Taking on a major restoration project and giving new life to a structure more than 125 years old would seem like a daunting challenge to any prospective entrepreneur.
But for Stafford Houston and his wife Christy, the Gin at Nesbit is an enterprise that has truly become a labor of love.
To hear wife Christy tell it, she and her husband Stafford realized the potential of the old gin, a mainstay in the heart of historic downtown Nesbit, almost immediately when they both laid their eyes upon it.
Its sheer spaciousness, rustic charm and chic allure would make it perfect for a wedding venue.
Stafford Houston owned Custom Iron Works, which was previously located behind the old gin, before he decided to move that company to Memphis.
"I was wanting to bring my iron business into that spot," Houston said. "We tried selling the old gin for eight months and we didn't have any takers. We were standing around looking at it and I said to myself that it was too neat not to do something cool with it."
Christy chimed in during this part of the conversation and added that the couple's daughter Emmy is on her way to college. The empty nesters suddenly had a new baby.
"We love the old architecture of the building," added Stafford Houston. "She and I spent two years doing research. We went to the Tellico Gin out of Waco, Texas that had been converted into a wedding venue. Then, we went down to Shreveport and saw the old Dixie Gin that had been converted into another wedding venue. We had already done so much research. We wanted to make it happen."
Stafford Houston said authentic materials were utilized throughout the renovation.
"All of our windows are old warehouse windows," Stafford said. "The big French doors came from the old train station in downtown Memphis. All of our old brick are from downtown Sledge. Originally, our stage area was a loading dock for mules and wagons as they pulled up to unload cotton to be ginned."
Christy Houston said she, too, gathered as much research as she could on the building and bridal venues in particular.
"We talked to brides and caterers about what they want and need," said Christy.
What Christy Houston found out was that brides needed comfort, privacy and security not to mention plenty of pampering on the most important day of their lives.
Th sprawling gin, with all its inviting and unique nooks and crannies could provide all that.
A state-of-the-art security system, full-service bar, bride's dressing room and bridegroom's dressing room, outdoor back patio, side patio with sliding doors, giant dining and entertainment hall would soon take shape, with all of the authentic and historic charm of the gin, built in the 1890s, remaining intact.
"The venue is 9,000 square feet and we have 2,000 square feet of storage," Stafford Houston said. "We'll have an outdoor patio for outdoor weddings and our indoor fire marshal's capacity is 860 people. We'll be able to seat 360 people at round tables with a dance floor. We'll have a giant, drop-down projector screen so people will be able to watch all of the action."
While Stafford Houston talks animatedly about all of the 21st century electronic trappings and amenities, he gets just as excited about recounting the gin's storied past.
"It was built sometime in the 1890s," Stafford said. "It was constructed as a gin and operated until 1975. When it closed, Robert Woosley converted it into a steakhouse or a supper club, as it was called."
Stafford Houston said when Woosley wanted to sell beer and alcohol at the establishment, a big ruckus ensued.
"It was scandalous," Stafford Houston said. "There are still people around who still talk about those days."
As for the couple, Houston said he and wife Christy are not the "partying kind" but they like to have a good time.
That's why on Nov. 3, a themed supper club event that will mimic a USO Club from the World War II years during World War II is planned at the gin.
"My wife Christy is going to dress up as Rosie the Riveter with big white polka dots on her red dress and her hair curled like they did back then," Stafford said.
The couple also disclosed that plans are in the works for a Bridal Expo involving acclaimed barbecue chef Scotty Miller, whose catering business is located next door.
Work continues to refurbish and renovate the gin so it will be restored to full splendor.
"It was an eyesore for such a long time," Christy Houston said. "What we are hoping is that it can become one-stop shopping for brides, with maybe a florist shop, a bakery and other shops nearby. We want old downtown Nesbit to become a destination."
Robert Lee Long is Community Editor for the DeSoto Times-Tribune. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 662-29-6397, Ext. 252