Laurel, Mississippi - In Search of Ben & Erin, Pt. II


Why has the show Home Town found its way into the hearts of millions of Americans?

In part one of my blog about our short visit to Laurel, Mississippi I offered an overview of my answer to the question.

In part two I want to explore why I think Laurel is working its way back. Back to claiming its place of deserving your visit and attention. Based on what I have read Erin Napier is tenaciously in love with, not just her husband, Ben, but with family and friends.

And she is in love with Laurel.

It's almost as if Erin was either going to be part of the restoration of her community or wear herself out trying. With Ben they make up a formidable twosome. But Ben and Erin alone would not be enough; no two people can pull off the renewal of a town no matter how small it may be. They may be the spark and, to some extent, the fire, but if there's no kindling and wood to sustain the flame it dies out quickly.

You need fuel.

To me the story in Laurel is about the home-grown folks betting on themselves individually and collectively. Sometimes they never left, but often they did and yet found themselves drawn back to their Home Town.

The show is mostly about the Napiers helping people find and renovate a home. Yes, there is plenty of humor, kindness and tenderness, thoughtful interactions and decisions to be sure, but it is inevitable that often times in a town the size of Laurel the future homeowners are also future business owners. The fire jumps from oak lined streets to downtown Historic Laurel.

In our visit I wanted to go to some of the businesses which were featured directly and indirectly in the show and, if possible, chat with the owners. We had wanted to vist the Bird Dog Cafe, but we arrived a little late for breakfast, too early for lunch, and it had a wait anyway. The brothers who own were not visible so that would have been a bust anyway. Nonetheless it was kind of cool to see it in person. Online it seems to be a work in progress. Still, it did my heart good to see the place so busy.

We ended up having a late breakfast at Lee's Coffee & Tea. It was a terrific choice. A wonderful old building in downtown with some nice breakfast options. You could tell it was a stop for regulars, as well as visitors. Now keep in mind, the night before we had a wonderful, and I mean wonderful, dinner at The Loft. Now with breakfast at Lee's that is two meals in Laurel.

That brings me to one of the businesses which was a must stop on my list the Guild & Gentry - Fine Menswares.

I have some more pictures in the gallery below of Guild & Gentry, but I wanted to stop by a place which was unashamedly catering to men. I visited with Caroline Burks, who along with her husband Cory, own the establishment. I loved the place. It oozes cool. "Menswares" captures the idea. Not just clothing, but just an eclectic collection of attire and "stuff" which appeals to guys. I also chatted with Caroline's mom who was there in the store. Together they shared the personal makeup of the decor, the choices on the racks, tables, and shelves and the decision to open an old-school barber shop in the back. Yes, it's where Ben gets his hair cut and beard trimmed. I even met Ben's barber.

Guild & Gentry is adding another barber station or two and there is something so charming about it all. Caroline knows the regulars and greets visitors with a wry smile and "The show?" She knows Home Town drives a lot of business to Laurel and to her store. In fact, I confessed to her there's a scene in the episode of their home renovation when Ben and Erin reveal the Burks home to them for the first time which I replay over and over. It's Cory's reaction to the home when no one is looking...except the camera.

It's brilliant. And funny.

Guild and Gentry is across from another iconic spot, Pearl's Diner. It's open from 11a-2p and we never had a chance...lol. It is old school southern cookin' and it had a line when we walked by. Did I mention how much fun it is to walk Downtown Historic Laurel? We stopped at Gecko's for lunch. Then visited Shug's and indulged a little (see photo below) and swung by a few other places including Sweet Somethings Bakery and some of the shops and antique stores.

We had so much food left over from the night before at The Loft we ended up eating a leftovers dinner in our hotel room (five minutes away).

In part three of my blog about our trip to Laurel I will answer the question. Was I successful in my quest to find Ben & Erin? I'll also focus on the Laurel Mercantile and Scotsman General Store and Woodshop and share some more photos.

For now I will leave you with this...this is Laurel, the City Beautiful...Ben and Erin's Home Town.


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