I've written here before about my affinity for old things. I like when an object or a place has a history. To me, it creates a sense of place and makes something unique, and I'm always on the hunt for such treasures and stories. Things with stories get people talking, and I love to hear the conversation.
So last Saturday, after swinging through the Mississippi Farmers Market, I crossed High Street and headed to Old House Depot (639 Monroe St., 601-592-6200, oldhousedepot.com). Thanks to architectural salvage, my apartment furnishings include a mantle repurposed to house my television, an old door that's been turned into a table and a ladder put to work as a bathroom towel rack. Even when I don't necessarily need something in particular, I like to wander through the warehouse getting inspiration for future projects.
From the rusted patio chairs and bathtubs to antique signs, windows and even old doorknobs, Old House Depot is a veritable treasure trove for someone like me. Owner Jim Kopernak helpfully engaged me in conversation, offering suggestions on how to incorporate reclaimed wood into new features, and telling me about the sources for some of the current inventory—he knows where everything came from and is happy to share. Among the stock that day: a mail slot from the Electric Building downtown, marble from the former Bank of Mississippi building on Capitol Street and a period light fixture used in the filming of "The Help." What stories these objects could tell if they could talk.
After spending my morning looking through some of our city's architectural past, it seemed fitting that night to meet up with friends at one of the latest old spaces to receive new life: The Apothecary at Brent's Drugs (655 Duling Ave., 601-366-3427). After years of being relegated to storage, this backroom space is now reborn into a speakeasy-inspired bar with nods to the drugstore's history.
Walking through the curtain to join my group nestled at a corner table, I noticed thoughtful touches throughout the space. Most notably, above the bar, drawers from an old pharmacy serve as cabinetry. The glassware evokes days gone by. The drink menu features "Prescription Cocktails" that can cure what ails you after a long day. I started with a Campari Martini—made with Campari, Manzanilla sherry and lemon—and served in a coupe glass with a sidecar refill, before moving on to a Mississippi Martini, mixed with Cathead vodka and gin.
The crowd was steady and included a mix of young and old, neighborhood folks and others who made a special trip in, stopping in before or after dinner at one of Fondren's many restaurants. After some members of our group departed, I moved to the bar to chat some more and watch the bartenders. Blackboards above their heads proclaimed that they craft their drinks with pride, and it's immediately evident. It also serves as a gentle reminder that the drinks are worth any wait—things done well take time and care.
I enjoyed my visit so much that the following week, I returned with my fellow. This time, while he sampled from the bar's craft-beer selection, I tried two more craft cocktails. With a creative list of beverage offerings and word from Brent's manager Leslee Foukal that they plan to keep it fresh by changing the menu regularly, there's plenty to keep returning for.
Like Duling School and other Fondren properties, it's fun to see a new aspect of Brent's come alive. I imagine older guests sitting over drinks and reminiscing about the neighborhood, the characters they've known and the memories they made here, while younger patrons talk about the lives they want to make for themselves and their children.
Acknowledging the past while creating something new continues to be a theme running throughout our city, and it's one that helps ensure that we retain what's special and remember our individual and collective stories. It keeps us talking. And that's something I'll continue to look for, support and raise a (prescription) glass to.