Historic Downtown Hattiesburg houses a number of businesses, most owned and operated by residents of the Hub City or the surrounding areas. In the upcoming year, there will be several new places opening as well as a few old businesses reopening with new management.
Downtown Hattiesburg offers a variety of cultural, musical and art-related businesses and many restaurants and bars. Since some of the businesses reopening will not serve the same purpose as they did before, some people have mixed feelings about them. For instance, the Bottling Company, formerly a nightclub, bar and even a restaurant will be a venue for hosting events and receptions. Ron Savell, owner of local businesses including Mugshots, Brewsky’s and Patio 44 is part of the team breathing new life into the old space.
However, not everyone is happy about the change. Music production major Bryce Ballinger said using the building only for reception-style events is a disservice to the history of the business.
“Rather than a venue that holds gatherings, I’d love to see that place be turned into the best music venue in Hattiesburg,” Ballinger said.
Ballinger said he would like for it to become a place where bands could relax from touring, meet fans and use it as a place to feel at home.
USM alumnus Roy Windham will open The Porter Public House, which he hopes to grow into a local hangout for craft beer enthusiasts as well as a place to host live entertainment in a relaxed atmosphere.
“When we began looking for places to open, historic downtown became our destination,” Windham said to the Hattiesburg American. “We love it. The beauty and the local life and the potential for more is exciting.”
Set to open sometime in April, The Porter will feature southern craft beer from breweries like Southern Prohibition, Biloxi Brewing Company and Lazy Magnolia Brewing Company in Kiln.
Adam Myrick, also a USM alumnus, opened an additional Weekender store called Weekender Downtown in the former Bodybar location of the America Building.
Myrick said he felt drawn back to downtown, the place that made his career. The new location will be more like an artisan store, and he hopes that people will make an experience of their trip downtown and patronize other local businesses as well.
Andrea Saffle, executive director of the Historic Hattiesburg Downtown Association, told the Hattiesburg American she was happy to have Myrick back downtown.
“Having him come back with his very unique energy is very exciting,” she said.
Tom White, owner of Bianchi’s Pizzeria and Domenico’s Gelato Bar, plans to revamp the building for 206 Front to a new establishment called Front Street Bar. White closed 206 Front in 2014 when the time to manage and run it became too much.
“I felt like I was split between two places, and I didn’t want to give 50 percent because of that,” White said.
With these businesses coming to Downtown Hattiesburg, HubFest was the perfect time for them to advertise and showcase to future guests. The Porter, while not yet open, served drinks to patrons outside and had live music playing all day. White had a sign placed outside 206 Front alerting people to the future plans for the building, and Weekender Downtown had planned their grand opening specifically for the festival.