Nominated as a Modern Mississippi site, Hattiesburg embraces modernity throughout the community. Searching for forward thinkers who are daring to differ, Max the Modern Machine went to The Hub City and found exactly what he was looking for in the citizens of Hattiesburg.
Founded by a civil engineer, Hattiesburg’s main attraction in the late 1800s was its central location in the lumber and railroad industries, and a number of important rail lines intersected in the town. A local newspaper contest led to Hattiesburg being donned “The Hub City.” Although originally a hub of industry, Hattiesburg has transformed into a hub of creativity in all fields.
Home to researchers, professors, tinkerers, artists, architects, and innovators, Hattiesburg’s cultural fabric is rich with the uniqueness that each resident brings.
A special thank you to Miranda Greider of The Little Building, Sarah Marshall Newton of The Thirsty Hippo, and Abigail Lenz Allen of Hattiesburleque and smArt Space, Hattiesburg’s Modern Ambassadors who hosted us with the typical tireless energy and enthusiasm that is true to The Hub City.
We look forward to our next visit!
These are the stories we experienced while visiting this community. To find more stories about places and people from the area, explore the map.
Roy Windham brings community and classically American food to Hattiesburg through The Porter, a pub that he opened after returning from Nashville. Windham’s vision centers on bringing people together and highlighting the talents of Mississippians. Whether showcasing local musicians or locally brewed beers, The Porter embodies and highlights Modern Mississippi.
“It’s taking what people have done for thousands and thousands of years, gathering together socially with people of likeminded—or even different mindedness—gathering together over food or over drink or over drink or song or art or whatever it is. They gather together, and they live life together. And I think that’s so important, and we lose that a lot, especially in our culture with the digital and everything else, we lose that togetherness, that moment that is art. I mean really, life is art, and this idea that is everything is unique; every moment is unique.”-Roy
Carey Varnado is a Hattiesburg-based lawyer who has spent the past thirty-six years helping citizens of Mississippi, and in the last five years, he has become increasingly involved in advocating for the LGBT community.
“I feel that it’s really an obligation of mine to spend part of my time helping people who, for whatever reason, don’t really have an advocate. It’s part why I became a lawyer. Sure, I do a lot of my work simply because it’s routine type legal work, and it’s just like what any other lawyer does. But I have always helped both individuals and groups that I feel needed help for whatever reason, and it’s been a real pleasure doing some things for the LGBT community.”-Carey
Rebecca Chandler is the owner of Hattiesburg Ballroom and Beyond, as well as the co-creator of Hattiesburlesque. With these two projects, Rebecca hopes to bring something that's exciting and different to the city.
“You know, when I graduated there wasn’t really anything for me here either. I kinda had to make it up as I went… I feel like kinda making up your own rules as you go is something that is really exciting, and it never gets boring.”-Rebecca
An Economics professor at the University of Southern Mississippi, Mark Klinedinst is not only investing in his students, but also the community of Hattiesburg. Working with cooperatives, Mark helped found the Hattiesburg Farmers Market, which brings together citizens of different socioeconomic statuses. In addition to his work with cooperatives, he is also President of Gaining Ground Sustainability Institute of Mississippi.
“There’s an old bumper sticker that says ‘Think Locally; Act Globally,’ and I’ve sorta taken that to heart in my life.”-Mark
Jacqueline Lee, editor of Dime Magazine, pushed for a magazine that highlights and represents the arts across Mississippi. Now, Dime covers arts, culture, and entertainment in our state.
“I think what we suffer from here the most is a self-esteem issue. We’re just not fully aware of how cool we really are, and some of the goods, the experiences, that you can have here people in Los Angles and Austin and Nashville couldn’t replicate if they tried.”-Jacqueline
Brian and Sarah Carver are the owners of Twin Forks Wine and Provisions in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. After noticing a need for a wider variety of wine, the Carvers decided to fill that need and have begun introducing the citizens of Hattiesburg to unique wines.
“There are a lot of free thinkers, I think, and that is a lot of the crowd that we’re going for as well. People who really want to search and find and experience new things, and that’s what we’re trying to do, just give them fun things that they haven’t seen in Hattiesburg before.”-Sarah
Greenhouse Yoga, owned by Courtney Chunn and Jaime Ray, focuses on being community oriented. From practicing yoga daily to planting a community garden, Courtney and Jaime are finding ways to break stereotypes of the typical yogi and to involve the community.
Keenon Walker works closely with The Spectrum Center, a non-profit LGBT resource center and safe space. The Spectrum Center hosts events that LGBT individuals can attend to discuss their experiences and to meet others who can empathize with their stories.
“Right now I feel like Hattiesburg is a chapter in my life that I’m not finished with, and until that story ends, I’m here. And I’m happy to keep building the city and making it great. You should dare to be different, and if you can push forward and change one person, then you’ve done your job in this battle to make Mississippi better. And it’s changing every day.”-Keenon
“I see young people today, and research will back me up, that they’re extremely optimistic, extremely willing to work, and extremely adaptable. And these are the qualities that we really need. We need people who will be flexible, who will be adaptable. We just have to somehow find a way to bridge that gap between how we’ve prepared them growing up for risk taking, for entrepreneurship, for creativity, and then the world for work today, which none of us know what it’ll be like in five years. We can’t prepare people for jobs; we have to prepare people for lives.” Amy
Nkrumah Frazier is the Sustainability Officer for Hattiesburg, and in addition to that, Nkrumah works with a non-profit, Wild South, as the Mississippi Outreach Coordinator. His work aims to encourage people to be good stewards of our natural resources, as well as to form a connection to the land.
After being struck by how poorly the environment has been treated, Phil Orton decided to make a change in his life. Using solar panels for electricity, driving an electric car, and giving others access to renewable energy, Phil is working for a better Mississippi.
“What I’m doing won’t change the world, I understand that, but if a thousand of us did it, it might change the world a little bit or make things a little better… I think what we need to do is to try and put mechanisms in place that will clean that up and make life better for future generations.”-Phil
Robert St. John is an award-winning restauranteur, chef, and cookbook author. He opened his first restaurant, The Purple Parrot Café, in 1987 and has been changing the food scene of Hattiesburg since.
“Food builds community. I mean, food is the connective tissue that we carry, especially in the South, through everything. We share a meal, and then we share ourselves of that meal.”-Robert
After seeing the needs of Mississippi, Toby Barker decided to stay and contribute to the city of Hattiesburg. It has been nine years since he made that decision and was elected to be a State Representative, and Toby has worked with women and minority workers, as well as small business entrepreneurs.
“There are lots of examples, not only of private entrepreneurs, but social entrepreneurs who get involved in causes, who are doing things differently and who can really provide us a place, a certain dynamic nature to it that I think can really be powerful… I think we have that here.”-Toby
Rebecca Chandler, Katie Ginn, and Abigail Allen work together on Hattiesburleque, Hattiesburg’s Burlesque inspired musical review. While Burlesque might carry a negative connotation from some, Hattiesburlesque has a powerfully positive effect on those who see the show.
“It’s much more about the celebration of all shapes and sizes, and all ages, and all beauty, and all women, and men for that matter. It’s a really positive experience for everybody who comes, and even when I have to pull a little bit cause somebody hears the word Burlesque, when they come they leave feeling more confident. We have people come up to us all the time and say ‘you made me feel more beautiful. You made me feel more confident in my body.’”-Abigail
In 2009, Sarah Newton founded Live at Five while she was President of the Downtown Association.
“I think for the first time people saw this is cool, this is fun, this is what people do in other towns that we’re not doing. So it’s been a wonderful thing to be able to provide. I mean, all we did was get it together, get the sponsors together, and put it on. And it’s become such a staple in the community that it’s really our civic duty to make sure it sustains.”-Sarah
Miranda Grieder owns The Little Building in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Her business serves several purposes: interior design studio, architecture studio, and gallery. She hosts different community events to involve the citizens of Hattiesburg in her business.
“To enable creative place making to actually happen it has to be allowed top-down but also bottom-up, you know? And so the community needs to be invited, and they need to be given a space with a table early on.”-Miranda
Emily Curry is the Operations Manager at Southern Prohibition in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Everyone who works at the company strives to give something positive to the community, to create jobs, and to do their job to the best of their ability in a growing industry.
“What’s really exciting in being able to tell our story is we intend on being a regional brewery—our beer is sold in five states, the border states and Mississippi. And we want to go further. At the end of the day for me, being born and raised here, knowing in my heart that I’m putting something out there that’s positive.”-Emily
Andrea Saffle is tasked with maintaining the economic revitalization that Downtown Hattiesburg has seen in the past few years. Andrea sees her role as the one who tells the story of those who are daring to differ in Hattiesburg. A city that mixes its rich history with modern creativity, Hattiesburg is well-known for its community and modernity.
“There’s so much that Hattiesburg has going for it. There’s so many creative people and unique people in Hattiesburg, particularly in downtown, so I really see my role as just telling the story of the things that they’re already doing… Each person that comes lays down a piece of themselves.”-Andrea
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