Downtown Renovation Heroes
Scott Reeves says he has enjoyed all kinds of building projects and doing things with his hands since he was a child, always taking things apart and putting things together. He has renovated and knocked out walls in every house he and his wife Kelly have bought. He also loves old buildings and all things vintage. He has collected and saved boxes and boxes of old light fixtures, door knobs, and all sorts of architectural pieces that he loves, believing he will surely use them one of these days.
Kelly remembers as a child spending much of her time making doll houses out of boxes and pictures from the Sears catalog. She also enjoyed going to all the Carthage antique auctions with her uncle, learning to appreciate the beauty and character of old things from an early age. She and Scott say almost in unison, “And we can’t stand to see old buildings torn down!” This energetic couple has put their money where their mouths are, already having completed two major restorations in old downtown buildings.
Scott is the son of Jack and Pat (Adams) Reeves, both of whose families are all longtime Carthage folks. Jack was a career Air Force pilot, so the family lived all over, but Carthage was always their home for holidays and family visits. Kelly is the daughter of Don and Richie (Kelly) Honeycutt, and their families were also from Carthage.
Scott graduated from high school in Georgia, then from ETBU in Marshall with a major in music education, but his whole career was in music ministry in churches. Kelly graduated from CHS and attended Panola College, then graduated from Tyler Junior College’s School of Dental Hygiene. The couple moved back “home” to Carthage from Hot Springs, Arkansas in 2013 when Scott retired from full-time music ministry. He served part- time, and then full-time, at Cedar Grove Baptist Church here in Carthage, retiring once again recently because he wanted to have some free time for traveling to visit the couple’s three grown children and young grandchildren. Son Ben and his wife Mallory live in Fort Worth and have a one-month old daughter, Sophie. Daughter Meredith Roberts and her husband Turner live in Hamburg, Arkansas, and have two children, Norah Kate (age 4) and Finn (age 3). Daughter Emily recently completed a master’s degree in speech pathology and lives in Sulphur Springs.
Scott came to Carthage first to look for a place to live, since Kelly was still working in Hot Springs. He says, “I always wanted to renovate a commercial property, and when I saw the Williams Furniture Store that was for sale, I was smitten! It was full of pigeons and was leaking and had one light bulb as the only upstairs light, but I loved it and saw its potential! I wanted to renovate the downstairs for commercial use and the upstairs for our home. I called Kelly and told her about it and said, ‘We can do this!’ She said yes, so I bought it and started working on it immediately.”
The upstairs has 5,000 square feet, and the couple created four bedrooms, three and a half baths, and a huge open space of 2,500 square feet that includes a kitchen, dining area, and living area. They also retained the old lift from the furniture store that made moving materials upstairs and downstairs much easier than using the staircase, which is the only original 1895 structure. There were a few walls and remnants of the boarding house that had been there in the 1940s and 50s, but the whole space had to be gutted to bring up to current building codes. They saved a sink, bathtub, and laundry sink, and used the frames from the original windows to make the kitchen countertops. Scott and his friend Jim Holder built all the cabinets in the house.
Kelly’s dad is a draftsman and did the plans, and Scott and Kelly did as much of the work themselves as they could, including cleaning, painting, constructing cabinets and countertops, sanding floors, and building and installing trim. They purchased the home in February of 2013 and moved in around Thanksgiving. “The work wasn’t even close to finished,” says Scott,“ but we had electricity, plumbing, a kitchen sink, and a working bathroom, so we were good to go!”
“There were no doors,” Scott says, “and I couldn’t afford that many doors, so I started looking for old doors to buy cheap. The timing was perfect because First State Bank had bought the West house behind the bank to tear down, and I was able to get every one of its beautiful old doors. The style was perfect for our house. We also got a china cabinet, all the floor trim, and beautiful old light fixtures.”
He continues, “That was also when the Hardin house near Cassity Jones was being torn down, and I got a lot of old lumber, all the beadboard wainscoting in the house, and the boards to cap it with. I needed 350 feet of wainscoting because, since all the walls in the house were brick, we were running all the electric wiring between the brick and the wainscoting. I had about six feet of it left over when I finished. I got the reputation of being the town scavenger, but I loved it! I was able to grab here and grab there, and we got exactly what we needed. We used one of the lab stations we purchased from the old Science Building at Panola College to make our large kitchen island, and boards from their old racquetball courts to make its countertop. We didn’t have any closet doors, but First Baptist Church was tearing down a house, and we got the very same doors for the closets that we had for the rest of the house. All we could say was, ‘Thank you, Lord, for providing!’”
At the time the house was finished, Ken Turner Pharmacy was still open for business, but after it closed and sat vacant awhile, a business from Florida purchased it, but they never did anything with the building. Scott and Kelly wanted to buy it and divide it into two commercial spaces, one for rental and one to use for the store they were starting to develop, Sunflower Mercantile. Scott says it was quite a process to purchase it; it was hard, and it took a LONG time. They finally finished the purchase, getting the building “as is,” along with everything in it. “There was so much stuff in there,” he says, “and we tried to use as much as we possibly could because we hate to get rid of anything! We even kept (and use) all the 1940s glass display cases that no one ever uses anymore. They are dinosaurs, but they are beautiful and have so much character!”
Scott and Kelly are very thankful that the tin ceiling was usable, as well as the original front door to the building, and that at some point the old transom windows will be installed. The upstairs of the building is still a work in progress, but Scott is hoping eventually to make it into apartment-type living quarters.
The most recent addition to the store is an old-fashioned soda fountain. “Numerous people asked us to put one in,” says Scott, “so I started searching for one. I found one in Illinois, drove there to pick it up, and found that the owners actually had two for sale. I bought both and brought them home. I sold one on eBay to someone who lived only 60 miles from where I bought it, and he paid me to haul it back up there.”
Scott and Kelly are delighted with how quickly the soda fountain and the surrounding tables and chairs have become a favorite gathering place for families and friends. They tried to make it very “old-timey,” and they are impressed with how people stay off their cell phones, interact with people through board games provided at the tables, and just have conversations with one another. They are also pleased that church youth groups and other organizations in town are choosing it as one of their activities, “And kids love it,” says Scott. “Most of them have never had an old-fashioned ice cream soda, which we have in addition to cones, sundaes, and floats, and they love the frosty glasses we use. We wanted to make it an experience, not just getting ice cream, and I think it’s working. There are now only about six or seven of these in the whole state of Texas, so the experience is hard to find.”
It is equally hard to find two people with as much energy, vision, and love for the history and heritage of their community as Scott and Kelly Reeves. Their excitement about preserving and restoring old buildings, as well as collaborating with other downtown businesses to make sure Carthage keeps a vibrant and beautiful downtown area, is remarkable, inspiring, and, luckily, contagious!