By Clint Kimberling
When a small business decides to close its doors, it’s usually a permanent decision. It’s rare for the owner of a store to close and later reopen their business. Rarer still, is the store that closes reopens over a decade later and is stronger than ever. But that’s exactly the case with John and Dawn Herring’s Boardtown Gardens & More.
The original Boardtown Garden Center and Landscaping opened in 1979. Although the landscaping business has continued uninterrupted since that time, the retail garden center was shuttered in 2000 due in part to what Dawn refers to as “retail burnout.” Feeling rejuvenated in 2014, Dawn decided to reopen the garden center in the same location. She felt that the building, which had been mostly unused in the meantime, was wasted space that needed to be revitalized.
Dawn also saw a need at the time for a space that artists and craftsmen could sell their work in. This gave birth to a new concept for the garden center. In addition to providing traditional plants and gardening supplies, Dawn partnered with artists, potters, craftsmen, and antique vendors to sell their artwork and crafts in the shop. Operating similarly to an antique mall, Boardtown now gives retail space to paintings, bottle trees, metal work, pottery, candles, home décor and more.
Boardtown is an organic combination of the Herring’s combined interests of gardening, landscape, art, and design all under one roof. John and Dawn are both graduates of Mississippi State’s Landscape Architecture and Horticulture program and are also a creative couple. As longtime lovers and collectors of art and antiques, Dawn says, “We were able to take something we did and enjoyed as a hobby and combined it into our business.”
While Boardtown is in its original building and location, it did undergo significant renovation and additions. The Herrings closed in the front porch and added a custom gate that is constructed out of landscaping instruments, shovels, and rakes. The gate serves as a fitting entrance to the store, because, as Dawn points out, “It combines all of our interests. Art, gardening, and landscaping are all represented in that one piece.”
Boardtown now carries a wider array of goods than it did 16 years ago. By using several different vendors, they now carry a larger variety of inventory and can suit a wide variety of tastes and styles. Additionally, Dawn says there is a palpable creative air throughout the store now. “The comingling of interests generates original and unique ideas. People seem to be inspired by the way we use and repurpose things in the store.”
In fact, repurposed art is a large part of their offerings. Dawn herself makes light fixtures out of the vintage tool and found rusty items. And John makes shadow boxes out of reclaimed barn wood and fills them with vintage fishing lures and paraphernalia. There is also an artist who sells wind chimes made from used wine bottles.
Despite the artistic and creative bent, Boardtown is a full-service garden center and still offers landscaping services. As a garden center that serves the community, Boardtown specializes in perennials, herbs, and plants that do well in the local climate. They also sell several organic product lines such as fertilizers, potting soil, and other plant care items. “We carry items that we know will work here. We also focus on carrying unique plants and products that people won’t find in a big box store.”
Some of these unique items that you can’t find just anywhere include air plants that grow without soil and other succulents. Dawn tells me that one trend she sees for spring is early perennials. “These are good to plant because they are low maintenance but provide good color, nice foliage, and texture.”
The Herrings strive to have a one of a kind shop. Since Boardtown has reopened, Dawn says her favorite thing about the store is sourcing the goods and items they sell. “I love to pick out unique items. To me, it’s like a hunt. Trying to find something that will interest customers and will make our place unique. The character of my shop is something that people will remember about Starkville.”
Tues – Fri: 10 am – 5:30 pm
Saturday: 9 am – 4 pm