I can break our married life down to six lifetimes. My family tells me I am crazy for segmenting our life like that, but I can truly see at least six distinct time periods that should each get their own chapter in the history book of our family. What's unique though, is that through each chapter I can look back and see points along the way that led us to the spot we are at right now. It truly is more about the journey than the destination.
I am blessed to be married to my best friend. We started our life together in the ministry, traveling abroad to impact people we had never met and share the love of Jesus with them. Even then we were passionate about the home. Helping people create a place of refuge for their loved ones that is both beautiful and welcoming involves so much more than pretty furniture and a great paint color.
It was after we moved back to the States that we first considered the idea of retail by buying a coffee shop. We are both passionate about coffee, and love the intimate atmosphere that it can create, but were blissfully ignorant of the challenges the retail and restaurant world could pose. The timing was wrong, but the idea had hatched and would surface again over the next few years.
Jeff has sold things our entire married life. He has flipped everything from car seats to horse saddles to motorcycle helmets, and always landed on top. When we started selling furniture and fixtures for the home, we knew we were onto something. It's been said that everyone should have three hobbies, one to make money, one to keep them in shape, and one to be creative. This new pastime of ours took care of all three.
What began on our back porch quickly expanded to an old tobacco warehouse. The challenge of keeping our furniture clean and trying to market from a filthy warehouse motivated us to purchase a building of our own. In 2016, we bought Jireh. That's the name of the small self-storage warehouse God provided for us. The name Jireh comes from the Bible when God provided a ram for Abraham to sacrifice instead of his son, Isaac. Jehovah-Jireh means God will provide, and God had certainly provided for us with this building. The front of the building had self-storage units, but there was plenty of space for our furniture, a beautiful creek in the back for kids to fish and play in, and a lot of cars driving by. That building had been reconfigured and redesigned multiple times to allow for our growing business and our shop.
As time went on, it was evident that the storage building was not going to be able to provide the space we would need for our vision of growth and all that comes along with dreaming big. We began the exciting, yet emotionally draining task of looking for a new property. Searching through Hendersonville and Sumner County produced a lot of options, but nothing manifested as the perfect solution. Looking back at some of the properties that we tried to "make work", I am so thankful that the Lord stopped us from jumping into the wrong location. It was the summer of 2020 when Jeff pulled up the listing for 562 South Water Avenue.
We had actually walked through the FitzGerald Manor several years before and had determined the location was not what we were looking for, but that morning, it seemed to jump off the screen. An 1860s manor sitting on over two acres that had been commercialized and turned into a restaurant in 2001, now stood empty only five blocks from the Gallatin town square. I remember going with Jeff to look at it on July 8th before we left for vacation. We stood in the parking lot, overwhelmed with the potential looming in front of us, and prayed for God to do a miracle and give us the building. We named the building Hebron, like Caleb in the Old Testament when he went into the promised land. He asked Joshua for Hebron..."Give me that mountain, for I am well able to overcome it.". Just like Caleb had giants on his mountain, we definitely had our share of giants as well. Giants with names like "Financing", "Codes", "Fear", and even an ugly one named "Covid". Who buys commercial property in the middle of a global pandemic? Us, I guess. The Lord answered our prayers and we closed on the property in August, did a power renovation, and opened the doors in October of 2020.
Our goal at South Water Manor is to create a place where community happens, where folks feel valued, hope is shared, and relationships can flourish. Sometimes the day-to-day goes so quickly, I forget to stop and look around and see what God has done. South Water Manor is now home to Bistro 562 & Coffee House, a venue space, Artisan Marketplace where we partner with over 50 local small businesses, as well as our original shop featuring home decor and clothing. We are honored to be able to do what we love, with the people we care most about, in a community that has become our home. Stop by and see us and see what's happening at South Water Manor!