up with the name Jax-Zen?
Jason: We were living in Belhaven at the time and we were sitting on our porch and drinking wine. All of a sudden inspiration came through me and I said, “Jax-Zen.” We went ahead and bought the domain name. This happened two years before we opened. We had been talking about it for a while and it happened two years later.
Jina: It wasn’t for a couple more years that it all came together. We wanted to have something representative of Jackson as you can see by the play on words and we wanted to have that zen mindfulness.
Is Jax-Zen the only business like this in Mississippi?
Jina: Yes, we were the first to bring floatation therapy to Mississippi at least this time around. Apparently, it was attempted by someone in the 1980’s, we’re not sure exactly, but from a commercial standpoint we were the first. Since Jax-Zen opened, there has been one more to open in Mississippi and we’re sure there will be more. We are the only one to combine floatation with creativity.
Are there certification requirements for the floatation therapy?
Jina: No, you don’t have to be certified, but there is a level of science that goes into it. You have to make sure you know the right amount of Epson salt and water. It is just a matter of having the ratios correct and we do not use chemicals.
What is floatation therapy?
Jason: Essentially, the floatation is a surface area about the size of a queen size bed. It has about ten inches of solution and it has a cover. It has a cover because it has ten inches of solution, 850 pounds of Epson salt and almost 200 gallons of water. The solution is heated to 93.4 degrees which is the outer temperature of the skin. The cover helps the air temperature to equalize with the temperature of the solution and the temperature of your skin. It feels like a neutral sensation and this is what gives you a loss of sense of body, coupled with the density of the solution. It cradles your body in a way which is almost like a zero-gravity environment. The other side of it is that it is really quiet and really dark. It causes a major sensory restriction and gives you a reset and lets your body and mind rest. You are actually floating. You just let go, lay back and float. This is to promote wellbeing. It is used for several things. Many top athletes use floatation therapy because the Epson salt helps to sooth muscles and it promotes muscle recovery. The other side is that it restricts stimuli sort of like meditation. It tunes everything out and it helps them to focus clearly.
Jina: There are also studies from a brain institute in Tulsa, Oklahoma, called the Libor Institute, where they study the effects of floatation therapy and anxiety. They are publishing articles about how it really helps anxiety, PTSD and other conditions. Navy seals use it for brain concussion recovery, and it can be used for accelerated learning. It is such a simple method that helps in so many areas. The reason we linked it to creativity is because it helps with innovation and being creative. Being creative not only in the sense of being an artist, but also coming up with a business idea or problem solving. That’s why we say body, mind and expression because it runs the gamut of overall wellbeing.
Jason: It takes you outside of your ego and helps you to sort things out clearly.
Are you both from Mississippi?
Jina: No, I’m from Arizona and Jason is from California and we met in Northern California. We moved to Nashville, Tennessee for several years and we have been in Mississippi for six plus years. Initially, my corporate job brought us to Mississippi.
Jason: Being into music, Mississippi is the bread basket if you will of American music and just the opportunity of being here was great. Being able to read books, live here, breathe the air and drink the water sort of gave us an understanding of Mississippi on a deeper level.
Jina: We’ve always been drawn to the South, especially Jason from a musical standpoint. When we got here, I thought we would only be here for a couple of years, but we really started to like it here and so we decided to put down some roots.
Why did you choose to bring your business to Midtown?
Jason: We caught a vibe and I have always had an infatuation with commercial real estate. When we came to Jackson, we cruised around a bit and when we got to this street, I got a good feeling.
Jina: We started looking into the area and found out about all of the cool things going on in the area with OffBeat, The Hatch, The Hanger and Pearl River Glass. We knew we wanted to be somewhere artsy and that had a creative economy and we knew this was it.
Jason: Our whole business came together in a DIY kind of way and we just felt this area was suitable for that and how we were trying to go about it. We didn’t want to be in a strip mall or anything like that.
Jina: When we lived in Nashville, we lived downtown, and I liked living in the city. At the time there was not a lot of residential property downtown. We liked the fact of the infrastructure growing all around us there. When we started looking into Midtown, we felt like there was so much potential here for growth all around us and we got the vibe we were looking for here. The infrastructure will grow around us here as well and we want to be a part of that.
Do you live in Midtown?
Jina: Yes, we do now. We lived in Belhaven first and then we moved here and our business was already here. We’ve been in Midtown for about a year and a half now. Everything lined up well with our plan. We found a very reasonable home here and I was able to leave my corporate job so that I could concentrate on Jax-Zen full time.
How has being in Midtown helped to stimulate your creativity and has it helped your business grow?
Jason: Honestly, it has helped all the way around. We have had so much support with our Midtown partnerships and BAM. On a creative level, we are next door to OffBeat, AND Gallery is around the corner and there are a lot of musicians across the street. When you surround yourself with so many like minded people, the creativity just flows. There is so much creative expression around us and it is great.
Jina: We plan on staying here and in fact we are already pondering and dreaming about what our next business adventure will be. We really want to continue to grow Jax-Zen here too.
What do you like most about Midtown?
Jason: The people mostly and it goes back to the vibe here. We love being around creative people doing creative things. The artists, painters, musicians, people who paint murals just so much creativity. It is different because Midtown for sure has its own personality.
Jina: Personally, I like the simplicity of our new life here. We have gotten rid of a lot of material things and ego and it has really been freeing. It has helped us to expand our creative juices. Midtown is really situated perfectly to someday connect with downtown Jackson and that is going to be awesome.
How has being a member of BAM helped you all connect more with the Midtown community?
Jason: It has helped a lot. Jina has organized a lot of the events in Midtown and we’ve been able to meet the community that way and plus living here has helped.
Jina: I think it is very important for business owners to have a great network and good communication with the community because as we continue to grow as a community we all need to have a voice in what happens here. We need to be able to speak up when things we don’t want to happen come in and we always want to be able to attract like minded people to bring their businesses here and live here as well. We do try to attend some of the Midtown Neighborhood Association meetings so that we stay up to date on what’s going on as residents here.
Jason: We’ve branded ourselves as Made in Midtown, which helps the community have a sense of pride in this area.
Where do you all see Midtown in the next five years?
Jason: The beer garden is coming soon and Millsaps is doing a lot of construction to be more geographically connected to Midtown. CS’s is opening at night now and we have Coffee Prose. I believe we’ll get our own neighborhood market soon.
Jina: I would say that within the next five years you will see more businesses come in. We are already seeing where more people actually want to live here. We believe we will see a great deal of expansion in Midtown, but we just want to make sure that it keeps the same culture. I would like to see more of an intentional liaison between the neighborhood association and BAM. I know they are working towards that and I think within the next five years we will see more of that.
If you could describe your business in ten words or less, what words would you use?
Jason: We are trying to make it so that when people leave here, they feel a little bit better than when they came here. Hopefully we are the epicenter of positive vibration. I know this is way more than ten words.
Jina: We want people to be in their flow or be their best. All of the things we do here are to help people nurture their flow whatever that is. It can be through floatation or art.
If you had only thirty seconds to persuade someone who has never heard of Jax-Zen, what would you say?
Jason: Jax-Zen is a staycation on so many levels. If you want to just have a place to come and get away for a little bit, whether for floatation, a massage or doing something creative, we are here for you all under one roof. We have groups of friends who come in and sit around the table to hash out ideas. We are a different kind of incubator.
Jina: If you want a place to come and zen out, this is it.
What do you all like to do in your spare time when you are not helping other people discover their best selves?
Jason: We like to travel and have family time with our nine-year old son. We do stay pretty busy, so whenever we have time to stop and hangout with each other, we like to do that.
Jina: Personally, for Jason it’s playing music and for me it is painting or making something. Really our hobbies brought this whole concept together. This is still fun for us because we love what we do. We do Community Canvas, where I take big canvases out and people paint all over it. Jason named it because of the community aspect. When the canvas is all covered up with paint or graffiti or people are finished doodling it up, I take it and I make things out of it like fabrics. Its great because it is infused with community energy. We sell those items here as well and we use the proceeds from those to put back into community events, like workshops and events for kids. Another project that we do is Kidi-Zen which is a multicultural art camp for kids and it expands beyond art. We also want to expand into providing S.T.E.M. camps and other enrichment activities for kids in this community.
Jason, tell me about your music.
Jason: On my mother’s side, I have relatives that were in the music business back in the late 1950’s in Missouri and both of my uncles went into radio and writing songs. They eventually made their way to Nashville writing and producing music. As a little kid, I always wanted to be a musician and a professional football player. Having people in the music industry to look up to, I suppose I got it from them. There have been times where I strayed away from music, but I always seemed to find my way back. When we decided to move to Mississippi, we decided that I would start treating music as a fulltime job and put most of my time into it. I usually do a run out to Colorado and a run out west to perform every year. Here I have played in just about every joint in town and I perform every year in Nashville at the fourth annual Magnolia Roads American Roots Hoedown. Currently I am cutting a record at Malaco Records and I am putting my energy into that and I am doing a whole rebranding with releasing it. I’m still doing some shows, but mainly trying to get this album out. I call it “American Roots”. It is a hybrid of country, blues and funk. The majority of the songs on this album I wrote sitting here at Jax-Zen on the front porch. After our current president was elected, I started getting into a little despair, so instead on getting into the negative, I wanted to be positive. The album in entitled, “Downloads from the Universe.”
What do you guys have coming up?
Jina: We have Paint and Sip coming up in May. We host two every month. We have probably five or so workshops coming up and something is going on every week here. Most of these workshops come under The Community Canvas. Jason’s new album is coming out. We will be doing more of the camps for kids. I also offer one on one art classes and small groups. We have added more retail. We have crystals, gemstones, essential oils, candles, jewelry, books and local made art.
For more information on Jax-Zen Float, visit the website www.jax-zenfloat.com and visit www.jasondanielsmusic.com for more information on Jason Daniels and the Jason Daniels Band. You can also visit and follow the social media sites:
featured: Raymond Horn & Jon Peterson
From the humble beginnings of testing and selling coffee at local Farmers’ Markets, Mississippi Cold Drip has made its way from the Southern Region to East Coast markets. Through Raymond Horn’s connection with ELSEWorks, the entrepreneurship program at Millsaps College, he met his now business partner Jon Peterson, and Mississippi Cold Drip has grown by leaps and bounds. For the noncoffee drinkers, Mississippi Cold Drip has you covered with its great tasting Chai Tea. You can now find Mississippi Cold Drip products locally in grocery stores and it is used by local restaurants in mixed drinks, desserts and as a seasoning. Raymond and Jon are working diligently to see that this Midtown business is one day nationally known.
What was your motivation in starting a coffee business?
Raymond: I have always wanted to work for myself. I was in the restaurant business before and I found myself in Mississippi wanting a fresh start and I was thinking of what kind of business I could start without having much capital. I had been toying with this cold brew coffee idea while I was out in California. California was where I actually began making coffee on a larger scale and I thought about selling it out there. When I ended up in Mississippi, I thought I would give it another shot. I remember my sister bought me a MAC computer and I was searching online to find out how to porter bottles and buy a domain so I kind of crept into it. My intention was always to be self-employed and to do something that I liked doing. I like to drink coffee and I was once a chef. I love serving people and making them happy. That’s my nature.
As a chef, what were your specialties?
Raymond: I could make just about anything. I owned several restaurants in New Orleans, which is where I’m from and my sister still owns a restaurant there. I was also a chef in California for an over fifty-five community out there.
How many flavors or variations of coffee have you tapped into?
Raymond: We started with just the original and we made chai tea as well. Then we made this caramel sweetener that went with it and we were doing well with that. We started thinking about how we could do different flavors and we just decided to move into that very slowly. We ordered different flavors and we had tastings to see what people liked. A lot of this flavors came from the original demos we had done. We had drinks like the Mississippi Turtle, where we put Hershey’s chocolate and caramel in it. It was well received so we decided to go ahead and make that flavor. We developed our vanilla simple syrup and we created our Mill St. Vanilla flavor. We have five flavors now and we just ordered some hazelnut so we will have six. We will probably do seasonal flavors as well, like a pumpkin spice for Thanksgiving.
Do you have to drink this coffee cold?
Raymond: No, you can heat it up in the microwave and drink it hot. It is very stable. If you made a cup of regular coffee and you saved it and put it in the refrigerator and went back to drink it the next day, it would not taste very good. This coffee, even if you made a cup and diluted it with milk and put it in the microwave, drank half of it and put the other half in the refrigerator and came back to drink it the next day and poured it over ice, it would still be just as good. It does not turn bitter. It is a concentrate so it can be mixed with water, milk, vodka, whatever you like. We’ve done a lot of promotion with Cathead Vodka. Several restaurants have this coffee on their menu. They use our coffee for mixed drinks and to make their desserts.
What is your favorite flavor?
Raymond: My favorite is the Salted Caramel, but I also like our Chai Tea. The Chai Tea idea came during the time I was selling my coffee at the Farmers’ Markets. Not everyone liked coffee so I said that I would make something they would enjoy. I love chai and I used to do yoga and I would see people making chai all the time. I tried it out and I came up with a pretty good chai I believe.
Do you have to do a lot of experimenting in order to come up with a flavor?
Raymond: Oh yes. My business partner, Jon Peterson and I, worked on the flavors for a long time. We had to determine how much of this ingredient to put in and how much of that ingredient to put in. We had to test it to see if we put in too much or too little of something. I tested the flavors with the people at the Farmers’ Markets and I would get their reactions.
Jon: I interact great with people and so I know how to sell the coffee. I am not a coffee drinker so I don’t have much input in choosing the flavors, but I taste the coffee every now and then to help test the flavors. I know how to make it, bottle it, market it and sell it. I make the product relatable to people because there are so many ways to use the product. It can be used as a seasoning, in a dessert or in a mixed drink. I show people like myself who don’t drink coffee how to use this coffee in other ways than just drinking the traditional cup of coffee.
Do you guys do everything when it comes to manufacturing the coffee and tea?
Raymond: We do everything here except grow the beans and pick them. The beans are roasted here in The Hatch by my friend Doug Eltzroth, owner of Northshore Specialty Coffee Company. All of our coffee is in liquid form. We don’t sell the grinds for customers to make their own cold drip yet.
Why did you bring your business to Midtown?
Raymond: Millsaps would be the answer to that. I got involved with the ELSEWorks program through Joe Donovan and Jon Peterson, who is now my partner. He has been working with me since he was an Analyst with ELSEWorks. They found this spot for me. We got in touch with Dr. Kristi Hendrix with Midtown Partners and I was the first tenant here. Millsaps is how I got here and it has worked out perfectly. I was one of the first presenters at One Million Cups and little did I know that I would be right here today. I believe that it was a good business decision to bring Mississippi Cold Drip to Midtown. Being here at The Hatch has really helped us cost wise and we are about to move into a much larger space in the back of The Hatch. Being here has given me the opportunity to be around producers and small businesses. Being around other creative people is great, we run ideas by each other all the time. Also meeting and working with Jon has played a vital role in the success of Mississippi Cold Drip.
Jon: I was an ELSEWorks Analyst when I met Raymond. I was in the first class that Raymond pitched Mississippi Cold Drip to. When I became a senior at Millsaps, I became an Analyst as one of the first two undergraduates allowed to enroll in ELSEWorks. We worked on the business plan, getting equipment to set up the facility, we then went on to set it up, and we worked on the branding like labels and bottles. I was very involved in the early stages and the fact that Raymond and I hit it off early was great. I went on to get my MBA at Millsaps and I became an Analyst as a graduate student. I was still involved with this project and I took over a lot of the accounting and the day to day operations. When I graduated, I really liked the idea of being self-employed. In the beginning there wasn’t a lot of money coming in, but I still wanted to be a part of this business, so we decided on partnership.
What do you like most about being in Midtown?
Raymond: The community is awesome. I grew up in New Orleans so I like the city feeling and the vibe here. I like the way they are trying to revive the community. I plan on staying here for as long as I can. I really like it like here.
Has Midtown been an inspiration for any of your coffee flavors?
Raymond: Yes, we have the Mill St. Vanilla which was inspired by Midtown. It is a really good seller too.
Has BAM helped you to get a better sense of the community and residents here in Midtown?
Raymond: Absolutely it has. We have done events with BAM and I have had the opportunity to meet some residents and get to know some of them. We have done events with OffBeat and Pearl River Glass where I’ve gotten to meet a few people in the community. Sometimes people from the area will just stop in to see what we are doing here and just to speak.
Where do you see your business in the next five years?
Raymond: I see it as a regional and hopefully national company. We are already on the East Coast in New York, Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts. We just got a picture of a guy on social media in Albany, New York with our coffee. We do a lot of demos up there. We have a great demo team and we use a lot of students from Millsaps.
Jon: We paid for an ad on RangeMe.com which is a platform for vendors to come across retailers and for retailers to come across vendors that think their product would go great in their stores. We got highlighted and we sent samples to them and that’s how we got in those markets. We also have an agent up there that helped us.
Raymond: We are also in Birmingham and Memphis and we have been approved for Nashville and Montgomery. We are in some Whole Foods stores, Kroger stores, Hannaford Supermarkets, just to name a few.
If your coffee were a superhero and had a superpower, what would it be?
Jon: It would be a Brainiac. The superpower would be infinite wisdom. It is always on que.
Raymond: You can’t do anything in the mornings without having your cup of coffee first. Coffee is brain food. Caffeine keeps you on your toes.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
Raymond: I like to cook, ride my motorcycle and I’m about to get back into working out. I also like to spend time with my two dogs. I love doing charity work also. We do the Wells Festival each year, which is a festival held by Wells United Methodist Church to benefit a local charity. We do quite a bit with animals in the community. We trap cats, take them to get spayed or neutered and then release them back into the community. I really enjoy doing things like that.
What’s coming up for Mississippi Cold Drip?
Jon: We will be having another grand opening when we move to the larger space here in The Hatch. We don’t have a solid date, but we will make sure that it is on the website and our social media pages. We are also working on the seasonal flavor, Pumpkin Spice for the holidays coming up.
For more information on Mississippi Cold Drip Coffee and Tea Co., visit the website www.mscolddrip.com. You can also visit and follow the social media sites:
Google: Mississippi Cold Drip for more articles and news
Featured: Roderick Red
Roderick Red grew up in West Jackson and in the area of what is now considered Fondren. Roderick moved his business, Red Squared Productions, LLC to Midtown in 2014 and it has proven to be one of the best decisions for his business. His work ethic as well as his love for Jackson cause him to be a force to be reckoned with. He is constantly looking for ways to use his creative genius to put Mississippi on the map. His work has proven many times over that great things are “Made in Midtown”.
Do you live and work in Midtown?
I do not live in Midtown. I actually live in Fondren, but my business has been in Midtown since 2014. I ended up in Midtown because there was available office space in this building called The Hanger. Downstairs was the Purple Word Center and a friend of mine was hosting a book event for kids. I was at the time working as an assistant director of a youth program. I was wondering around the building and came upstairs to the area we are in now and all of this was empty. I thought this would be an awesome space for my business. By this time, I had already been in business for about two years and it was growing. You know, before I moved my business here, I had never even heard of Midtown. People would refer to this area as the North End, but I had no idea what was here. I just needed a good workspace, and this was available.
What type of business do you own?
The name of my business is Red Squared Productions, LLC. We are a full-service video production company. We mainly make and produce videos. We offer three major services which are: 1) commercial and promotional video production where we create commercial and promotional videos for nonprofits and other companies; 2) live event production for any events like your pastor’s sermon, concerts, comedy shows, talk shows, etc. With that, we have the ability to broadcast the event live via social media channels and YouTube; and 3) development and marketing which we recently began offering through our partnership with the Southern Cult Creative Collective. It is somewhat of an advertising agency. The Southern Cult Creative Collective is made up of businesses and individuals who are creatives and it offers services from website design, video productions, to social media management.
How did you come up with the name Red Squared?
I don’t tell this story often, but as you know Red is my last name. I named it after my father who passed in 2012. My dad was Roderick S. Red, Sr. and I am Roderick S. Red, Jr. When he passed in April 2012, I started my business soon after that and I wanted to do something to make him proud. Red Squared used to do photography and video. Later we transitioned from photography and now we only do videos. My dad used to be a photographer. To represent both of us, I just took our last name and squared it, as in “Red²”. It’s like squaring two numbers. I just spelled it out to Red Squared. I wanted the business to be a representation of both of us but mainly him.
Since beginning your business, what work are you most proud of?
I am still very proud of the piece we created for Jackson called, “We Are Jackson.” It was such a good representation of our city. People who are from Jackson have even asked if it was really filmed in Jackson. That makes me proud because it is such great quality work. It is about four or five years old, but it is still one of my favorites. I also really like the Entergy commercials that we’ve done. People can’t believe we did those commercials because they’re so professional. They think huge companies outside of Mississippi may have done them, but it was us. We are not a huge company, but we always produce quality work. Many of the large advertising companies do not have the capability to create commercials, so they partner with us to provide those services. Some companies run our commercials for five or six years before they decide to do a complete overhaul because our commercials age very well. That’s great in a sense because it shows the quality of work we produce, but then they don’t need us for a few years.
Do you do a lot of work around the state?
Yes, we do a lot of work around Mississippi and we do a lot of work in the Delta. It all depends on the organization and where they need us to go. There is an organization called NCAT (National Center for Appropriate Technology) that works with farmers all over the state. We traveled all over the state to shoot farmers. Sometimes our work takes us outside of Mississippi, which is great exposure. We hope to do more work outside of Mississippi to see firsthand what other companies in the industry have going on.
How has being in Midtown inspired or expanded your creativity?
Midtown is the single reason why my business has expanded. When I moved Red Squared here, my business was pretty stagnant. After moving to Midtown, I connected with Southern Cult and I met other people who were doing creative things. They showed me what creativity really was and how to be more creative. That is what really helped to take my business to the next level. Collaboration with people in Midtown brought this business to where it is now, and it is the reason why we are continuing to grow.
What do you enjoy the most about being in Midtown?
I like being in and a part of an up and coming neighborhood. Midtown has such a cool reputation. I enjoy feeding off of that and helping to feed into that by being an artist driven company. I believe it really makes sense for my business to be in Midtown. I like the sense of community here. It’s pretty small so you can always go around and talk to people and see what they need. The people in Midtown are super helpful too and that’s a plus.
Has becoming a member of BAM helped you to connect more with the Midtown community?
In a general sense, yes. I get to meet people in the community who interact with the businesses. BAM has helped me to get to know who people are in the community. I know who is moving into or out of the neighborhood and I know more of what is going on in the neighborhood. I have been a member of BAM for about two or three years now and I currently serve as president of the board. We try to be more conscious in what we do as far as involving the community. Of course, the board has residents of the community on it and we try to leverage that to come up with more ways to engage all of the residents of Midtown.
Describe how you see Midtown in five years and how does Red Squared fit into that picture?
I can see where Midtown would have grown substantially by then. I think it might start to look different in terms of the make up of the neighborhood. It will be more eclectic, but more polished. I can see more businesses here and I believe Red Squared will be one of those businesses considered to be a pillar in the community. We are growing right now as a company and as we grow, our stature will grow in the city and that will help bring more light to the neighborhood. When Red Squared is mentioned, people will automatically associate it with Midtown.
How would you describe yourself in ten words or less?
A hardworking, intelligent, practical, decision making servant leader who believes in Christ.
What gets your creative juices flowing?
I am kind of competitive. Things that make sense, like great products or commercials really inspire me. When I see other people creating cool stuff, it makes me want to do it too. Being in Jackson really inspires me because people tend to get complacent here. People don’t believe that great work can come out of Jackson, but when they see that it can and it does, they are so blown away and surprised by it. That really motivates me to continue making great quality work as much as I can. It let’s people know that not only did someone in Jackson do this, someone born and raised in Jackson did it and he’s a young Black guy. Exceeding the expectations of others motivates me, especially when they have low expectations of a Jackson product.
What do you do in your spare time?
When I’m not working, I like to travel. I like to visit different cities and see how they move and operate. I like to try out cool restaurants, play basketball and I enjoy participating in activities with CityHeart Church, which is the church where I attend. I am heavily involved with my church. I’m the creative director for my church. We run the social media, do the videos and the photography.
What’s coming up for Red Squared?
We are growing. We recently hired a couple of new employees. We are looking to expand in terms of the services that we offer. We are looking to do more live events and really be a full-service production company. We are also a rental house for equipment and we are looking to do more of that. We will do more traveling around the country and become a national company and hopefully global. I personally want to direct documentaries and enter into the film festival circuit separate from my company. There are not many African American documentary directors. I want to direct quality documentaries about compelling subjects that have not gotten adequate exposure.
For more information on Roderick Red and Red Squared Productions, LLC, visit his website www.redsquaredproduction.com. You can also visit his social media sites:
Google: Roderick Red for other articles and interviews
Featured: Adrienne Domnick
Adrienne Domnick is a Midtown artist who grew up in the Jackson area not too far from Midtown. Adrienne never had formal training to be an artist; however, her natural creative talent and eye for detail would lead one to believe otherwise. Her love of music, all things art and her Midtown community, feed her creativity even when that is not the intent. If you don’t see Adrienne out and about much, more than likely she is in her studio creating or somewhere enjoying live music getting those creative juices flowing.
What brought you to Midtown?
After graduating from college I moved to D.C., but things did not work out the way I planned and I ended up moving back home to Jackson. I started taking up photography and I was looking for a photography studio and I stumbled upon a live-work space and that’s how I got to Midtown. I have been in Midtown since 2011. I knew about Midtown because I grew up in downtown Jackson and Midtown was sort of like the rival neighborhood growing up. It was called Northend back then and Midtown was new. I had no idea when I moved here that it was an art district. The space I’m in now, I purchased collectively with three other artists. I rezoned it and we opened a gallery. I actually live and work here.
The name of your gallery is AND Gallery. How did you come up with the name?
People always ask if it has anything to do with my name or my initials and it has absolutely nothing to do with that. There is a box that has been here since before we got here and we had no idea where it came from. We do know now where it came from. This building that we are in has been art studios for decades. Different artists have come through here for years. Tyler Tadlock, one of the members of 133 Millsaps collective, talked about opening a contemporary art gallery in Jackson long before we were owners. Right after we purchased the building, we allowed someone to use the space for storage. When they left the space, we decided to act on that dream. We put walls up ourselves and we opened AND with my show, Hip Hop Show Vol. 2. The name AND came from the box. You can see the letters A-N-D on the box. We were trying to find a name for the gallery and this box was just sitting up there so we said let’s call it AND. We found out that an artist based in New Orleans left the box here. He is a carpenter and an artist. All of his work is wood and he made that box. He made it for a participation type of art show. We just ran with the name because it has been in the building longer than all of us.
What does AND stand for?
For us, AND means art, noise and dance. Those are all of the elements that we use for our shows and performances and noise meaning music.
At what point did you realize you wanted to be an artist?
I’ve always known that I wanted to be an artist. Not necessarily getting paid for it, but I’ve always been a creative person. As a child, I used to say that I wanted to be an artist, but my mother would always tell me that being an artist is not a real job because they don’t make money so do something else. That is the impression I had about being an artist so I never pursued it. None of my degrees are in art. I took up photography because I go to a lot of concerts. The base of all of my art is mainly music. I love music. I started taking pictures of the artists at their concerts. That put me on the path to art. When I graduated from college I was looking for an outlet so I went to Michael’s and bought an art kit and I started to practice drawing album covers that I loved. At that point I truly began to focus on my art although I wasn’t trying to sell it. I had the opportunity to put my work in OffBeat and I ended up selling all of it. I believe that really started my career as an artist and I haven’t stopped. I literally have not put my brush down. I don’t think of it as work because I just love to create.
What type of artist are you?
Other people would probably say that I am a visual artist. I don’t like to put myself in a box like that. I just like to say that I’m creative and I know that can mean anything. I work in photography, I paint and I curate. I am just a creative person. I even do creative consulting. I don’t want to be in a box. I want to be known for my creative ideas. I don’t even want to paint forever. I want to create whatever these hands allow me to do. I also work with glass at Pearl River Glass Studio and I love doing that. I’ve been working with them for five years. I work a lot with fused glass and the projects vary. I get to create for them and I handle all of their social media and the website.
Of all the art you’ve created, what is your favorite piece?
It would be a piece called Cold War which is a portrait of singer Janelle Monáe. It was one of my first pieces that defined my painting style. I still have it and it is on cardboard and I will never let it go. I still have people inquiring about it so I put a ridiculous price on it. I think it would be crazy to charge someone two thousand dollars for a painting on cardboard. I’ll never sell it, I don’t want to let it go. That’s my baby because it was my first detailed piece.
Who or what inspires your creativity?
I would say music more than anything or I would say artists. Artists inspires my art. Music plays such a big part of my life and that is what I’m drawn to. I love jazz and hip hop and you can tell that from my subjects. I really love all types of music. Music is where I pull most of my inspiration. I collect vinyl and I’m always trying to recreate the feeling of a lot of older vinyl covers. I focus a lot on Black art because I feel like we have very distinctive features. I feel like I’m painting icons to keep them alive. Paying homage to great artists inspires me.
Has being in Midtown inspired your creativity?
Yes, absolutely. I live and work in Midtown and this place is so cool because we have so many artists and a lot that come through here at different times. What I love about it is that it is not like Fondren. You don’t see the artists in Midtown because we are actually in our studios making art. I love being around artists for feedback when I need it. I get a lot of that from Midtown. Being here has helped me grow tremendously as an artist. I am constantly having to take it up a level. I didn’t study art but being here has helped me. Opening this gallery is teaching me a lot. I feel like I’m in art school. I love being in Midtown because this is where the makers are.
Have you been able to reach the community of Midtown with your artwork?
I think so. That is one of the things I think is so great about BAM. We are trying to bridge the gap between the businesses and the community. I donate when I can to different activities here. The neighborhood association is really good too about having events for the kids and the community. Those are the times that I can show up and donate artwork or play art games with the kids. I also go to the Midtown Charter School and speak to the kids about art. For 2019, I plan to have more programs for the community to come in and do participatory art projects. BAM is really the main way that I’m able to connect with the community. So many BAM opportunities have put me in front of members of this community.
What is your most enjoyable memory as an artist?
I had a pop-up show with another artist at the Mississippi Museum of Art about Mississippi Pop Art. We packed out the place and I believe it was probably the largest turnout for a pop-up. It was amazing to see all of the people come out for that event. That was a big deal for me because at that point I really started to feel like an artist. That was back in 2014. Another great memory was when I did my Hip Hop Show Vol. 2. It was centered around my older cousin who is now deceased. He is the one who put me on to music as a kid. I was paying homage to him with different eras of music and I had an installation in the middle of the floor which was symbolic of his dresser. It helped me to go back to what I felt like as a kid. That show meant a lot to me because it was more about my childhood and I feel like that was the first show where I really had a true narrative. I paint what I want to paint but that was one where I was intentionally painting certain people. We were able to do an artist talk with that and I think that people really connected with it. You could really look at it and connect me to it.
What do you do when you are not creating art?
I am traveling and going to concerts and festivals. That’s my life. If I’m not creating I may also try to get out of town or go somewhere where I can hear some live music. I love live instruments. Music always gets my creative juices flowing even when I’m just trying to relax.
What’s coming up for you and AND Gallery?
In February we do Black History films once a week. We choose films or documentaries that are centered around art, noise and dance. In March we will have another exhibition that will close out the year with local artist Amelia Key and possibly a few more local artists. Also, we really want to have more art education programs here to teach the art and business side of it. Right now I am working on a project with the Jackson Airport. I am painting two murals on wood panels to be placed on the inside of the airport. The Greater Jackson Arts Council partnered with the airport on this project and I was chosen to be one of the artists. Soon I will be working on a project with the City of Jackson called the Fertile Ground. It is a grant offered by Mayor Bloomberg to over two hundred cities and Jackson was one of the cities chosen. It is a great opportunity and I am truly honored to be chosen as one of the artists to work on this project. I will be creating murals and I hope to bring in other artists to help with it and I will design it. The project deals with food insecurities within the city and the city will host various workshops and we will create art around it. I know this will be a great team and I am always up for the challenge. I am truly excited about it and nervous at the same time. We will be working with some principal artists and just to be on the same list with them is amazing.
For more information on Adrienne Domnick and AND Gallery, visit her websites www.andgallery.org or www.adriennedomnick.com. You can also visit her social media sites: Facebook: www.facebook.com/adriennedomnickarts; Instagram: @adriennedomnick
Featured: Tonja Murphy
Tonja Murphy is a mother of three, an author, mentor and lover of people. She grew up in the Jackson area and now lives and works in Midtown, making her a valuable asset to the community. Her passion for Midtown and the youth is unmatched and it is all grounded in her faith in God. In a conversation with Tonja, one will learn about her children, The Ladybug Club, community service, her books, business and so much more.
Who is Tonja Murphy?
I am a lover of life and community. I love to see an aha moment in people, especially kids and women. Just to see them get it and get it for themselves gives me the greatest joy. I love to see all of their capabilities. That’s just who I am. I am a mom of three. I am a friend and I would like to say that I am a good friend. I am a servant. Yeah, that is who I am.
Do you live in Midtown?
Yes, I live and work in Midtown. I’ve lived in Midtown for thirteen (13) years and worked for Midtown Partners, Inc. for almost five years. Before working for Midtown Partners, I served on the board of directors. I currently serve on the BAM board of directors as well.
I know that you are an author as well. How many books have you written and which is your favorite?
I have published 5 books, and have drafts for several more. All of my books are my favorite, but I have a favorite reason for each one. I enjoy writing monthly columns for the Clarion-Ledger newspaper. Recently, I wrote columns for Mississippi Christian Living Magazine and Women to Women with Joanne: The Magazine. I am really proud of my writing for Mississippi Christian Living and I hope that it turns into something more because faith is a big part of who I am.
Who or what inspired you to write?
That would be God and my youngest son. I would send out a short “Thought for the Day” by text message to different people and one day my son said, “Mom, I feel like you have more to say.” I told him, “I do, I think I do.” Then I just started writing short stories and that’s how my first book “Icing on the Cupcake” came about. “Icing on the Cupcake” came about because one of my fraternity brothers, who happens to be a baker, would always have pictures of cupcakes on his social media pages. I noticed that on the cupcakes, there was never any icing that went to the edge of the cupcake, it was always kind of in the middle. I wondered why it was always like that and I thought maybe it was so that you would not get icing on your hands when you unwrapped the cupcake. God is like that and He gives us all things to enjoy, but with boundaries. What He gives us, we have to have some boundaries in it. With short story collections, most of them are named for a short story included in the collection. As I was going through the titles, “Icing on the Cupcake” wouldn’t let me go. My fraternity brother’s cupcakes are actually on the cover of the book.
How do you feel that you are able to reach and impact the community of Midtown through your employment with Midtown Partners?
As the Youth Engagement Specialist, I am able to impact the youth, middle school, and high school students. It gives me an opportunity to meet them at a very pivotal point in their lives. My goal is to show them that a caring adult is able to mentor them without telling them what to do. I show them choices, and allow them to discover the best choice for them. They decide the best choice for them based on their experience, education and future aspirations. I like working through situations with them and it has been a wonderful journey. Some of the kids live in Midtown, but some of them feed into the community through the high school and I try to reach as many as I can. I love to see them empowered to make their own decisions. It’s not about what I do for them, it’s about what they learn and what they can actually do for themselves and process their way through it. I am so grateful that my life and my work in Midtown has been filled with so many success stories.
How has the Midtown community inspired you as an author?
I can tell you about an experience I had at one of the senior congregate meals. I went in to read some of the short stories from “Icing on the Cupcake” and they really enjoyed it. They were glad to see a youth in the community, which is what they consider me as, to be a published author. One thing I can appreciate about being with the elderly is you don’t have to be related to feel warmth that resembles the arms of a grandparent. They are proud when they see someone successful who looks like them. Having those opportunities inspire me.
Has BAM helped you connect with the community more?
BAM has helped me connect more with businesses and find out what it is that they do. With work, I am able to go ask business owners if they are willing to take time to speak with youth about the trials and triumphs of being a business owner. It is important that they know that there are successful small businesses right in their own community.
In ten words or less, describe Midtown in the next five years.
Evolving with neighbors, businesses, and events comparable to Fondren and Belhaven.
What is your most enjoyable memory of Midtown?
My children being able to attend a community school that was loving and welcoming, with great teachers, students, and parents. It was great to see my kids grow up, play with, and go to the same schools as all of the other kids in the community.
What is The Ladybug Club?
That is a very loaded question because we are so many things, but The Ladybug Club is a nonprofit mother and daughter organization that focuses on four things: education, community involvement, empowerment, and family. Ages range from six to sixteen, but once a Ladybug, always a Ladybug. We keep track of students beyond sixteen and follow them through college and beyond. We have Ladybugs in college and one who is now married with her own family. They are also involved more in sports and other organizations. Some of the mothers have gone back to school and graduated college. Mothers and daughters take life lessons and apply them and this is what’s important. Members teach others what they’ve learned as well. It all started in 2005. I wasn’t looking to do this at all. My nieces loved to hang out and have sleepovers with me and I would always find something interesting for us to do together, whether it was a restaurant or an art project. Well, they started inviting their friends and because I work in the community, people started hearing about it and wanted to know more about it. It started growing and I didn’t know what it was growing into, but I knew it was something. So we were in the kitchen one morning for breakfast when they all spent the night with me and one of the little girls looked at me and said, “Ms. Tonja, this is The Ladybug Club.” I said, “You know what, it’s The Ladybug Club then.” My daughter’s nickname is Ladybug and they had all been around her. So that is how it happened. I knew we needed more structure so we would meet and pray and the moms started meeting as well and helping to organize. It started in Midtown, but we are not limited to Midtown. I’m so glad that we are structured now and things can be delegated. I am just the founder, but we do have a director. If I can’t teach them how to run it without me, it defeats the purpose of one of the core things we are trying to accomplish. We have participated as volunteers in The Good Samaritan 12Ks for the Holidays fundraiser for all nine years that they have hosted the event. We’ve volunteered at museum and exhibit openings, collected toiletry items and box fans for the elderly, cleaned their houses and helped organize their apartments. We volunteer at a lot of nonprofit organizations in the city as well. For us it’s not about the hours, it is about what did you learn about the organization and what did you learn about yourself?
What do you do in your spare time?
I enjoy reading and supporting organizations that focus on reaching underserved members of the community. I also enjoy working with the youth at my church, Jackson Revival Center Church.
What do you have new coming up?
My new book, “Blessed Thirteen: Lessons from a Ladybug” will be released Spring of 2019. It is a book for anyone who wants to start something in the community. There are things they should consider prior to starting. There is value in people giving that type of information. I am going to save people some headaches and tears with this book. There are also personal stories from some of the girls and their mothers, and pictures of them growing up. Currently, we are having a High School Supply Drive that will benefit the English department at Lanier High School. Anyone interested in donating can check out The Ladybug Club’s Facebook page or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Featured: Phillip Rollins
Phillip Rollins grew up in Jackson and in Ridgeland but was introduced to Midtown through his passion of deejaying. Also known as DJ Young Venom, Phillip became very much in demand on the local Midtown music and poetry scene. OffBeat is a hidden gem, where you will find great music playing, albums touching every genre and decade, toys, games, eclectic art pieces, his very own clothing line, his deejay equipment setup to get you out on the dance floor at any moment, and so much more. You can find him there on Wednesdays and Thursdays from 12pm – 6pm, Fridays and Saturdays from 12pm – 7pm, and on Sundays from 12pm – 5pm.
Why did you open Offbeat, what’s the back story?
I always wanted to have a store and people told me that I know a lot about music so I should have a record store. I thought no, that wouldn’t work. They said well, you know a lot about comics so you should have a comic book shop. I was like no, I don’t see that working. I ended up being a part of the Mississippi Black Leadership Institute where we had to do a project that affected the community. A lot of my classmates were getting doctors, lawyers, aldermen, councilman, etc. They were planning to later run for office, open practices, buy buildings and that was their thing. I was a youth justice organizer for the ACLU and I didn’t want to run for office. I was into politics, but I didn’t want that to be my goal for helping the community, so I decided to open OffBeat. OffBeat is an alternative art store that focuses on records, comics, designer toys and serves as an art gallery for young minority artists
How did you come up with the name OffBeat?
Everything that you see at OffBeat is a form of art, it’s really a form of off beat art basically. When people do comics, somebody has to storyboard, draw, ink, color and edit the script before it’s put into publication and printed. The toys have to be sketched out then finalized and then there is a 3D model of it so it is sculpted and then painted. Music is pretty self-explanatory, but a lot of people still don’t consider hip hop, electronic music and in some cases jazz a form of art. That’s why I call this place OffBeat.
Where do you purchase your items that you have for sale?
I buy wholesale. For everything here, I go through companies and buy it wholesale. The comics, I usually buy from a company that has pretty much cornered the market in comic books. For the used records, I normally buy people’s collections. I carry new records too so I curate everything specific so it’s not the same as you see in major stores. For the toys, I go to the International Toy Fair in New York and I meet with vendors there and those are the same distributors that major stores buy from.
Do people come in OffBeat from all over the state?
Yes, we have people that are visiting the city to stop in. We have people from England to California who have heard about the store and want to stop in and shop.
What is your most enjoyable memory of OffBeat?
My most enjoyable memory would probably, well there are too many. We had a fundraiser and it was great to see everyone from the community rally around and support it to help out. The fundraiser was to help pay ASCAP Fees, to allow us to play music in the shop.
What is your most enjoyable memory from Midtown?
My most enjoyable memory of Midtown is going to be MidFest.
What is your favorite thing about BAM and how do you think it benefits you and OffBeat?
The activeness with trying to bridge the gap between the community and the businesses and that was a big concern of mine. Many people were talking about gentrification in the area, and I feel that if I’m here, I can get involved and help put a stop to that. Just getting people that live here onboard with BAM and knowing that the board is trying to work together with the community to actively get some of these issues addressed and resolved.
If Midtown were a superhero, what superpower would it have?
I believe the superpower would be akin to what the Green Lantern does. Being able to create anything since this is an art district with a lot of creativity and creative people. You can get a painting here, you can get a glass sculpture, you can get wood, you can get home-brewed tea. It’s the creativity and the innovation that comes out of Midtown that would be its superpower.
How do you see Midtown being different in five years?
What I would like to see in Midtown is a café. That’s the only need that I see, everything else is here. I don’t ever see it being like a big retail district, I see it being like this cool little-hidden treasure of Jackson. I think a good spot to get a good sandwich would be beneficial to the area.
What do you do in your spare time?
I practice deejaying, I play video games with my son and I listen to my record collection to see what I will play for my next vinyl set. That’s really it because I don’t have a lot of free time.
What do you have coming up for OffBeat?
We plan on doing a Black Friday where we will have a special record store day where we’ll have sales on records and offer exclusive releases that other retailers won’t be able to get because we are an independent record store. We’re getting ready for the Holiday Studio Tours and getting ready for next year. Trying to start up a producer/beat making workshop for an after school program for kids. Hopefully, we will launch this by the middle of next year if not the beginning of the year.
Is there anything else interesting you would like to add about OffBeat or yourself?
I do an event here at OffBeat called Sunday Night Slow Jam, where I play all vinyl. I will be starting it back up once a month since it is football season. After that, it should go back to bi-weekly. We also host Significant Saturdays every first Saturday in conjunction with daniel johnson of Significant Developments. It’s a community project for kids. We do art projects in the mornings, Saturday morning cartoons on the projector and he plays children’s funk records. I also have a collaboration with Lucky Town Brewery in Midtown for a cider that I have coming out. I can’t consume Lucky Town Beer so I wanted to come up with something that I could enjoy. I also noticed that when OffBeat would host events that serve alcohol, the ladies were always requesting something other than regular beer. I think this would be a great option for them as well so I want to cater to that. It is a hard apple cider with a natural spice and orange peel flavor. A good flavor for the Fall and Winter. I plan to introduce a small batch of 22 oz. bottles at our Black Friday event in November and see how it goes.
For more information on Phillip Rollins and OffBeat, visit the website www.offbeatjxn.com. You can also visit his social media sites: Facebook: facebook.com/objxn; Twitter: @offbeatjxn; Instagram: @offbeatjxn
Featured: The reclaimed miles
Chad Schwarzauer is the owner of The Reclaimed Miles, an architectural salvage business here in the Midtown community. At The Reclaimed Miles, you can find furniture and art objects made from reclaimed wood and a variety of authentic architectural salvage. The Reclaimed Miles is open on Monday-Saturday from 10AM-5Pm, and on Sundays from 12PM-4PM.
In a few sentences, please describe your business.
We take down old houses from the 1800s piece by piece, bring them back here, clean them up and resell the salvaged items. The houses find me. I used to do a bunch of research. These days, people call me, and I stay so booked up that I’m six months out now before I can take on a new job.
How did you arrive in the Midtown community?
I grew up in Belhaven – moved there in 1987. I went to college at Mississippi State and then came back and started doing things in the Midtown neighborhood. I figured there was a good correlation between Belhaven and Midtown, so what’s prosperous for Midtown is prosperous for Belhaven. We are pretty involved in the Midtown community. We usually open up for all the Final Fridays, Midfest, Holiday Studio Tours, and I try to get to Lucky Town whenever I get a chance.
What made you interested in the business and led you to opening your business in Midtown?
My mom had an architectural salvage company here in Jackson back when I was in high school, and I was the free labor back then. I just learned the ropes from that. When the recession hit, I was doing residential construction and then when work disappeared, I decided to go back to State and finish a degree. I studied construction there under the architectural school. When I graduated, I started doing historical restorations and found that there wasn’t a good place anywhere around where you could go and buy a bunch of wood to do historical projects.
What is a typical day like in your business?
We do a lot. So, today we are removing nails from boards and cleaning up a bunch of material that we brought in. Pretty much everything is done by hand. There’re very few power tools. We don’t have big, heavy equipment.
Are your customers mainly local or all over the US?
We do a good bit of shipping, especially in the southeast. We usually have a delivery once every other month to Texas and then we’ll have one every couple of months down to Florida. We have a lot of stuff that goes to Louisiana, Alabama, and Tennessee. We have a lot of people that will drive over to see us. We even sold some stuff to Game of Thrones, so pretty much any Night’s Watch scene that you saw from last season had wood from here.
Do you have any new products/ what are some future goals?
We go and pull sinker material, so old cypress and pine trees. We go and pull these logs up off the bottom of rivers that have been down there for hundreds of years. We’ll pull them up and take them to the mill and have them sized up into large slabs. While they are underwater, they’ll absorb some of the surrounding material and they start to get these color bands. In cypress, you get a lot of blues and purples that you don’t get out of clean-cut cypress. With old reclaimed pines, you get a lot of greens and stuff that you don’t get any other way, and it’s also really high-quality wood. We’re getting ready to go pull some of these out of water that can be anywhere from 4 feet to 12 feet deep. We’ll go over to the delta, near Indianola and down to Louisiana – it just depends on what we’re looking for.
What do you like to do in your free time?
My fiancé is as much of a workaholic as I am so we don’t do a whole lot of free time type of stuff, but we go to the Neshoba County Fair every year and make sure to take off that week. We try to go to the beach when we can, too.
What is your favorite thing about being a part of BAM?
Getting to do the street festivals. It’s fun getting to know the other business owners and learn more about what they do.
Anything else you'd like us to know?
Check out our Facebook page, especially on Sundays for our specials!
For more information on The Reclaimed Miles, check out their Facebook!
Featured: Pat Boland
Pat Boland has been a member of the Midtown community since the 1970s. He is the owner of CS’s, a popular bar and restaurant located in Midtown across the street from Millsaps College. CS’s is a historical restaurant that has been around for a long time and is iconic to the surrounding area. Since at least the 1930s, a restaurant has been located on the corner of West and Adelle Streets that serves the Millsaps and Midtown communities.
In a few sentences, describe your restaurant to us.
We are a restaurant and bar and we serve home cooking, but we are probably known best for our burgers. I have a few employees that have been with me since the start, Inez does the cooking and she has been here off and on since 1979. She has been a bartender, waitress, bouncer, cook—she can do everything. Floyd has also been here continually for almost 30 years, and he does everything. He’s a good one to have! The three of us work together to keep this place going. We do some catering, but more delivery to these hospitals in the surrounding medical community. Sometimes we have entertainment here—the other night we had Beer and Business—The Else School comes and supports us a good bit. We also have entertainment at night from time to time.
Can you talk a bit about the history of CS’s and how the business has progressed throughout the years?
I have spoken with some older people that were coming to CS’s during the 1930s and 1940s. There has always been something here on this corner, it seems, and we have always been here for the Millsaps community. I moved into this building in 1978, mainly as a bar more than a restaurant. It kind of evolved into more of a restaurant and bar.
What does CS’s stand for?
Well, the place was originally called Hollingsworth’s back when I was coming here in high school. An old man named Mr. Hollingsworth owned it back in the 1960s and the majority of the 1970s before I got here. When I moved in, that’s what all the students and people that came here were calling it, so I just left it as CS’s.
What is a typical day like in your business?
We get in here around 8:30 or 9:00 in the mornings, start getting ready preparing the food and getting things ready for the lunch crowd. If we are open at night we stock the beer, and get the place set up.
How would you describe CS’s to someone that has never been before?
Well, you better have a sense of humor if you come in here. You can take a look at the walls and see why. It has character, some of the sayings on the stickers are filled with political jokes, and other sayings from past and present elections and such.
What is your favorite memory from CS’s?
In either 1981 or 1982, Jackson had the worst snow storm we have ever had. There was so much snow and ice they closed Millsaps for three or four days. Since the students were in school for the fall semester and the weather prevented them from going home, somehow they ended up over here at CS’s. From the time we opened at 11 for lunch until midnight we were slam packed full of Millsaps students! It was a very fun four days.
Do you have a favorite Midtown memory?
Not one in particular, I have enjoyed watching it grow from almost nothing into such a vibrant community. There is so much going on in the area, with lots of people working towards new businesses and projects. There’s lots of good stuff going on in Midtown.
Featured: Andy Hilton
Andy Hilton is a business owner based in the Midtown community. He is the owner and creator of SwingLab, a modular swing company. The swings’ aluminum frames are produced locally in Clinton, Mississippi, while Andy does the woodwork himself. The swings have a modern furniture design, with versatile backrests that can be rearranged according to the occasion. Sold mainly online, SwingLab swings have been purchased from all over the globe. Andy is always focused on developing new designs, and fulfilling current demands for his designs. We met with Andy to discuss what being based in Midtown means to him.
How did you arrive in the Midtown community?
“Midtown found me. I came back after I graduated college from Auburn University, I was doing lots of concrete counter tops and furniture design. I was renting the building across the street—what is now AND gallery—it was a garage. I looked out of that door and I would see this abandoned building, considered it an opportunity, and happened to get it for a steal.”
What do you enjoy most about the Midtown community?
“The Arts District of Midtown is very productive. It seems like everyone is busy doing something. It’s easier to work because when I walk in and the guys up front are working on something, it motivates me to work hard. The people in this community are invested, and always busy working toward their goals.”
As a member of the Midtown community, what role do you see yourself playing?
“I’m not sure if I have a certain special role, I maybe see myself as a kind of “boots on the ground.” I try to patrol my small area of land and if the gutters are clogged up, I speak to the city. I believe in the “broken window pane” theory, if something is messed up and left that way it will attract more problems. I do my best to do my part, and to be a good neighbor.”
How important is “shopping local” and being interconnected with other small businesses to you and the community of Midtown?
“I think it’s important for everyone in the community. For me, it’s not as important since most of my sales come from online. I love interacting with the community. I used to sell more around this area; I buy from the community more now. Midtown is important, but I think it’s even more important to consider Jackson as a whole. I buy my lumber from Jackson and the aluminum from Clinton, so I’m on the other end of the equation.”
What are you currently working on, or plan to work toward in the future?
“I’m working on one new prototype swing now, and some others in the future. My wife and I are restoring a house in the neighborhood that we plan to rent out. I am always working on improving this building, and trying to make it look better.”
Outside of your business, what do you like to do in your spare time?
“I do a lot outside, I kayak on the Pearl a lot. I like to get out on the river with my wife Jessica, and my dog Marvin.”
What do you enjoy most about being a part of BAM?
“It’s good to be in a forward-thinking business group. We are a collaborative group and this is helpful and inspiring to business owners throughout the community.”
For more information on SwingLab, please visit https://www.swinglab.co
Featured: Lucas Simmons
Lucas Simmons is a co-founder, co-owner, and head brewmaster at Lucky Town Brewery, a place where passion and pastime meet beer and business. Located on North Mill Street between Downtown and Fondren, Lucky Town is the only brewery in Jackson, MS, and Lucas handles everything from operations, management, and accounting, to the actual brewing of the beer. With the passing of House Bill 1322, which will allow breweries to sell their product on-site starting July 1st, there is a lot of excitement surrounding Lucky Town, as work begins on installing indoor seating, cooling fans, and thirty taps. This growth opportunity will also allow Lucky Town to position itself as a “culinary beverage center,” offering customers a selection of wines, meads, and ciders, in addition to its craft beer, which already boasts a wide variety of tastes and styles. We sat down with Lucas to learn more about Lucky Town, and its place in the eclectic and creative Midtown community.
Why did you decide to bring your business to Midtown?
“It was actually kind of a perfect storm of circumstances. We wanted to be surrounded by a community, so being somewhere way out in the suburbs didn’t make sense, especially in Mississippi where most of the suburbs are not real keen on having an alcohol producer. So Jackson made the most sense. We got contacted by the Midtown Partners, they wanted us to come down, they had a few properties for us to look at, and the first one they showed us was the one we ended up with, which is this gorgeous old building that was originally a Greyhound bus service depot, World War II steel river architecture you don’t find anywhere, lots of land. It was just an old building that needed a lot of work, but it was beautiful, and on top of that we’re right next to an amazing, flourishing arts community, a great neighborhood, and we’re right in the middle of everything. It’s a little out of the way for people who don’t know what Midtown is, but I think that’s going to change in the next five years as people realize all the wonderful things that are happening down here.”
What do you enjoy the most about Midtown?
“Just the camaraderie of the people, you’ve got such a varied group of individuals down here, from all walks of life, all areas around the country, and all different skill sets, and even though I might not understand some of them or they might not understand some of the things I do, we can sit there and talk about it all day long, and there’s always been a very tightknit group of people down here. When you go from a brewery, to what Philip is doing at Offbeat, to what daniel johnson is doing, who is an amazing creative mind, to Chad over at The Reclaimed Miles, you have all these somewhat like-minded people that just do completely different things, and that’s very cool.”
With the passing of House Bill 1322, what does that mean for Lucky Town?
“It is huge. Number 1, as a business it means a lot more revenue, and the bottom line is, being able to keep the doors open, paying the bills, paying our employees, we’re going to be able to expand faster, we’re going to be able to hire a lot more people, which helps me and helps everybody. The second part of that is, it gives us a better tie with the local community, because people can just come in here and buy a pint, or they can buy a six-pack to go. Someone working in Midtown that doesn’t want to drive, if they want to come and get a six-pack and then go head to the house, they can, which is awesome, but if they want to come in, sit down and hang out, have a pint, they can, which is awesome. This industry is very, very huge in tourism now, and because we are at the crossroads of the South here with I55 and 20, we have tons of people that pass through this town every single day going somewhere, and we have a lot that stop here just because there’s a brewery in town, and to be able to sell them a pint or a six-pack so they can get back on the road, that’s huge. And then they get to spread the word, and say, “Hey, this is an ultimate cool place, stop down here. Around the corner there are a bunch of artists, and a record shop, and this is going on,” and they’ll put it out there, so it helps everything around it, it helps tourism, it helps us grow, and it’s just good from every angle.”
What do you think Midtown’s superpower is?
“The ability to open people’s eyes with something completely different. Everybody down here is a maker of something. Mississippi has never been known for being the maker of something, even though there are so many amazing products that are built in this state. So having a complete center right here in Jackson where everyone is making something different and making something that usually people haven’t seen or done before, right here in their home town is pretty cool.”
Anything else you’d like to for people to know?
“If you haven’t been here, get down here and experience what Midtown is doing, it’s very cool.”
For more information on Lucky Town Brewery, please visit http://www.luckytownbrewing.com/
Featured: Karen Clem
Located in the heart of Midtown, the Good Samaritan Center and their resale store NUTS help serve the Jackson community by assisting families in crisis. The local non-profit serves clients from Midtown as well as Hinds, Rankin, and Madison counties, helping nearly 300-400 people a month with basic needs, mainly clothing and food. Clients can go to the Good Samaritan Center directly, but are also referred there by other organizations and churches.
We met with Director of Operations Karen Clem to find out more about NUTS and the Good Samaritan Center and their impact in the Midtown Community.
Why did you decide to bring your business to Midtown?
“It was 24 years ago and the Good Samaritan was looking for a permanent location. Since the Good Samaritan services the tri-county area, we wanted something that was centrally located, something that was along the bus line for easy access. So we got looking around and Midtown seemed like a nice area at the time, and it was kind of unknown. When we got this building there was not a lot going on, at that time Andy Young and Chris Porter were here. Plus it was affordable at the time, because this building was foreclosed for a couple years, so we were able to get it at a good cost, and we thought it would be a good place to grow. When we got we thought we would never fill it, but now it’s busting at the seams, so we’re blessed in a lot of ways.”
As a member of the Midtown community, what role do you see yourself playing?
“I think probably just a quiet supportive voice. We’ve been here a long time, we try to help our neighbors out as best we can. And I think with us starting to be more involved with BAM I think that has given us an opportunity to get to know a little more about what’s going on in the are, and it gets people to know a little more about us. Because I think there has been a little disconnect for a while, because everyone knows Midtown as an arts district, or they know Lucky Town, they don’t really think about a non-profit being here help people. And sometimes it’s not fun work, it’s not easy work, but it’s something that is very important. I think it’s just trying to be a part of something that helps complete the community, because we have a little bit of everything in Midtown. And I think the Good Samaritan Center is offering a part of something that can better the community and the people who live here.”
What do you enjoy the most about Midtown?
“Well there is always something going on and I like that, and I like the diversity. And not just the diversity in people, but diversity in the groups that are within Midtown. Whether it’s Luck Town, whether it’s the Good Samaritan center, whether it’s the Thrift Store, whether it’s artists, whether it’s the neighborhood association putting on different events, Midtown Partners has always got something going on. It’s like a combination of a lot of different things and I think that is what I like most about it.”
What are you currently working on and/or plan on doing in the future?
“Well the biggest thing we have going on right now is our community container garden and the Cooking Matters, which is a big thing because we have a huge food pantry and we help a lot of people with food, but sometimes it isn’t the most nutrsious food. So the community garden will give us an opportunity to provide better balanced meals, and also inform and educate people on healthier eating and that they can cook. A lot of people think they can’t cook, or they don’t want to take the time, and they can do it. I think it’s a slow process to get people more aware of that, but that’s something we’re going to be working on this year.”
For more information on NUTS and the Good Samaritan, visit http://goodsamaritancenter.org
featured: daniel johnson
Meet daniel johnson! daniel johnson is a socially engaged artists who serves as both the Director of Engagement and Learning at the Mississippi Museum of Art, and as the Chief Aesthetics Officer at his company Significant Developments LLC, which he describes as the “primary vehicle by which I formalize relationships around building projects”. Although neither of these are located in Midtown, daniel has been and continues to be an extremely active member of the community. He has been involved in past Figment arts festivals in Midtown, and will participate in the upcoming Verge interactive arts festival. We spoke to daniel about why he is dedicated to helping the Midtown community and what he believes makes it special.
Why did you decide to bring your business to Midtown?
“It’s important for me to be in conversation with other artists, and there is a congregation in Midtown of artists who are working in different disciplines, who are thinking very differently about the application of their art, and who come from very different backgrounds, but still see value in intentionally being in community together. Where as Significant Developments is often about working with non-artists, as an artist it is important to receive critical feedback from other artists about what I’m doing and just to be in ongoing conversation about our work.”
As a member of the Midtown community, what role do you see yourself playing?
“I think in Midtown you already have a lot of strong leaders that are taking initiative in ways that are complex, that are interrelated.”
“From this moment where you have all of these leaders to 10 years ago when it was like ‘Hey, here’s this empty building. We should do something with it,’ I think my role has been to be an engaged member of the community. To show up when there were conversations about how do we relate to each other, how do we do things in coordination, and to serve in a role.”
“I think it’s also to be a “dramaturge”, which in theatres is the person who helps to ensure that the story doesn’t disappear in all of the activity, and all the actions and all of the individual scenes that are created serve the point of this play. And so I think that when you’re doing that for theatre you only have one constituent, the director or the playwright. But to be the “dramaturge” for a community, although I haven’t been elected to that position so I don’t assert myself very strongly in that role, but at the same time when I’m involved in conversations, it’s to remember what all of these different people have articulated on their personal goals, on their hopes for Midtown, and to continually feed that back into the conversation and say, ‘Well remember this?’ or ‘Do we still believe this?’ or ‘This is what I hear us saying. Is this really what we’re saying? Is this really where we want to move based on what we’ve said before?’ And to try and just be a voice that helps Midtown and everyone involved continue to reflect on what is the coherent narrative of who we are.”
What’s your favorite thing about being a part of BAM?
“The forgiveness with which we all approach being busy individuals and coming together with an intention to do something at a thousand-foot level for this group of people, but recognizing that it’s difficult to do things in an intentional way for a group like this.”
What do you think Midtown’s superpower is?
“That the arts district itself, that it’s character is one of potential. That it’s not a clarification of this is good for this particular kind of artists. That it’s character is that we are a community of artists who believe in community and are open.”
For more information about Daniel Johnson and Significant Developments LLC, visit www.danieljohnsonmakesart.com
Featured: Dr. Kristi Hendrix
Located at 329 Adelle Street (or two doors down the road from the famous CS’s), Midtown Partners is a community development corporation that focuses on supporting the revitalization of the Midtown neighborhood. For over 25 years, Midtown Partners has provided comprehensive assistance to households in the area with a focus in five specific areas: community engagement, education, economic security, health, and housing/economic development.
Executive Director Dr. Kristi Hendrix takes a lesson from Disney’s 2008 animated film Bolt in how to inspire “superhero” qualities. In the film, the titular character’s “superpowers” derive not from any supernatural source, but from the unfailing reinforcement from his friends. The belief that we are great and able to do great things is itself the thing that makes us great. Dr. Hendrix uses this belief to motivate herself, her staff, and the Midtown community to reinforce the community’s unbreakable strength and resilience.
Among Dr. Hendrix’s stated priorities for Midtown Partners: to help provide avenues by which the business owners in Midtown can get to know the residents and vice versa. In essence, to help build a community.
We spoke with Dr. Hendrix to get to know a bit more about her and about Midtown Partners.
Can you tell us a little about your origin and your ties to Midtown?
I grew up in San Diego in a military family. My father retired and we moved to Kemper County during my high school years, so that’s how I made it to Mississippi. My husband and I, along with our two children, relocated to Jackson from Philadelphia in 2007. My background was in family and community development so Midtown became a perfect fit!
What is your favorite thing about being a part of BAM?
It provides me with the opportunity to engage with the business sector of Midtown! The entrepreneurs are so creative and I’m always impressed with the diverse quality of work.
What is on the horizon for Midtown Partners that really excites you?
We just finished up our $9 million dollar West Project in conjunction with our housing partner, which added 31 units of affordable housing. That was exciting! We are rolling out the redesign of the Prosperity Center and will be reopening the Family Resource Center which will focus on children 0-5. In addition, we’ll be ramping back up our creative economy efforts and business recruitment.
For more information about Midtown Partners and the work that they do, visit http://midtownpartners.org/.
Featured: Andy Young
Since it first moved to Midtown in 1976, Pearl River Glass Studio has been an integral part of the Midtown business district.
“We were the first artist studio in Midtown, so we’ve always been there as sort of the anchor for the whole arts district idea. So that’s what I see our role as, as sort of the grandfather figure,” says founder Andy Young.
A true artist’s haven with its numerous studios and open courtyard, Pearl River Glass produces a versatile set of artwork, everything from stained glass windows for churches to architectural art glass to Christmas tree ornaments.
Occasionally, they take on larger tasks. Among the projects Pearl River Glass has tackled: the Holocaust Memorial for Beth Israel Congregation, an intricate and powerful installation just completed in mid November.
We spoke with Andy to gain some insight into both his person and the business:
Tell us a little more about how Pearl River Glass Studio works.
Pearl River is the place where I would want to work if I didn’t have a job. The primary purpose is art, then production, then business, which makes the other parts possible, is last on the list. Anything done as an art form has to have very precise craftsmanship. We strive to make well-made things. There are very few places in our culture where you can actually make art on a day to day basis and get paid for it.
What’s your favorite thing about being a part of BAM? How about being based in Midtown?
I guess that would be developing relationships with other entrepreneurs and the neighborhood.
One of the things about Midtown that I like is that everyone can work and live together in parity.
If you come down to Midtown to one of our events, you will definitely see a mixed crowd and I can’t think of another venue in Jackson where you will see that.
Outside of your business, what do you do in your spare time?
I’m a gardener. I do my artwork, I do paintings and drawings when I have time. I take care of two teenage children four days a week, so that occupies a good part of my energy! I also write poetry, and I’m actually trying to get a poetry reading off the ground as part of Final Fridays.
For more information about Andy Young and Pearl River Glass Studio, visit http://pearlriverglass.com/.
Featured: Quincy Grant
Quincy Grant may be the newest friend of BAM, but it is clear after just a few minutes of speaking with him that he is one of Midtown’s most enthusiastic fans.
Quincy has an easygoing demeanor and a smile that springs easily to his face. His passion, he says, is event planning, something he came to realize several years ago when creating awareness for what would become Jackson’s Juneteenth celebration.
If you’ve spent much time in Midtown, you have likely seen Quincy riding his bike through the neighborhood or hanging out at OffBeat.
Though he does not yet have a physical location in Midtown, expect to see Quincy’s involvement in Midtown’s events increase, since he sees himself as an advocate for the neighborhood as a whole.
“I like to believe that I’m sort of a bridge to bring people over and introduce them to Midtown,” Quincy says when asked about his role in the community.
We asked Quincy some questions about his connections to Midtown:
What do you enjoy the most about Midtown?
I enjoy the youth of Midtown. I like that a lot of the businesses are owned by younger people; I like that a lot of them are start-ups. A lot of these things that are in Midtown started as a passion and then moved into a business. I just really want to promote that to a lot of other people, that your passion can turn into a profit.
What are you currently working on or planning for the near future?
So, I am working with BAM to help with Holiday Studio Tours this year. I have teamed up with Final Fridays to try and get more people to go business to business. I teamed up with Spokes, who donated some bikes to let us do bike tours around the neighborhood. We’ll play some music, hook up a speaker to a back pack or something like that and take five or six or seven bikes around during Final Fridays.
Last year the Midtown Public Charter School E-Club created a comic book starring the scrappy local superhero Midbot, a robot that used its superpowers to improve Midtown. In that spirit, if you could possess any superpower, what would it be and why?
Mind control. I wish I could mind control everybody and just send out this message: Go to Midtown! Whenever there’s something going on, go to Midtown, spend your money, hang out with your friends and drink beer!
What do you think Midtown’s superpower is?
Midtown’s superpower is its ever-changing face. It can go from new to old and old to new and start over again and it can just be recreated. Buildings can be repurposed and events can be anywhere and everywhere. I feel like that’s what Midtown is: always moving and changing.