A while back, while tendng to their family business, Lott Furniture, Keri and her father were daydreaming what the building next to them could be. It had been an extension of their furniture showroom for awhile, but they wanted a way to restore it to its historical purpose and bring new life to a vacant space.
Keri says, "This building used to be a boarding house for visitors that needed to rest from traveling on the train. There's not a ton of information about it, but it had closed before my grandmother got to Laurel in 1947. The best part of this has been to uncover the history."
Keri is one of the most easy-going friends in this world, and she trusted Erin and Ben with the design direction completely. Erin and Ben decided to use the history of the building and its location as their inspiration.
Keri says, "Erin was like, I have this vision of it being a really beautiful, historical, and moody type thing that fits the building's aesthetic. Let's make it like the original boarding house but make it work for modern day. I told her, I just want you all to take that and run with it because I trust you."
That's when Erin and Ben got the bright idea to make the four suites themed by the stops along the Crescent Line — New Orleans, Laurel, Birmingham, and New York.
Keri says, "Of course I wondered what they're going to theme each room, and this just makes so much sense. Like we're on the Crescent line on the railroad and there was a boarding house right here with lots of people staying the night. I loved the idea! It felt so natural in these spaces, too."
Keri has been surrounded by business-savvy entrepreneurs and small business lovers her entire life. She feels prepared for this adventure because of the wonderful people that have taught her everything she knows, including the leadership of her grandmother, Nellie Rowell.
It all begins with the story of Lott Furniture, which has been open in Laurel since 1917. They celebrate one-hundred and six years of business this year. Mr. Lott was nineteen when he began selling furniture out of his truck to people at the sawmill and lumber mills. Eventually, he opened Lott Furniture location where it holds residence today.
Keri's grandmother, Nellie, was from Newton, Mississippi, and she was a widow and young mother of two small children. She was a strong woman who liked working hard. She even made parachutes for World War II soldiers. Being a country girl, she decided to go to the big city of Laurel, where things were booming and growing.
When Nellie moved to Laurel, she found an ad in the paper for a roommate and moved in with a woman, who would become Keri's great grandmother. Nellie would fall in love with her roommate's son, Willie, and they got married. They had two more children, including Keri's father, Rodney Rowell.
Nellie worked at Lott Furniture for fifty-eight years. She was the bookkeeper for all eleven stores that Mr. Lott had across Mississippi, and she was the manager of the Laurel location. When Mr. Lott retired, he sold stock from all of his stores to his managers, and she bought all the managers' shares.
Keri says, "My mom and dad have been running Lott Furniture for almost forty years, and I've been here my whole life. I'm a third generation small business owner in my family, and my dad agree that it was a good time to branch out and build something of my own. If not now, when?"
We're so excited for Keri's new adventure and to see how it grows! If you're ever in Laurel, take a break from the Crescent Line and spend time at the Buzzard's Roost Inn.