Downtown business restoring storefront

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 12, 2002

Sanders & Hollingsworth Construction worker John Watts carries a beam outside the addition to the Cinnamon Tree on Washington Street Monday. (The Vicksburg Post/Melanie Duncan)

[11/12/02]When the construction dust settles, two downtown buildings occupied by Cinnamon Tree will look much like they did in the early years of the 20th century.

Owners Christi Bounds and Karen Ruggles say they are willing to put up with the mess for a while longer as their urban “unrenewal” project continues.

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The gift shop is on the northwest corner of Washington and Crawford. Older Vicksburg residents will remember one building for many years was Frank’s Boot Shop. The adjacent building was The Sports Shop.

“It’s an expansion for us and it’s also a restoration project,” Bounds said.

When work began in September, a temporary plywood wall went up at the corner building. The owners had hoped work would be complete by now, but the weather and one thing or another changed the schedule. “We hope to be in by Thanksgiving,” she said.

Downtown Vicksburg, like so many downtowns elsewhere, has been in transition. Many new stores have opened, but more remain boarded up. A federally funded Urban Renewal took place in Vicksburg in the mid-1970s, changing many facades and adding brick streets, planters and lights. A local renewal was begun this year with more than $5 million of a $17 million city bond issue to be spent in public areas, including rebricking the streets and other amenities.

Cinnamon Tree’s owners said they know customers have been challenged to get to them, but closing during the work wasn’t an option. “We had to stay in business,” Bounds said.

Over the years, the fronts of both old stores had been changed to allow deep show windows on either side of the recessed front door.

“We’re going to bring the front door to the side,” she said.

When architects began looking at the building before drawing plans, Bounds and Ruggles were told to expect to find a column at the corner of the building. That bit of a warning did not prepare them for what was uncovered. The column was a highly detailed iron casting about 8 inches in diameter which will be left in place to add to the 1890s-1900s decor.

Another old architectural feature found in the Frank’s building is a huge, multi-pane transom that probably brought considerable light into the store and helped with ventilation.

Bounds had no idea if they would uncover additional architectural details under the facade of The Sports Shop.

“There’s no telling until we uncover it,” she said.

The work is being done under the direction of contractors Johnny Sanders and Clint Hollingsworth.

Cinnamon Tree opened in 1985 in the building now occupied by Paper Plus and moved to the corner building in 1986. The added The Sports Shop building in 1994.

Bounds said she and Ruggles will receive a $1,000 Main Street facade grant when work is complete and have applied for a program offered by the City of Vicksburg that allows an abatement for up to seven years on the amount taxes on the new buildings will increase because of the renovations.