Developer buys whole block of downtown Poplarville

Published 2:06 pm Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Most folks would think it a good project if a developer purchased a building in the historic downtown section of “old town” here and said he was in the process of restoring the building in a project to help revitalize the historic Main Street district here.

What if he bought almost a whole block?

That is just what Mike Cambre, a small developer from Mandeville, La., is doing, and he is in the middle of his project to restore almost a whole block of Poplarville’s historic downtown across from the Hancock Bank.

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If he succeeds, which he says he will, the downtown section here will see eight new businesses open along Main Street. Already he has two tenants, Main Street Sweets, 613 Main St., and Angel Trumpets Florist, 605 Main St. Shades of the local Blueberry Jubilee, Sweets has chocolate covered blueberries.

If he fills up the block, he will increase significantly the businesses along Main Street.

Cambre won’t say how much he paid for the block, which is bordered by Erlanger on the north and Magnolia on the south. He purchased it from Hancock Bank.

Actually, he owns the whole block except for a building on the north end and a vacant lot on the south. The rest is his.

The block once housed Byrl’s, a hair solon, which recently moved to a new location.

One of the more interesting renovations is the old Poplarville Hardware building at 611 Main. Most local residents will remember it and the rise to the left as you walked in.

Cambre has gutted the entire inside and has remodeled it as an exhibition hall, called the old Poplarville Hardware Hall, and plans to hold receptions, birthday parties, fine arts displays and plays and musical performances at what was once Poplarville Hardware. He already has a senior citizens group that plans to meet there regularly.

He has the plaster peeled off in a few spots to reveal the original brick.

Walk into Poplarville Hardware turned to left and walk up into another room. There, Cambre, and his real estate agent, Tommy Breland, have discovered was once the old Poplarville Post Office before it moved into its current location. The old slab that supported the sorting machinery is still there.

According to legal documents describing the building, the building was once known as the Old Post Office Building, and that after the post office moved out, Clarence and Leo Provost located the C&L Store there on Feb. 4, 1947.

In the rear, the property abuts the railroad right away. The block once held the TWL Store and Rheams Jewelry Store.

Cambre says that despite what people might think, he is not a rich developer. “I have some property in Metairie, La., where I was reared, only my home in Mandeville and five rental properties in Picayune.” He said he bought some property north of Mandeville but not in or near the town because it so expensive and people out of New Orleans have a lot of money and bid up the Mandeville properties.

He points out that Mandeville is not very far from Poplarville, only about an hour through the back roads.

He says that sometimes on the weekend he comes to Poplarville early in the morning and sits out on the sidewalk to have his coffee.

“I just watch the little town wake up. It is a wonderful experience,” he says. “And the courthouse square just adds to the ambiance.” Poplarville is the county seat of Pearl River Co.

“Really, the people who live here take this little town for granted,” he said. “I have had a lot of people that cannot believe what I am doing and say that it will never go. I have a few that really encourage me. But it doesn’t matter. I can appreciate what is here and the potential of this small, quaint little town, and that is why I chose to do this, with the help of my wife, Crystal.”

He said he was first introduced to Poplarville through friends who had settled up here. “When I first visited I could not believe that there was a downtown section that still existed and looked quaint like Poplarville does, but there it was, right before my eyes. And then I began to see all this potential here,” he said, “and began to envision how it would look restored.

“I saw all the for sale signs in the windows, and I contacted Breland,” he added.

Cambre said he has been “a jack-of-all-trades my entire life.”

He said he once owned a landscaping and yard care business and then began buying, restoring and selling old homes. Right now, he is doing a lot of the work himself on the his city block here, although he has some hired help. “I have a lot of ideas, thoughts, dreams and initiative,” he said.

Cambre is 60 years old but does not look his age.