Beginning in 2021, a cool old building at 1129 Texas Avenue that was slated for demolition will be rehabbed and vibrant again, the site of the new Texas Avenue Social.
The building, the former Nolen’s Automotive, has been vacant for more than a decade. Several years ago, the City of Shreveport bought the adjacent parking lot to store wrecked and damaged police cars and the building came with the sale. The Texas Avenue of today is vastly different from the way things used to be.
Starting in roughly 1907, the 800 through 1200 blocks of Texas Avenue was a happening place for business and fun. Crowds congregated at the Star Theater, on the rooftop deck of the Calanthean Temple and at the Pla-Moor Club for a variety of entertainment options.
The ‘Nue was alive with music, dancing, food and fun. By the 1970s, many of the local residents and much of the liveliness were gone, leaving vacant lots, vacant buildings and more than an average number of wrecked automobiles. There has been little to attract people back…until now.
In June of this year, Lauren Ross Simmons and husband Derek Simmons opened C&C Mercantile and Lighting in the old Schorr Furniture Store at 1100 Texas Ave. They wanted a different type of space from their Line Avenue location and when Schorr building owner Tom Chavanne showed them his space, they were smitten. In the middle of Covid, the couple moved their upscale vintage and art-filled shop into an area that most would charitably call ‘sketchy.’
Not only did Lauren and Derek move their business, they expanded it to include ArtiFact, a cool artisan ‘factory’ where artists create and sell their work. Within weeks after that, they had leased the parking lot and Nolen’s, with a promise to clean both up and bring them back to usefulness and life.
Their impressive retail store, the beauty brought out in the rehab of the Schorr building and the unbridled creativity and energy of Lauren and Derek have convinced any who might have been initially hesitant that the move was a smart one. The cherry on top was C & C’s recent Downtown Mercantile Market that attracted hundreds who enjoyed live music, food trucks and purchased wares from artists from several states. Sales were brisk, the crowd was large, and the feedback was over the top positive, and the shop is now hosting weekly Saturday Mini-Markets through Dec. 19 which draw repeat patrons. The Downtown Mercantile Market showed that if they did an event well, people would come, and that was all Lauren and Derek needed to see.
As soon as the market was over, they launched into plans for the Social, cleaning several dumpsters full of garbage and waste from the Nolen’s building. It is remarkable how much refuse a 20′ by 80′ building can hold, but once cleared out, Derek, Lauren and Tom started getting a feel of how the Social might flow.
Their initial plans are for the interior front rooms of the building to house a bar and small spaces for indoor dining. Lauren, a noted artist with an eye for color and texture, will handle the decor and already has a look in mind- dark wood and tile, sleek and clean, almost mid-century, reminiscent of an upscale 1950’s club in downtown London. Even with the look will come whimsy and the unexpected–a putt-putt course might wind its way through the building periodically, says Derek.
Just to the rear of the clean and sleek area will be the large room housing the commercial kitchen space, and that, says Derek, will have an industrial feel. Large glass garage doors will open into the adjacent outdoor patio and dining space for an indoor-outdoor feel. Whimsy will free-range here, too, with dining available on the back of a broken-down Plymouth, or on the deck of a parked sailboat.
“We’re going to be the vessel for people to explore experiences, food, and culture,” says Derek Simmons. C & C will run the bar, but the kitchen space will be available for use for food trucks to expand their menu & outreach or for chefs to try their hand at a brick and mortar location. Derek envisions an ever changing array of food options, live performances of all types, artist events and markets. The goal is to have a significant portion of the building completed by spring of 2021, with the commercial kitchen to follow. Much is different than entertainment the ‘Nue used to provide, but the sounds of music and laughter will be much the same.
Follow the work on the Texas Avenue Social right here.