The high five was invented in Hogansville. That’s a rumor I recently heard. It could be true, who’s to say? Oh yeah, here’s another— the sole of the moon boot, the one that stepped ON THE MOON… that was manufactured in Hogansville.
Maybe. US Rubber company? Can you help us out?
We’ve been on the ground in Hogansville for two years now. A lot’s changed since the early days. Those days of breathing black soot of dubious origin as we tore out the stained drop ceilings of the old police station.
Those early days—when Jake and I would huddle around the little space-heater, struggling to heat the cavernous brick room. We would put up a white board and brainstorm ways we could utilize this space —
“Corporate events?” “A co-work space?” “We need some furniture.”
People have come and gone. New faces have been added to the team. The cry of newborn babies has become a familiar backdrop to our team meetings.
And the train, it continues to punctuate the days with its thunderous, window rattling cameos.
These days the majority of the bustle and hum takes place around the Train Depot.
THE 100-YEAR-OLD TRAIN DEPOT.
Walking in the iron gates, the first door you’ll enter will bring you to Station Coffeehouse. This was one of our first projects upon opening the doors of the depot nearly six months ago.
A specialty coffeehouse serving some of the best espressos and lattes outside of Atlanta? Sure, that belongs in Hogansville.
We knew from the outset that for ANY sort of cafe to succeed, it had to have a community focus.
It had to be a comfortable place for old friends to catch up over a cup of freshly roasted Guatemalan drip brew.
It had to be a place where impromptu business meetings could take place; where local government figures could come to shoot campaign videos; where mothers could stop by with their small dogs and fancy strollers for an afternoon pick-me-up.
For any of this to work, we needed THE CHAMPION. The person behind the counter that embodied this welcoming, communal, warm atmosphere.
Matty Fleuriet was that person. Recently returned from Australia, he took a leap of faith in starting this shop—in Hogansville, remember.
Now he lives right across the street with his new wife.
One day an old, retired private eye stopped by to record a video in the loft. Was it a detective tutorial video? I don’t know. How this all came about is still a little foggy, but anyways, this gentleman was a real straight shooter, and he was full of sage cowboy wisdom. Something he told us that keeps resonating to this day —
“Activate the space.”
Activate the space.
We can have the hippest antique train depot out of all the hip antique train depots in the state, but if there isn’t activity, if there isn’t LIFE happening there, then it would just be a pretty facade a visitor flies by on his way to the interstate.
So how do we ACTIVATE the depot?
The answer we came up with: Market Day Under the Lights.
What if we had a monthly gathering where local artists and makers could display their goods? And we’ll also have live music. Food. Games. A relaxed environment where families could hang out, catch up with old friends, sip a good coffee or cold beer, and for a moment, ENJOY their community.
So that’s what we did. We put the event on the calendar, stressed ourselves out COMPLETELY too much by trying to get the depot ready, the coffeeshop built out, and the event organized ALL at the same time.
At this point, our team has grown. One of the biggest encouragements has been to see others come along and plug-in to what's going on here. At this point we have seen a momentum truly begin to build.
OPENING DAY OF THE MARKET UNDER THE LIGHTS.
The mayor and council came down for a fancy ribbon-cutting ceremony. Our team breathed a sigh of relief after a couple edgy weeks of late nights laying floors, building tables (who even does that?), and painting old train cars.
Finally, the day was here. We opened the gates.
Would anyone show up?
We didn’t know.
Slowly people began to trickle in.
Then more people.
Then lines began to form. Taco man was slammed. People were lining up out the door of the pub, the cafe.
Kids were playing ping pong. Old friends were joking over a pint of locally brewed craft beer, watching local musicians play to a crowd of out-of-towners.
Where did all these people come from?
It was a little slice of community magic happening right there under those hanging lights, at the old train depot.
Since that Market Day, we’ve attempted to hold a Market Under the Lights once a month, and it’s continued to grow and evolve!
And then, just a few weeks ago, The Great Southern Pub opened for weekly business.
In the same way that Station Coffeehouse provides a ‘third space’ during the day for friends, locals, AND out-of-towners to gather and meet – so the Great Southern Pub would provide the communal gathering space during the evenings.
We dream of one day having board game nights, workshops, lectures, comedy, live music. A real hub providing a vibrant space for this community to enjoy.
Housing is a common roadblock we’re running into. There just isn’t enough. Troup County is one of the most under-housed counties in the country. And it’s only going to get worse.
We’re brainstorming a program to go into places such as the village, fix up some of the deteriorating houses there, and make them available as lodging both for singles and new families. Not a week goes by that we don’t get several requests for lodging here in Hogansville.
Lofts! What a great investment.
If someone came in, bought one of these old brick buildings and put a couple lofts upstairs — those would go like hotcakes!
Ok, bear with me. This is a sore point. The other week, I step out the FRONT DOOR of our office and three AT&T employees are running a thick blue cable down into an open manhole.
After a brief conversation, it comes to light that they are running FIBER (super fast internet) through this conduit, across the street to a subdivision.
Ok great! So downtown is going to get fiber too? I mean, that’s going to do a LOT to attract businesses here, as could be expected. Currently, the fastest internet available downtown IN THE BUSINESS DISTRICT is 18mbs. Which frankly doesn’t cut it for most modern companies.
But that’s about to change right? I mean, I can basically reach out the front door of my business and touch a high speed internet cable.
The fiber is BYPASSING downtown. All the businesses. All the homes. Why? Not enough roofs. I can drive three miles outside of town and my friend has high-speed fiber internet. But inside town. Zilch.
(Someone help us.)
Let's take a step back. We've got a coffeehouse, a pub, a secret game room with all sorts of fun times, we've got new people showing up weekly that want to be part of this project.
We've got a local ARTISAN METAL WORKER. Jake's moved his wood shop into this space.
We still have trains! How cool would those be for little food stands or studios?
So all of this...what's it for? Why Hogansville? And this word community — is it just a buzzword?
From day one a guiding principle for us was: design a community in which we would want to be a part. A community where new ideas for businesses can be pursued without a crippling large cost-of-living. A place that encourages creative people to meet and discuss new ideas. A community where you can walk and grab groceries, or a coffee.
This article highlights how Millenials are beginning to leave the large metropolises and take up residence in small cities.
Are we there yet? No. There's still a lot to work on. We need to get better at providing activities for the youth. Main street is still largely vacant buildings owned by one person. There's great programs on the ground already providing services for youth and those struggling to make ends meet — we need to get better at supporting those programs.
But change comes in relationships. It comes in the form of young families moving here and not treating the city as a 'commuter home' but actually sticking around on weekends and getting engaged in local activities. It looks like neighbors sitting down over a cup of coffee and planning a fun evening for the local youth.
And that IS happening.