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Banner Hall continues evolution

Lemuria plans expansion celebration Nov. 2

JACKSON – On Nov. 2, Lemuria Bookstore will celebrate its expansion in Banner Hall with appetizers and cocktails in MusiQuarium Lounge, capped with a book signing in the new fiction room. The expansion also signals the completion of the first round of renovations for the building located on the I-55 Frontage Road between Meadowbrook Road and Northside Drive.

Established in 1975, John Evans, owner of Lemuria, decided to add nearly 1,300 square feet to the store because of competition and availability.

“The space became available, and we needed to be more competitive,” Evans said. “The stores we’re competing against are so much bigger.”

Even though it will take some time for the wood to age, the fiction room should blend well with the existing store, Evans said.

In celebration of the event, Broad Street Bakery will extend its store hours until 9:30 p.m., with music by The Vamps in the MusiQuarium Lounge at 8:30 p.m. Author Jim Harrison will sign his new book, “The Beast God Forgot to Invent,” in Lemuria at 5 p.m., with a reading in the lounge at 7 p.m.

“Lemuria’s expansion in the space formerly occupied by Abdo’s Jewelry worked well for John to continue to define quality as he creates a space that is not only visually stimulating, but functional, as he partitions his wealth of literary offerings into thematic sections,” said Jeff Good, co-owner of Bravo! and Broad Street Bakery.

Since Good, Evans and Doug and Rosemary Douglass, owners of The Bridal Path and Tuxes Too, also located in Banner Hall, purchased the three-story structure in 1998, it has been transformed into an urban retail center, a 1920s brownstone look with era street lamps, benches and planters.

In 1997, just after Sam’s Westside closed in Banner Hall, Evans was dining at Bravo! when he called Good over to the table to share his idea.

“Lemuria was in the back of the building nobody goes to, and Barnes & Noble had reset the competitive clock of book selling,” Good said. “Evans was considering relocating. But after a night without sleep, Evans called saying he realized the answer was not to move his bookstore, but for us to buy Banner Hall.”

The three businesses formed a partnership to purchase Banner Hall, and the deal was closed June 15, 1998, with plenty of work to be done, Good said.

“When the leases came up on office spaces, we knew we wanted to replace them with all retail stores,” Good said. “We knew Banner Hall was located in such a vibrant area, and would be midtown to Jackson.”

To solve the problem of the ill-designed parking lot, 35 parking spaces and additional lighting were added, and the traffic flow was altered with the drive-through sealed with a border of holly bushes.

The strategy has worked well, Good said.

“When Broad Street, Lemuria and The Bridal Path/Tuxes Too purchased Banner Hall, it was less than 50% leased,” said Good. “Today, we are 100% leased, and our biggest problem is turning down retailers that want to be a part of (this). By working together, not as business people who happen to own a building, but as business people whose work is their building, we have been able to build a dynamic mix of food, books, music, high-end personal care and clothing, which is complementary and congruent. We took a stark, cold and seldom used interior space and transformed it to a lively meeting area constantly full of people. We turned Banner Hall into a destination. It has been so exciting to help orchestrate this transformation – and we aren’t done yet.”

The recent addition of Sips and Sounds Beer Lounge, “Jackson’s premium beer bar run by the nice guys at MusiQuarium,” Good said, has attracted a hip crowd. To make room for customers at Broad Street Bakery, which opened in November 1998 and was patterned after La Madeleine French Bakery in New Orleans, the baking facility was moved to an off-site standalone location, where breads and pastries will be produced for Bravo! and Broad Street, and several Jackson area restaurants and food service entities, Good said.

“Business has been so big that we simply have outgrown our space,” he said. “With the bakery out, we’re working on expanding the capacity of our kitchen which should serve to quicken lunch order times and increase our capacity for catering.”

The menu at Broad Street Bakery, which employs 75 and seats 70 customers in the restaurant, another 20 in the first floor atrium and 55 people upstairs, was revised last spring with the addition of new items, including a daily lunch special with made-to-order pastas, special off-the-menu sandwiches and salads and pizzas. The Express Counter was expanded to include take-home meals, dips, spreads, cheeses and other food items.

“We’ll continue to expand our menu, with more pastry and dessert choices, seasonal items and bread selections,” Good said.

With the conversion of the last office space on the second floor to retail, plans are in the works to expand Barnette’s in the spring, Good said.

“Ralph and Susan are going to create a new salon space which will redefine the genre for the Jackson market,” he said. “When the salon is moved upstairs, they are going to increase the size of Aqua Day Spa and add an entire retail center focusing on bed and bath. The plans are simply stellar. We are very fortunate to have businesspeople of this caliber in our facility.”

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne Wilbanks Jeter at lynne@thewritingdesk.com or (601) 853-3967.

About Lynne W. Jeter

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