For two years Mary Amelia McRee had her eye on a vacant white house at the corner of Decelle and North State Street that needed a little help. She saw its potential with many ideas in her mind and this spring she finally decided to take the plunge. This summer, she plans to open part of the space as Fondren Muse, a designer consignment store that benefits Community Animal Rescue and Adoption (CARA).

Though, living in Jackson wasn’t always in her plans. While in college, McRee studied kinesiology and attended physical therapy school. A clinical rotation took her to New York City where she worked for the physical therapy company of the New York City Ballet and fell in love with the city. “I had every intention to move back to New York,” she says. But living in Jackson after marrying her husband, Damon Wofford, physical therapy didn’t fit into her plans. She and realtor husband began flipping houses in Belhaven and eventually the simple house in Fondren caught her eye.

Why does she like the house so much? “It’s a corner lot,” she says. “Not too far from the central business district. (The house is) in the overlay district, so you can have retail. I kind of like the idea of that whole (North State Street) corridor turning into business.”

Initially after purchasing the house, McRee wanted to open a type of doggie day care because of the large lot across the street that could be fenced and made into a dog park. “Fondren doesn’t have a dog park,” she says. Unable to purchase the land, McRee knew she still wanted animals to be involved in her business plans. “I might be the crazy cat lady if my husband would be for it,” she said.

Family and friends like the idea of the store. They are excited, she says, or are pretending they are. “I’m an artist without an art,” McRee says. She may not be a painter or a potter, but Fondren Muse was something she could plan and make her own, involving her creative flair. After working for other people, she was glad to not be on someone else’s schedule.

Fondren’s eclectic and inclusive vibe is just what this free spirit needed to help cultivate her art and new store. “Everyone has been so supportive,” she says. “People don’t know me but are thrilled about me opening my business. They don’t look at me like competition. Everyone is creating something.”

With other potential structures available for more businesses to open along State Street in the future, McRee envisions a smaller scale Buckhead in Jackson. Little watering holes, boutiques and galleries are just part of the image she sees to bring neighborhood people even further north from the central business district. Though she is the first retail to locate there, McRee hopes more will follow suit. “I have a million ideas for investors,” she says. “A lot of places need rehabbing.”

Sophie McNeil contributed this piece to the Summer issue of Find It in Fondren™ Magazine

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