Tom James suffered a heart attack in his early 40’s.  When doctors urged him to eat a heart-healthy diet, his family began cooking with olive oil.  His daughter-in-law, Debbie James, says, “We were using olive oil from the grocery store, and we believed all olive oils were the same.  In 2013, our family first visited an olive oil store.  We realized that we had never been exposed to truly fresh Extra Virgin Olive Oil.  Once you taste the richness and flavor of these genuinely fresh oils, there is no going back.” 

The James family realized that consumers could not find fresh, high quality EVOO anywhere in Mississippi.  Debbie says, “We wanted to provide our community with the freshest and healthiest oils and balsamic vinegars, and to educate them about the difference between regular olive oil and Ultra Premium Extra Virgin Olive Oil.” 

Tom and his wife, Alan, started J. Olive Company with their children and spouses, Lee and Debbie, Tommy and Manda.  We had the pleasure of speaking with Debbie, and learning more about the J. Olive’s delicious oils.

 Why is Olive Oil such a healthy food?  What health benefits does it offer?

“The health benefits of EVOO are directly influenced by the presence of polyphenols.  Polyphenols work as antioxidants to protect the cells in our bodies from damage from free radicals.  A diet high in polyphenols has been shown to…

  • Lower the risk of heart disease
  • Decrease the risk of cancer by decreasing inflammation and protecting cells from damage
  • Increases Calcium absorption to help promote healthy bones
  • Act as a natural anti-inflammatory agent
  • Strengthen our immune system
  • Protects against free radicals and cell oxidation that can lead to premature aging

EVOO is also high in monounsaturated fat and low in saturated fat.  A diet high in monounsaturated fats may...

  • Increase insulin sensitivity in the cells
  • Prevent cognitive decline that is associated with Alzheimer’s and aging

To receive the most health benefits from EVOO, you should consume at least 4 Tablespoons a day.  Green olives contain the highest polyphenol count.  Polyphenol levels are highest at harvest.  Any exposure to heat, air, or light can reduce the polyphenol count.  As days go by, the polyphenol levels in EVOO begin to wane.  FRESHNESS TRUMPS EVERYTHING.   This is why we provide oils from both hemispheres depending on the harvest season.  It is our goal to provide our customers with the freshest oils year round.” 

Tell us where your Oils come from! 
“Our oils come from all over the world.  We harvest from both the Northern and Southern hemispheres, depending upon the harvest season.  March, April and May we are harvesting the southern hemisphere (Peru, Chile, Australia, Argentina).  In November and December it is the Northern hemisphere (Greece, Spain, Italy, California, Portugal, Tunisia).  We do this to ensure that we have the freshest oils possible.”

What is the difference between your product and oils at a grocery store?
“We carry only Ultra Premium Extra Virgin Olive Oil in our store.  UP EVOO's exceed all other standards of olive oil.  We harvest only green fruit.  By doing this you get a better quality oil.  It will have lower free fatty acid levels, which allows you to cook with EVOO at a higher temperature without it smoking.  It will be higher in antioxidants (polyphenols).  The higher the polyphenol count, the more health benefits you see.  It is milled within 2-4 hours from being picked.  All of our cultivators have mills present on site.  We want to protect the integrity of the oil from the moment the fruit leaves the tree.  All oils are sent to Modern Laboratory in Australia for a chemical analysis.  We display this chemical analysis on each EVOO that we sell.  We also display the crush date.  This is extremely important.  You never want to purchase an olive oil without this.  We receive our oils approximately 3 months from the crush date. 

Sadly, the US has a market that is dominated with inferior and adulterated oils.  Just because a grocery olive oil is labeled as extra virgin that does not mean that it is.  A lot of producers of olive oil hold onto the oil in storage until market conditions improve, and then they sale for a higher price.  Once it is bottled, they give it a best buy date of 2 years.  It is usually bottled in a clear plastic bottle not protected from light.  It goes to the grocery store where it sits under fluorescent lights, causing further damage to the oil.  By the time you buy a bottle at the grocery store, it may be several years old.  Olive oil is perishable, and as it ages you lose the health benefits as well as the flavor.  From the moment the olive leaves the tree, the fruit begins to oxidize and break down.  Bottles that say pure olive oil, light olive oil, or even extra light olive oil are extremely misleading.  What this really means is that they have taken overripe, rotten, even bug infested olives, crushed them, and then refined the oil.  They allow the olives to swell on the tree well past the optimum harvest period, so that the olive produces more oil despite the fact that is of poor quality.  The refining process will deodorize and strip the oil of all flavor, so that you do not notice how rancid it is.  These oils will not contain the health benefits that are so great in UP EVOO.”

Has your family visited Italy and the other places where you get the oils? 
“Tom and Alan have traveled extensively throughout Italy, Spain, and Greece.  The entire family has been to California and seen olive oil production in the US.  We rely only our importer to establish relationship with our growers and make sure that they are adhering to the Ultra Premium standards for production.”

What is your favorite thing about owning a business with your family?
“It is really neat to see everyone's strengths.  You really get to know each other.  We each add something to the business that would be lacking without each other.  I think our family compliments each other very well.  We just always have a lot of fun together!”

For customers new to the olive oil experience, do you recommend an EVOO or balsamic that everyone will love?
“I can give you a few of my favorites…you definitely have to have a great UP EVOO and traditional balsamic vinegar as your staples in the kitchen.  I do everything with these two (sauté vegetables, marinate any meat).  It also makes the best salad dressing.  My favorite (spring mix lettuce, feta cheese, tomatoes, honey roasted almond, and equal parts EVOO and Traditional Balsamic Vinegar) is so yummy!!!

I also use our Garlic Infused Olive Oil and Butter Infused Olive Oil a lot!  I use the butter olive oil in replace of butter in our diet.  The butter-to-butter olive oil conversion chart can be found on our website http://www.joliveco.coom or in our brochure in the store.

I would say our number one seller is Lemon Fused Olive Oil and Cranberry Pear Balsamic Vinegar.  This makes an unbelievable salad dressing (spring mix lettuce, feta or goat cheese, dried cranberries, strawberries, mandarin oranges, sugar coated walnuts).  I also use it as a marinade for fish.

I love to grill steaks with our Butter Infused Olive Oil, Dark Chocolate Balsamic Vinegar, and Steakhouse Seasoning.  It is amazing.  I could not cook a steak any other way. 

All of our Balsamics are from Modena, Italy.  They are all natural, gluten free, with no artificial colors and no added sugars.  They are simply cooked down grapes, aged in oak barrels.  They are absolutely AMAZING!  The flavor that you get is so delicious.  There are only 10 calories per tablespoon.”  

Debbie adds,  “I would encourage any of your readers to come into one of our stores and taste any and all of our wide selection of oils and balsamics.  It will inspire new recipes or add a new twist to your old standby recipes.  As one of our regular customers often says, ‘It just makes what you cook even better.’”

Thank you, Debbie, for enlightening us on the benefits of Ultra Premium Extra Virgin Olive Oil!  Please visit the J. Olive Company website here, or visit one of their lovely locations in Ridgeland and Oxford!
{Photography by Caitlyn Sullivan and Blog by Mitchell Walters}
Today we are thrilled to share photos of a precious baby boy and his adorable nursery, lovingly designed by his mother!  Haley Farris is a talented artist and interior decorator in Greenwood, and she carefully created the perfect space for her son, Sam.   We had the pleasure of speaking with Haley, and today she shares the inspiration behind Sam's sweet space:

What was the inspiration behind Sam's nursery?
"My nursery is a good mix of modern and traditional.  I wanted the nursery to be pretty and more so 'sweet.'  As a decorator and artist, I believe 'less is more' with simple, yet soft colors and a mix of rich solid and textured fabrics.  I wanted the room to a be considered a place of relaxation for my baby, and an easy space to transition to a room of play as he grows older." 

Did you design your nursery?
"I designed the room myself.  I always knew what I wanted in a nursery and would have done the exact same with a baby girl, only changing the artwork to fit the gender."

Are any of your pieces from stores or vendors in Mississippi?
"Some of the pieces are family heirlooms and others are pieces that I found at antique stores in Greenwood and Jackson, and refinished myself. It's amazing what you can do with materials such as fabrics, chalk paint, and gold leaf these days.  The artwork in the room is my own. The Herend pieces were gifts that came from Batte Furniture and the deer and bowls are all McCarty Pottery." 

Do you have a favorite spot in the nursery?"
No particular spot.  We spend most of our time on the floor just playing!" 

What makes this room special to you?
"It belongs to me and is personally my first nursery to decorate.   A lot of thought and energy went into it and I couldn't have been more pleased with the outcome.  I hope I can incorporate most of the family pieces into Sam's next room!" 

What advice do you have for other moms-to-be creating a nursery? 
"The best advice I can give to a mother just beginning to create her own special room for her little one is this: shop around!  Make your room unique and add your own personal character to it. It is so much more fun than ordering the exact set up in a magazine.  There are so many neat furniture frames, from seating to armoires, that just need a little TLC, and given the right touch will look better than those mass produced." 

Thank you, Haley, for sharing these photos of your precious nursery.  Here is a complete list of items in Sam's nursery:

Crib - Joy Canopy Crib from
Bedding and Custom Pillows - Country and Cottage Shop on Etsy
Rug - Target
Chandelier - Pottery Barn Kids
Mirror - The Mustard Seed Antique Mall in Oxford, MS
Dresser, Changing Table, Rocking Chair - Family pieces Chair - David Pitt's Antiques in Greenwood, MS
Ottoman - Serena and Lily 
Side Table and Bench - Hwy 51 Antiques in Jackson, MS
Artwork- My Own! Haley Farris Artwork on Facebook
Cornice Boards - Built and covered my local carpenter and seamstress
Accessories - McCarty Pottery and various frames from local gift stores 
Lamps - CasaBella Interiors in Jackson, MS and Hobby Lobby
Drapes and Roman Shades - Custom made by local seamstress
Ron Garber was driving down Highway 61 in Natchez, when the axle on his trailer broke, sparking a fire.  Unknowingly, Ron was near a historic plantation, and the caretaker of the property came to the road when he heard sirens wailing.  The gentleman kindly offered to let Ron park his trailer on the property.   As they pulled into the lush grounds of Brandon Hall Plantation, Ron immediately fell in love.  He went home and told his family he would buy Brandon Hall. 

A month later, Ron’s daughter, Rachel Garber Dale, was attending a friend’s wedding on a plantation in Houston, Texas.   Rachel says, “I knew I wanted to start my own business.  I was sitting there thinking, ‘I could do this.  Brides would be thrilled to get married at Brandon Hall Plantation.’”

Built in 1856, the handsome plantation home was owned by cotton farmer Gerard Brandon, the son of a Mississippi Governor.  But by the late 1980’s, Brandon Hall stood vacant, in complete disrepair.  A New Orleans couple bought the property and completely restored the plantation.  Rachel says with awe, “They hired interior designers from around the world, had custom furniture made for the property, and added copper roofing.  They restored Brandon Hall impeccably, and truly went above and beyond the normal restoration of a property.”    

Ron and his wife, Kathy, purchased Brandon Hall in December of 2009, and Rachel began building a wedding and event business at the Plantation.  One day, Rachel was surprised to receive a call from a frantic bride.  Through tears, the bride explained that her wedding venue had suddenly closed.  Invitations had been mailed, and the wedding was just weeks away.  “The bride heard we were going to open up Brandon Hall as a new wedding venue.  I told her I was willing to work with her, even though we were not planning to have a wedding until the following spring!  But, we worked together and that is how we had our first wedding at Brandon Hall in March 2010.”  The wedding was magnificent.  Brides and grooms have been falling in love with Brandon Hall ever since!   

Rachel says, “I absolutely love Brandon Hall because it is so authentic and all of the plants are native.  It has gorgeous rolling hills and beautiful live oak trees sprinkled throughout the property.  We also have a pecan orchard, and a reflection pond surrounded by yellow Louisiana irises.  During the springtime, azaleas in all shades of pink bloom throughout the property.” 

Brides can choose to wed anywhere on the grounds. Rachel says, “I always tell my brides that Brandon Hall is their blank canvas.  If a bride wants to do something that has never been done before, I want to do it too!”  Many brides wish to marry under a gorgeous oak tree beside the pond.  Others prefer to exchange vows beneath a stunning arbor, draped in lovely wisteria in the garden.  Rachel adds, “When the wisteria is in bloom, it is simply amazing.” 

Brandon Hall Plantation is also a charming Bed & Breakfast, and many couples choose to stay, relax and spend time with their wedding party prior to the big day.  Bridesmaids typically spend time in the main house, while the groomsmen enjoy the cottage.  All guests will surely be entertained with croquet, fishing, and simply roaming the property. 

Rachel and her husband, Hunter, run Brandon Hall Plantation, and Rachel is a responsible, hands-on and wildly creative Event Director.  Aside from weddings, Brandon Hall is a wonderful location for luncheons, rehearsal dinners and other special events.  Rachel’s staff is professional, and their crisp white uniforms are always perfectly pressed.  If you have dreamed of a magical venue for a wedding or event, Brandon Hall is a perfectly enchanting setting. 

Rachel says, “When you drive up to Brandon Hall, it is absolutely breathtaking.  It is truly the definition of Southern Charm.  Brides come to Brandon Hall knowing that they can get whatever they want and whatever they picture for their wedding day.”   

Thank you, Rachel, for sharing the story of Brandon Hall Plantation.  To learn more about Brandon Hall, please visit their lovely website here.

Also, a special thanks to the talented Adam and Alli Hudson of Adam + Alli Photography for capturing these wonderful photographs! You can visit their website here!
{Blog by Mitchell Walters}
“I came up in the age of experiencing the whole desire to get out of Mississippi.  But by the time I became an actual working artist out of college, the Internet became an amazing tool to open up the world.  I was aware of so many amazing Mississippians like Jim Henson, an idol of mine.  All of these great Mississippians have gone on to change the world.”  Ginger Williams-Cook

As a sixth grader, Ginger Williams-Cook made a bold declaration:  “I have made the full decision to become an artist.”  Even at a young age, she never had a doubt.  Many children love dabbling in painting and drawing, but few pursue art past middle school.  Ginger’s passion only grew.  

“I have actually never been without art; I never stopped drawing. I feel like I had more interest than many children because a lot of my family members are artists,” says Ginger.  “So, I knew I could grow up to be an artist one day.”  

Wildly talented and with seemingly endless capabilities, Ginger has been making a splash in the art scene for several years.  Her works are colorful and quirky, with a touch of humor and whimsy.  Much of her talent and inspiration comes from a lifetime of sketching alongside her father.  

As a high school student, Ginger’s father underwent a difficult brain surgery.  Rather than give up on his art, he pursued his passion.  Ginger reflects, “I was fifteen.  He trained himself to draw with his non-dominant side and became a great artist.  He actually drew better after his surgery than before!”  His speech patterns were interrupted following his surgery, so he dedicated his time to art.  Ginger marvels, “I spent a lot of time drawing with my father.  He still draws everyday.  He made a huge impact on me and is one of my biggest inspirations.”  

Ginger’s father is a pointillist, and he uses dots to create magnificent portrait heads and busts; his style heavily influenced Ginger.  She laughs, “It’s funny.  Even if I am painting a dog, I also focus on the bust!”  

A Jackson native, Ginger attended William Carey University in Gulfport, and received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in painting and drawing.  The year before she graduated, Ginger joined a group of emerging artists in Jackson and landed her first job creating art.  She and two other artists painted a mural on the patio outside of Walker’s Drive-In.  

After graduation, she returned to her Jackson roots, and found a studio space in Fondren.  Ginger spent time painting portraits, teaching art lessons, and working at the Mississippi Museum of Art.  She continued painting to try and get her work into galleries, and submitted pieces to competitions all over the country.  In 2010, Ginger decided she wanted to promote her work through social media.  She had a few sets of nesting dolls and decided to paint them.  People went nuts.  One night her husband, Justin, said, “Ginger, you have to paint the Golden Girls.”  She did and within hours, they went viral. Ginger laughs, “I was not prepared!  I only had one set!”  Ginger’s Golden Girls were featured on countless blogs, and she was featured on MSNBC and New York Daily News.  

Ginger’s dog portraits are also wildly popular.  Ginger says, “When Justin and I started dating, we gave a voice and personality to our dog, Stella.  We talked about what she would wear to a party, and she would carry on inappropriate conversations with people.  When we got our second dog, Banjo, we did the same thing with him.”  Ginger painted a portrait of Banjo and Stella together, with one dressed as a Baptist preacher and the other in a dress and jean jacket.  She laughs, “It was funny.  I enjoyed doing it.”  She shared her paintings on social media, and again, people went crazy.   After all, doesn’t every pet owner imagine their dog’s personality and style? 

Ginger also creates custom pillows, a product she will offer on her new website.  Ginger says, “I wanted some large Euro shams for our bed.  I created one pillow of Justin and one of me.  It was so funny.  We just laughed when I put them on the bed.”  Her pillows caught even more attention on social media, and she was soon creating custom pillows.  She laughs, “They are fun and have so much personality.  They make a room come to life in this really fun way.” 

Today, Ginger says she gets many ideas from her love of antiques and nostalgia.  “Those two things kind of meet when it comes to what I like to paint.  I like to go and wander flea markets and antique malls, and look at objects and think about the power the objects hold.”  Ginger is currently painting porcelain dolls with high contrast patterns and colors.  She says, “I am mixing two things that don’t seem to go together, but they somehow work.”  

Ginger’s talent spans a little bit of everything.  She says, “Being an artist is such an evolution.  There is the career aspect of wanting to be an artist and the need to create.”  When she isn’t painting, she is crafting with her daughter, or making ornaments and clothespin people.  “It’s about being in that process,” she says.  

As her work and style beautifully evolves, her business is equally booming.   Ginger will unveil a brand new studio and beautiful new website this August!    

For now, Ginger, Justin and their two precious children are enjoying life in Jackson.  “There are a lot of ideas here and a lot of thinkers.  My network of friends is a group of dreamers and doers.  Our friends are a huge network of inspiration, and I want my family and children to experience that.”    

Thank you, Ginger, for sharing your incredible talents with us!  You can follow Ginger on Instagram (@gingerwilliamscook)here!
{Blog by Mitchell Walters}
{Name}  Megan West Allen       
{Hometown} Laurel, MS but Jackson for 9 years.
{Event Site} Home of Anna Chappell, Bridgewater, Ridgeland, MS
{Tell us about the occasion for the event?}
This was a baby shower to celebrate what will likely be the July arrival of my baby girl!

{What inspired your event location and theme?}
The credit for that goes to Anna! She and the other 11 hostesses know that I love dresses and dressing up so they decided on a “pretty” Saturday morning brunch.

{What inspired your color scheme/flowers?}
I love the color green and my nursery is blush, coral and white. They used that as inspiration.

{What’s your favorite event detail? Is there a story behind it?}
The invitations. You can see a sketch of the picture used on it in one photo. A friend of Anna’s (who designs invitations professionally) actually looked at pictures of me, and things I like to come up with it. I’ll never look that great pushing a stroller around town…but I can dream.

{What was your favorite part of the event planning process?}
To be honest I didn’t have to do a thing. The incredible hostesses handled it all!

{What was your favorite moment of the event day?}
Seeing so many of my favorite people in one room. Like so many women I feel like I have so many great and wonderful friends who’ve never actually met each other. This day gave me a chance to introduce many of them.

{Your favorite picture from the event day?}
The pictures of my mom sitting next to me as I open gifts. My husband and I waited for years to have a child—enduring infertility and finally IVF. Having a baby- much less a baby shower- was not something I *knew* I’d ever get to do. But my mom always did. It was very special to sit next to her…carrying the next girl in our lineJ

Photographer: Candace Tann
{Blog by Mitchell Walters}
A historic building in downtown Vicksburg has transformed into one of the coolest venues in Mississippi.  Charmingly nestled on Washington Street, The Bluff of Vicksburg is the perfect location to create the wedding or event of your dreams.

The incredible Art Deco building was built in 1930 as the Sears and Roebuck mail order facility, and served the community until the early 1970’s.  Years later, the stately structure sat empty and neglected.  It was begging for a transformation. 

Mark Shapley and his partner, Hal Parker, purchased the impressive building in 2008. They completely renovated the top two floors, creating handsome condos and apartments called The Sears Quarters.  After a tenant vacated the first floor, Mark was ready to create something completely different.

He says, “I spoke with so many people in Vicksburg who said we needed a reception hall.   People needed an option where they could hold an event and bring in their own caterer, florist, and other vendors.”  They took the idea and ran with it.

Mark and Hal renovated the first floor, carefully restoring it to its original splendor.  They incorporated many of the old materials from the original Sears and Roebuck mail center, including flooring and tiles.  The original grand staircase, which earned the building a spot on the National Register of Historic Places, still stands as a gorgeous focal point. Mark says with awe, “It is really cool how it all turned out.  It has been a great thing and we are excited, because downtown Vicksburg is truly coming to life.”

Mark and Hal also relied on the expertise of Wendy Putt, owner of Fresh Cut Catering and Floral, to ensure their reception hall would become a dream venue.  Mark says, “Wendy has an unbridled enthusiasm for everything!  She was extremely helpful on what we needed to do.  Why argue with someone who has been extremely successful?”  They equipped the building with everything Wendy recommended, including a prep kitchen with cabinets, dishwashers and shelving, and tables and chairs for seating up to 200 guests.  Mark adds, “We also have a courtyard space outside for frying and grilling.” 

As renovations came to a close, Wendy asked Mark, “What are you going to call your venue?  I think it should be named ‘The Bluff.’”  Mark laughs, “We loved it and said, ‘The Bluff it is!’  Everything fell into place after that.  The name perfectly fits the building and the Art Deco look.” 

If you are looking for a special venue to hold the event of a lifetime, we highly recommend The Bluff of Vicksburg.  Mark says, “We offer flexibility.  You have the opportunity to create the wedding or event you have always wanted!  We welcome all caterers.  We just want people to come in, have a wonderful time, and enjoy their event with the people they love.” 

You can learn more about The Bluff of Vicksburg on their website here

A special thank you to Chao Photography for capturing the lovely photos of Mark and his wife, Mary, at The Bluff. 

Also, thank you to Fresh Cut Catering & Floral, as well as Friends Stationary of Vicksburg, for providing the beautiful pieces for our photo shoot. 
A chance meeting over sushi sparked the beginning of a beautiful shoe and handbag line.  One evening on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles, a gentleman asked Lauren Lorraine Jones for a sushi recommendation.  His name was Av Goodman, the President of Martinez Valero, a very successful shoe line; he had years of experience in the footwear industry.  Lauren was intrigued.  After all, the wildly talented beauty was already a successful model and actress, garnering a lot of attention in LA. 

Lauren Lorraine Jones, born and raised in Jackson, Mississippi, is breathtakingly beautiful, genuinely kind and incredibly business savvy.  As a timid teen in High School, she and her mom left the comfort of Jackson and moved to New York.  Hoping to work on Lauren’s confidence, Lauren’s mother took her to a Seventeen Magazine modeling contest in New York City.  Lauren laughs, “I was so shy.  I could not believe she brought me there. I truly thought I had no chance of winning.” 

A few weeks later, Lauren received the call, and she landed the coveted cover of Seventeen Magazine!  Lauren fulfilled a whirlwind of obligations, including modeling on the Regis & Kathy Lee Show.  Lauren quickly developed a passion for modeling. “I truly loved the art of it, and I focused my career on modeling and acting.”  Lauren moved to LA, where her career continued to expand.  She became a Barker’s Beauty on the hit show, The Price is Right, and filmed a scripted reality show for FOX called Anchorwoman.  She covered romance novels and billboards, and set her sights on movies. 

Lauren landed a role in the hit movie The Expendables, working alongside major Hollywood actors.  She was beyond thrilled.  Lauren says, “And as time went on, the acting and modeling turned into a shoe business.”

During their conversation over sushi, Av and Lauren hit it off, and she was eager to help design shoes.  Lauren returned to Jackson during a writer’s strike in LA, and Av flew to Mississippi to visit with Lauren and meet her family.  Lauren persuaded Av to let her start her own shoe line.   “I had just filmed The Expendables and had a lot of momentum in my career.  And I was so passionate about this.  Av and I put together four designs, and Av went to China and had samples made.  We showed the samples to Nordstrom and they bought my first line, Lauren Jones Shoes!”  

Lauren Jones Shoes was extremely successful, but after five years, Lauren and Av decided to start over for a variety of reasons.  “I had matured, and I had new visions for my line.  We named the line Lauren Lorraine, after my middle name and also my wonderful grandmother's name.  We wanted a fresh start with a new name, something totally different.”

Lauren Lorraine offers an exquisite line of shoes, embellished with jewels and perfect for special occasions.  Lauren says, “Our customers understand fashion, and also love a little glitz and glamour.  Our shoes are made for the woman who loves Christian Louboutin and Jimmy Choo; but we are providing a beautiful shoe at an affordable price, and truly filling a void in the market.” 

Models, magazine editors and fashion bloggers are enamored with Lauren Lorraine.  This summer’s Ibiza sandal has been one of their best-selling shoes to date.  Lauren says, “I had the idea for the Ibiza when I was vacationing in Rosemary Beach, Florida.  I saw some expensive sandals from Italy with embellishments on the upper part of the shoe, and knew we could make our own creation at a much better price point.”  The Ibiza was born, and the hand-sewn sandals are beautifully encrusted with jewels.  They are perfect for a beach getaway, honeymoon, or even peeking out beneath a wedding dress. 

Lauren Lorraine also offers an extraordinary collection of handbags.  “The handbags were a natural evolution,” says Lauren.  “If you are going somewhere special, you want a handbag to match your shoes!  Ours are very high-end and a few are hand-beaded in India.  You can throw your essentials in and they pair perfectly with a formal dress or even a pair of jeans!” 

Lauren Lorraine shoes retail from $59 to $149.  Lauren says, “On average, we really to try keep our shoes under $100.”  What an unbelievable price for a gorgeous pair of shoes.  Lauren Lorraine is carried at all Nordstrom stores nation-wide,,,, Kleinfeld in Manhattan, and many more locations.  Her shoes will also be carried in the lovely new Arabella store, opening soon in Jackson! 

Lauren says, “I really hope to keep expanding the brand.  I would love to be in more stores, and one day design clothing.  But I have learned that to be focused is to be more successful.  Right now, Av and I are focused on our special occasion shoes and handbags.” 

We cannot wait to see where Lauren’s talents will lead her.  Until then, we will happily wear her stunning shoes and sparkling handbags.  For more information on Lauren Lorraine, please visit her website here
{Blog by Mitchell Walters}
{Bride} Chelsey Jordan Williamson, Brandon, MS
{Groom} David Lee Williamson, Jr., Pearl, MS
{Wedding Site} First Baptist Church of Brandon
{Reception Site} 
The Jackson Yacht Club
{Bride’s Bouquet} Fresh Cut Catering and Floral
{Bridesmaid Bouquets} Fresh Cut Catering and Floral

{How did the two of you meet?}
We met in college at Mississippi State University. We were both in relationships, but became extremely close friends. Eventually our friendship grew into something greater and the rest is history! 

{What is your proposal story?}
Our proposal was perfect for us. It was at my parents' house, outside, and near the water. We were surrounded by the most important people in our lives and it couldn't have been more perfect! 

{What inspired your wedding and reception locations?} First Baptist is where I grew up going to church. When planning my wedding, I wanted to incorporate that specific church because it's where I first accepted Jesus, was baptized, and always dreamed of getting married. It's such an important place to me because it was, after all, where I made my commitment to God and I couldn't have imagined making a life-long commitment to my husband in any other church! 

I chose to have our reception at The Yacht Club because it's near the water; a place I have always loved to be. Growing up, my Grandma instilled her love for the water in me and having it there made it seem like she was a part of it. A reception near the water was definitely my second biggest wedding request aside from being married at First Baptist. 

{What inspired your color scheme/colors/flowers?} I wanted something different. I love darker colors, neutrals, and gold, of course, but I can honestly say that everything to do with my wedding was really just a reflection of my taste and things that I love! 

{How did you pick “the dress?”}
My family and I went to Low's Bridal in Arkansas to look for a dress. It's actually kind of funny because going in to find "the dress," I knew exactly what I wanted and ended up leaving with something completely different. I was down to two dresses and I contemplated back and forth. Finally when I was in MY dress, looking at myself in the mirror, so unsure of which one to get, a woman walked up behind me and said, "that dress has been patiently waiting for you to be the one to wear it." I knew then it was "the one" and I'm so glad I chose it because it was perfect! 

{What’s your favorite unique accessory? Is there a story behind it?}
Definitely my grandma Jordan's pen that I wore. It was my "something old" and not having her there made wearing that pen so special. It was definitely my favorite accessory 

{What was your favorite part of the wedding planning process?} Meeting with Wendy Putt at Fresh Cut Catering and Floral, and just letting all of her ideas fill my head. I always looked forward to meetings with her because she literally drew things out, threw tons of awesome ideas at me and that's the kind of stuff I like! 

{Besides the actual wedding, what was your favorite moment of the wedding day?} Watching our son walk down the aisle, hands down. He was absolutely the most excited 16-month-old little boy running down the aisle with his football. Definitely a memory I'll forever cherish. 

{What was your favorite surprise detail/moment about your wedding day?}
My note from Lee. It was just a really personal and vulnerable moment for me. On your wedding day everything is so crazy and busy and to have that moment to stop and blush was really special. I loved reading his words and being reassured how much he loves me and couldn't wait to be my hubby :) 

{Your favorite picture from the big day?}
When Lee and I kissed for the first time as husband and wife. The picture totally captures our personalities! I love it because it's not traditional. He is dipping me and you can see Paul, the man who married us, behind us smiling.

{The picture that represents the two of you best?} The picture of us leaving our devotion with sparklers. My foot is kicked up and we are having our "farewell kiss."  It's fun, beautiful, in the moment, and raw. I absolutely love it! 

Photographer: Barrett Photography
Event Planner: Meredith Akers and Wendy Putt of Fresh Cut Catering & Floral
Dress: Low's Bridal
Bride’s Jewelry: Family rings came from Jackson Jewelers
Hair: Debbie Fullen
Make-up: MAC
Bridesmaid Dresses: Low's Bridal
Tuxes: Tuxedo Junction
Venue: First Baptist Church of Brandon
Reception-The Jackson Yacht Club. Rehearsal dinner was at the Mississippi Museum of Art
Florist: Fresh Cut Catering & Floral 
Catering: The Jackson Yacht Club
Bar: The Jackson Yacht Club
Band: Ben Johnson
Bride’s Cake:  Cakes by Iris
Groom’s Cake: Cakes by Iris
{Blog by Mitchell Walters}
Metropolitan Bank started in 2008 with one primary vision - to bring back the importance of personal relationships between clients and their bank.  Prior to 2008, banks had become more about the bank and less about the client, and we wanted to change that.  It was really a return to what banking used to be with one big caveat – technology,” says Bill Barron, Mississippi Market CEO with Metropolitan Bank.

With just one glance at Metropolitan Bank, you know you are getting something exciting and unique.  The bank beautifully stands on Highland Colony Parkway in Ridgeland, and the impressive architecture beckons you to take a second look.  Metropolitan Bank is modern and inviting, and as soon as you step inside, you are truly greeted like an old friend.  Bill adds, “We wanted our offices to be cool and different, but we also wanted clients to be able to do all of their banking without stepping into our office if that was what they wanted.  It's all about allowing clients to choose how they wish to bank.  We have clients who love our offices and want to come in to handle the day transactions and have a cup of coffee.  Other clients want to be able to do everything mobile.”

Every employee at Metropolitan Bank is friendly, assertive and knowledgeable.  We interviewed Adam Black and Matt Wilson, Mortgage Specialists, to learn more about their Mortgage team and why banking with Metropolitan Bank is incredibly special and beneficial. 
Mortgage Team, Ridgeland office - Shannon Zenor, Jenny Breaux, Adam Black, Matt Wilson

What makes Metropolitan Bank so different?  Why should customers bank with Metropolitan instead of your competitors?
“Our unique approach to simplifying the banking process resonates with our clients. Our ability to think outside the box and offer solutions that add value further solidify us as the bank of choice.” Adam

“When Metropolitan was started in 2008, Curt’s vision was simple – a return to basic banking where relationships matter, and where credit decisions were made locally.  The vision was centered on people: the Metropolitan associates and their clients.  One of our beliefs states that our clients should always know how much we care.  When you keep things simple, with a focus on the client and understanding their needs, clients feel that and it really makes a difference.  Specifically to my area of the bank with mortgage lending, we work hard to make sure we keep things simple for our mortgage clients.  Buying a home can be stressful, so it’s our goal to keep them informed and make the process as seamless as it can be for them.” Matt

Even the outside of Metropolitan is special.  The architecture is spectacular and truly stands out.  Does the architecture mimic the way the bank operates?
“We like to think so. In the same way the architecture is forward thinking and progressive, we tend to implement that same thinking into our daily processes.” Adam

“The building architecture at Metropolitan is unmistakable and very intentional.  We are not a brick and mortar bank that is built on a big branch network, but more on technology and accessibility through multiple access channels.  We truly believe we are a different kind of bank, and we want our buildings to reflect that.  We have some clients who rarely come to the bank, but we have others who love to come by and visit, even though the technology is available such that they really don’t have to.  I think that has something to do with our building, but more to do with the experience once they come inside.  All you have to do is step inside to know that it is not the same experience you would have at another bank.  The bottom line is we want people to have an exceptional client experience every time they interact with Metropolitan, whether that is inside our bank or not.” Matt
How does Metropolitan make banking easier for your customers?
“Overall client service coupled with outstanding technology makes the client experience smooth and stress free.” Adam

“Metropolitan operates on an Omni-Channel strategy – by that I mean we offer multiple channels to our clients from which they can choose how they want to customize their banking experience.  Some use multiple channels while others focus on one specific option.  We just want to be sure it is simple and seamless regardless of how they want to interact with us.  Outside of the technology like our mobile app with mobile deposit, we also have a Metropolitan car that will come to any client to pick up checks, deposits or paperwork.  It’s just another way we can make our client’s banking easier and hopefully make their busy life simpler.” Matt

How did you get into mortgage lending?
“I was moving quickly through the management side of automobile manufacturing and became very aware of my desire to get in an industry that was client driven. I felt that the real estate industry was one that I could use my self-drive and networking skills to excel. I chose the financial side rather than sales and have been so happy since.” Adam

“After receiving my Bachelors from Southern Mississippi, the plan was take a year off and get ready for Law School.  I had an opportunity to work as a Loan Officer and thought it would be excellent ‘Real World’ experience.  Within my first 3 months I knew this was the Industry meant for me.  There is an excitement that surrounds this industry and it is very addicting and one of the many reasons I love my job.” Matt   

What services do you personally offer your customers?
“I offer residential lending solutions that run the gamut from construction, refinance, to purchase. We use different lending products based on the client’s needs to help them use their mortgage as more of a financial tool than simply a liability. Our goal is for the mortgage to be a way for our clients to build wealth through their home over time.” Adam

“In my world of mortgage, we offer all of the traditional mortgage products you often here discussed.  FHA, VA, fixed, floating, bridge loans, etc.  We work with everything from first time home buyers to those who might want to purchase a second home.  With our online applications it is a simple process to apply and get pre-qualified.  Then we can walk with you each step of the way.  Outside of mortgage, the bank offers just about anything else you can imagine from a bank.  For individuals we offer various forms of checking and savings accounts, certificates of deposit, consumer loans, lines of credit, as well as our mobile and online banking offerings with bill pay and mobile deposit.  For our commercial clients, we offer everything from business transaction accounts with online banking to lines of credit, construction loans and commercial financing.  We also have a very robust treasury management suite of products that include remote deposit capture and lock box, as well as our merchant card services.” Matt 
Any advice for people interested in a mortgage loan?
“If someone leads with rate and closing cost be aware. There is so much more to a mortgage. You need to look at the total cost of the product over time. Up-front funding fees or excessive monthly mortgage insurance may impact the overall cost of a loan to the point that taking a higher interest rate on a different product might make better fiscal sense.” Adam

“The entire process of purchasing a home can, at times, seem very overwhelming.  It is critical if you are thinking about purchasing a home you get your team, Loan Officer and Realtor, in place.  Surrounding yourself with the right people well make the process much more efficient and enjoyable.” Matt    

Anything else you want to add?
“Our industry is changing at a rapid pace. Never has it been more important to consult with a true mortgage professional. This professional needs to take the time to find out your needs, you goals, etc. so they can better help you navigate the process.” Adam

“I would just add that there is so much misinformation out there today regarding mortgages and their availability.  With all of the talk about the housing market, I think a lot of people have gotten the false impression that it is extremely difficult if not impossible to get a mortgage today.  The reality is that many, if not most people out there thinking about buying a home can qualify.  If there is someone out there who feels like they can’t qualify, I would encourage them to speak with a mortgage lender and walk through the application process. It is pretty quick and painless and we can walk you through the process.  Then you won’t have to wonder if you qualify – you will know and you can begin taking the next steps toward owning a home.” Matt

Thank you so much, Adam and Matt!  As you can see, banking with Metropolitan Bank is an easy, yet extraordinary experience.  Bill nails it when he says, ”Our vision is to look at every client relationship and deliver an exceptional client experience based on their definition of what banking should be, not ours.  If we have associates who love what they do and are happy in their work, they will deliver that exceptional client experience which has come to define Metropolitan, and in the end everyone wins.”

For more information on Metropolitan Bank, please visit their beautiful website here.  Thank you to Karla Pound of Pound Photography for the wonderful photographs! 
{Blog by Mitchell Walters}
A precious children’s clothing store has officially opened its doors in Dogwood Promenade!  Owner Jessica Donovan says, “My dream growing up was to always have my very own boutique.  I studied Fashion Merchandising at USM and went to fashion school at the Art Institute for Fashion Marketing Management.”  After welcoming three sweet boys and a beautiful baby girl, Jessica decided to make her dreams come true.  Bows & Arrows was born. 

Bows & Arrows had its grand opening yesterday, and will continue celebrating throughout the weekend!  On Saturday, they will have special sweets from the Turquoise Chandelier, and next weekend they will have a HUGE sale on all of their spring and summer merchandise!
We sat down with Jessica and asked her all about her amazing new children’s boutique:

What is the meaning behind the name “Bows & Arrows?”
“When I first decided to open a children's boutique, I started brainstorming. I was putting together my children's initials, names, kiddie verbs, etc.  I wanted something that was catchy and different, but still knowingly a children's store! The next day it came to me, as I was looking at arrow decor for my son's ‘big boy’ room.  Bows & Arrows... girls love Bows (hair bows) and boys love to play with Arrows! It was perfect and just the uniqueness that I was going for.  It represents boys & girls!”
What inspired you to open this store?
“My inspiration was my daughter!  When I found out I was blessed with a little girl (Christmas Day) finally...after having three boys, I knew I wanted to spend as much time with her and just spoil her rotten. I then decided to open an online boutique, and get it going, so that I would be able to stay home with her.  I saw a post on Instagram later that day that Material Girls was relocating, and didn't think anything of it. This has always been one of my favorite locations for a store! A few weeks later, walking into Target, I saw the old spot with a ‘For Lease’ sign in the window. I immediately called my mom and said, ‘It’s up for lease!’  I told her that if it indeed didn't already have a commitment then it was meant to be, and that I would find a way to make it my storefront!

After contacting the landlord back and forth through email, I was running numbers, putting together a business plan, praying that the good Lord look over me through all of this, etc.  After I left Pinelake, I opened up my phone to see that I had a voicemail letting me know someone had verbally committed to a lease the spot. I was upset, but not heartbroken. Like I told my family, ‘If it wasn't meant to be, then it just wasn't my time for a storefront and I would go through with my online store!’

Three weeks later, I received a call saying that the lease fell through and it was again available. I knew I would do whatever I had to do for this to be Bows & Arrows!  Four months later, I not only have a beautiful 2-month-old baby girl, but we are about to have our GRAND OPENING!  I still keep asking myself, ‘Is this real?’  I have been hoping and praying for a little girl and to have my very own store for the last few years, and it all fell into place, all within a few months of each other. God is so Good!”
Describe the clothing and the atmosphere of the store!
“Ahh, the clothing! I went to Dallas Market, Atlanta, and New York searching for different lines to carry, and boy, is it overwhelming! I carry sizes NB to 6-7 in both boys and girls clothing! I have chosen something for everyone and at all price points without sacrificing the quality. The clothing is a range from sweet, fun, and stylish to some edgy.  I am even carrying several organic lines. I wanted to bring back all the latest trends in the children's industry.  

I would say the atmosphere of the store is friendly, inviting, fun, and convenient for both adults and children, as we have a play area in the back with a TV to give the moms and dads a break - so they are able to shop!  You can come in looking for a baby shower gift, an entire outfit for pictures, or just some cute accessories!”
Describe the child you picture wearing your clothes!
“A newborn leaving the hospital in their coming home gown, a toddler girl wanting a ‘big girl’ purse to match her mom’s, or a toddler boy wanting to look cool for his first day back to school! I picture a true little Mississippi girl wearing a glamorous Tutu with her cowboy boots and all the accessories she can imagine!”

Bows & Arrows will not only carry clothing, but also sweet gifts and accessories.  Jessica adds, “In the next month we will also be selling Bratt Decor cribs, Lolli Living Crib Bedding and decor, as well as a huge selection of customizable nursery prints!  Brooklynn (my daughter) will be working the store with me and we cannot wait to meet everyone!” 
A special thank you to Hull Portraits Studio for capturing these perfectly adorable photographs!  Also, a big hug and thanks to our precious young models!

You can visit the Bows & Arrows Facebook Page here.  Happy Shopping!

{Blog by Mitchell Walters}