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Garden goodness: the reappearance of a favorite gardening store is a welcome sight in Starkville.

Some say everything is better the second time around. Others say that one does not know what he has until he loses it. In the case of Dawn Lacoste Herring, both sayings ring true for Boardtown Gardens and More in Starkville, the one-of-a-kind garden center that she owns and operates with her husband. After a 14-year hiatus, the specialty nursery/antiques shop/art collector's dream reopened in the spring of 2014.

Not a typical garden center, Boardtown captures the essence of the word unique, as is evident when entering the arena through a spiral rustic gate created from old garden tools such as shovels, hoes, and rakes. Boardtown features hand-chosen antiques and unusual artistic creations, which customers can peruse in the booths occupied by independent vendors. In addition, Dawn offers a variety of special events for customers, including art classes, garden club gatherings, farmers markets, and bridal showers.

Boardtown Gardens and More originally opened in 2000 as a typical garden center filled with flowering bedding plants, trees, and shrubs. Since Dawn and her husband John had met while students at Mississippi State University enrolled in the Landscape Architecture and Horticulture Department, they both knew the trade. From the inception of Boardtown, John organized the commercial and residential landscaping division, which he continues to oversee throughout the week. On Saturdays, when he is not landscaping for clients, he helps Dawn with the store and garden vendors.

When asked why she reopened Boardtown Gardens and More last spring, Dawn replies, "After working for several years on campus at Mississippi State, I decided that I needed to do something creative. I have always been interested in art and antique collecting. I realized that there were not too many creative outlets in the area, so I decided to pull it all together--the gardening, the art collecting, and the antiques. It was my aim to be a creative inspiration. It was good business sense to rent space to vendors because they bring in their own inventory that appeals to their friends, families, and neighbors."


The 25 vendors display their wares in the former nursery greenhouse, a 30 x 40-foot structure. Interestingly, the space has evolved from once being a home for the "Starving Artists Union," a group of MSU art students, to a 30-foot half-pipe skateboard arena for her teenaged son, and, finally, to a home for vendors. In addition, Boardtown also features a 1,500-square-foot gallery area where antiques and consigned art are sold.

The Herrings, both interested in scavenging for antiques, scour the South to find interesting inventory for Boardtown. Last year they shopped along the "Longest Yard Sale," a seven-mile stretch filled with pop-up vendors near Chattanooga.

"It's a condensed antiques shopping spree," Dawn explains. "It's like going to market!" Unusual antiques from this yard sale find a home, though briefly, at Boardtown before a lucky customer claims them for her home or garden.

In addition to searching for antiques, Dawn is also interested in repurposing. In fact, the whole idea of reopening Boardtown in 2014 involved a new look. "I use antiques for displays; I repurpose things. For instance, we have a tire-like thing that looks like a giant wheel, and it is displayed at Boardtown. We have planted a tree in it. It is a great conversation piece. Our displays are unique. Things are always changing with this type of store, and we like to stay current. We often add items that people are interested in. Some of our vendors are also 're-purposers,'" she adds.


The garden center of Boardtown offers unique landscaping items not found at big-box stores. The Herrings produce artistic displays using unusual perennials, herbs, and succulents. They specialize in color.

"I have done a lot of talks on design," adds Dawn. "On a typical day in the spring, we are helping people with design and placement of plants and flowers. I like it when I don't have time to breathe or eat lunch," she laughs. She likens helping a customer with a great plan for his garden to creating a collage, and she notes that her own garden is often filled with bits and pieces of landscaping jobs.

Most people in the north Mississippi area will agree that there is nothing like Boardtown anywhere nearby. In fact, one customer admitted that the only place that could compete with Boardtown would be a shop in California. Boardtown is indeed a beacon for the gardener, antique collector, and art lover.

Upon reflection, Dawn notes, "The only way that shops like mine can thrive is with local support. The things that define a town's character are the unique places and things it has to offer. Shopping at home-owned and -operated shops is an investment in the community."


Boardtown Gardens and More

404 Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. W., Starkville


Open: Tuesday-Friday, 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and on Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
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Title Annotation:noteworthy: travel & adventure
Author:Goodman, Nan Graves
Publication:Mississippi Magazine
Date:Mar 1, 2015
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