Brookhaven to welcome new Art Café

Published 11:30 am Wednesday, January 5, 2022

A new art café is coming to Brookhaven.

In a unanimous vote Tuesday night, the City’s Board of Aldermen approved the sale of the property located at 117 North Railroad Ave. — the former Whistlestop Motorcycle Parts & Accessories — to Ethridge Investments LLC.

The company plans to repair and remodel the existing building and open The Whistle Stop Art Café.

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The locally-owned business will be founded on Christian principles, according to material submitted to the city. The café is intended to create jobs for local arts and provide a creative and affordable outlet for the community. Owners Rickey and Cecily LaRue Ethridge will work with local ministries to host faith-based events, as well as exhibits and galleries of local art.

The café’s primary source of revenue will come from hosting art parties and events, such as children’s birthday parties, wine-and-paint parties for adults, and pottery and sculpture classes, according to Cecily Ethridge.

“Children’s parties will include pottery painting and cupcake decorating, while adult events will consist of guide canvas paintings and wine — cupcakes optional,” Ethridge said.

Classes will include pottery spinning, quilting, embroidery, watercolor painting, charcoal and coffee drawing, sewing, crocheting/knitting and flower arrangement.

Hosted events will include birthday and holiday parties, sip-and-paint parties, door hanger parties and local artist galleries.

“Adults are encouraged to bring their own drinks, while glasses, bottle openers and all party essentials are provided by the Art Café,” Ethridge said. “We’ll have a refrigerated section stocked with your favorite meats, cheeses and fresh fruits — as well as our local Cheesecake Master’s delectable cheesecakes. These stylish charcuterie boards and beautiful cheesecakes are available for purchase during parties or as a grab-and-go option.”

The business will also include “A. V. Ethridge,” an eclectic emporium offering “only the most unique, lovely, handmade items in town. These are items you can’t buy on Amazon and are made right here in America — some right here in Brookhaven.”

Ethridge said she hopes creating a new space for art will increase the city’s culture and entertainment value, and that an adjoining Art Park will provide a boost, as well.

The Art Park will be an open-air space available to the community, free of charge. The space will display locally-created artwork, such as pottery and hand-crafted wind chimes, butterfly gardens and water fountains. Local health and mental health coaches will be encouraged to take advantage of the space.

The park will be 0.4 miles from the Mississippi School of the Arts — an approximate 8-minute walk or 3-minute bike ride. It will be located 0.2 miles from the Amtrak Station/Godbold Transportation Center — an approximate 4-minute walk or 1-minute bike ride.

“Art is a huge subject with its own language, history and authorities, and it might feel overwhelming,” said Ethridge. “But even without that knowledge, there can be something profound about our connection with an artwork. When looking at a painting, you may or may not feel a connection. You might be inspired or bored, appreciate or despise. This is why The Art Café is inclusive — everyone with or without a background in art is welcome.”

The 10-year plan for the building is to construct loft apartments on second and third levels above the café.

The community in Brookhaven includes a lot of artists, and many of them have non-art full-time jobs. They need an outlet for their creativity, and Ethridge said she wanted to give them one.

Ethridge, an attorney, said although she is not very artistic, both of her sisters are, as was their mother, Amy Brister LaRue. A teacher for more than four decades at Enterprise Attendance Center, LaRue died the day after retiring in 2021.

“You always think you have time to learn from her skills, but then she passed away unexpectedly, so we couldn’t do that,” Ethridge said. “I wanted her to teach me how to do embroidery, et cetera. I don’t know how to do that. You know, a lot of Southern women, we love a good monogram or applique’. So we wanted to offer a place to have classes on that. We need this in Brookhaven. Brookhaven is a great location for this kind of thing.”

The Ethridges hope to have the café open as a holiday venue by the beginning of 2023.