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Monday, June 1, 2020

Rejuvenate & Renovate

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C & C Mercantile and Lighting moves downtown

2019 was a big year for Derek and Lauren Ross Simmons. They were going through several of the items on the Top Ten Most Stressful Life Events list. Recently married, they had also purchased a well-known Shreveport business that they intended to change dramatically.

C & C Electric and Lighting had been at 2430 Line Ave. for years. The mom-and-pop shop was a go-to for lighting fixtures and repairs. This was still not a place to which you would go and hang out. Lingering was not what customers tended to do after purchasing a bulb or floor lamp; it was a utilitarian place where work got done, and customers made a transaction and left.

Derek had grown up in C & C and appreciated that the small and local business had managed to survive the onslaught of the big box stores, but he and Lauren wanted it to be more.

Their first order of business was to change the name to fit the new mission: C & C Mercantile and Lighting. “I wanted it to be a place where little old men could walk in and buy a handful of drywall screws and feel welcome,” says Derek, who is convinced that the love Baby Boomers might once have had for big box sameness sweeping the nation is over. He and Lauren wanted a place that would be unique and welcoming, would encourage lingering, would support local craftsmen and artists, and would sell repurposed furniture and other goods made in the U.S.

Seemingly overnight, their store on Line Avenue became a hit, a place to gather, enjoy and shop. Lauren, a popular local artist, used her eye for style, color and flow to turn a place that had once housed a dusty collection of lighting supplies into trendy spaces for artists and a showroom filled with “needful” things.

The addition of Peter Lyons and Lyons’ Pride Coffee gave visitors another reason to linger as they drank specialty javas sourced from around the world and had long coffee conversations. There are many businesses that would have left well enough alone at this point, but within months, Derek was restless. He could already see that space in the store was running short, and downtown Shreveport’s historic buildings were calling to him.

Several years earlier, a friend had purchased the old Schorr Furniture Store at 1100 Texas Ave. and talked to Derek about moving there. As is typical of many of the long-vacant downtown buildings, exterior sketchiness can hide interior charm. One look at the soaring ceilings, heavy timber rafters, brick walls and natural light flooding into the building, and Derek knew this is where C & C needed to be. Lauren, pregnant with daughter Celia and initially skeptical about a move, became a quick convert when she saw the space.

It’s not just the building, though. Moving onto Texas Avenue gives Derek and Lauren the opportunity to tap into the rich history of the area, and to help rebuild what was once a thriving business district and community.

First will be their newly conceived C & C Mercantile and Lighting that they hope to open to the public on Monday, June 8. When you walk into the century-old building, you will be greeted and given coffee or tea. Try not to spill it as you take in the architecture and giant glass chandelier, then the art, furnishings and décor. Derek’s workshop will be on the main shop floor so that you can see his current lighting or furniture rehab project or talk to him about an idea you might have.

Walk through a door, and you’ll be in Artifact (Artisan’s Factory), a “creative co-op.” Here are the spaces of C & C’s permanent artists: Brett Chamberlain of Revival Journals; clothing designer Kirsi-Marja Hardy; graphic designers, painters and artists Paige Powell, Vanicka Terhune, Kalandra Jones, Lee Ann Monet, Lauren Ross Simmons and coffee man Peter Lyons.

The schedule will be event-heavy, featuring one-night artist exhibits, pop-up shopping, coffee and dessert tastings, live music, food trucks and more. Lauren and Derek want C & C to be the kind of place that people write home about when they visit Shreveport/Bossier, an island of authenticity and charm.

“People who visit Shreveport love it,” says Derek. “They always tell me Shreveport has the kind of places they miss, the small holesin-the-wall that are all about America. We plan to provide that experience.”

*C & C hopes to open at 1100 Texas Ave. on Monday, June 8, under Phase II of COVID-19 orders. Until then, there is curbside pickup at the building at 2430 Line Ave.

Liz Swaine is the executive director of the Downtown Development Authority. She can be reached at liz@downtownshreveport.com.

ON STANDS NOW!

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