Interview: Rebekah Staples, Season 6 of HGTV’s Home Town

In Laurel and Jones County, Mississippi, a love for our hometown is a through line for many of our current and former residents. Rebekah Staples is no exception. Friend to Erin Napier, Rebekah Staples is a Laurel native who has a deep appreciation for Jones County. We’re chatting about her episode of HGTV’s Home Town (Season 6, Episode 5), about coming back to the town that shaped her, and where to eat, shop, and play in our hometown.

HGTV Home Town Season 6, Episode 5, Grand Millennial | Rebekah Staples

Photo courtesy Laurel Mercantile Co.

Visit Laurel & Jones County: Laurel has gained a reputation for being the best small town in the US. Part of this is due to the people here. What people have made a difference in your experience? 

Rebekah Staples: Oh gosh, the people here are simply the best. Even within the state of Mississippi, which is known for having friendly residents, I think Jones County natives are among the most welcoming. I would describe our residents as having a healthy mixture of hospitality, good-nature, strong independence, and a touch of contrarianism. (We are the Free State of Jones, after all!) My dad is the youngest of fourteen children, so the people that have most impacted my life are my family members (Mom – Kay, Dad – Sam, brother – Jonathan, sister-in-law – Hope, niece – Sydney, nephew – Jon Caleb, aunts, uncles, dozens of cousins, etc.). I often joke with political friends that my large family constitutes at least one-quarter of the Jones County electorate. Beyond my family, I love the can-do spirit of Laurel business owners, the accessibility and genuine care of our local elected leaders, the thriving arts and music community members who bring unique activities to the area (from trivia night to live music to arts festivals), and the dedication of Laurel Main Street staff and volunteers to ensure our city is fun for both visitors and residents alike. 

 

Visit Laurel & Jones County: It’s that sort of people who prove that Laurel is a place where hospitality shines. What does hospitality mean to you?

Rebekah Staples: I have a long history with hospitality, from growing up in The Hospitality State to being crowned the state’s “Miss Hospitality” years ago (and, yes, I was in fact legally bound to be hospitable to others for a whole year!). Hospitality is more than a nickname for Mississippi; it’s a way of life. My non-southern friends are surprised when I wave at passersby and always ask, “do you know that person?” Often, my response is “no,” and yet it feels only natural to wave at the stranger driving down 16th Avenue or walking down Oak Street. That’s what Mississippi hospitality means to me – treating others like friends, whether or not an actual relationship exists. 

 

VLJC: It seems like your love for the state is obvious, so there’s no surprise you live here. But why have you chosen Laurel specifically to be home?

RS: As many folks know, I split time between Laurel, my hometown, and Jackson, our state capital.  About four years ago, I had the opportunity to purchase a Laurel homestead with roughly 16 acres (that also happened to be an eight-minute drive from my parents’ house) and jumped at the chance to purchase Jones County real estate. Spending much of my recent time in Laurel has been a treat: getting to attend special events with my niece and nephew, calling my brother to help me clear trails in the woods, hanging out with my lovely sister-in-law, and driving my parents crazy as I search for food at their house are experiences I had missed out on by not living locally. I’m loving every minute of it. 

 

VLJC: Let’s get down to sharing your love for Laurel with others. Time for some lightning round questions…. 

 

VLJC: What’s your favorite shopping spot in Jones County?

RS: This is such a tough question.  I love all things downtown, of course, with particular affection for Merle Norman. The ladies in that shop are so friendly, knowledgeable, and fashionable – what more could I ask for from a make up shop?  Also, their pink exterior and highly decorated storefront is just adorable.  

 

VLJC: What is your favorite meal in Jones County?

RS: There are so many places I love to eat in this county, so it mostly depends on my mood.  I very frequently dine on the edamame at Sake Café and enjoy the brunch at 320 Fifth Street.  A personal favorite dining spot is David’s Grocery, located outside the city limits in the Myrick community. David’s is off-the-beaten-path but worth the drive; I recommend their large salad with shrimp (and ranch dressing, of course) along with a sweet potato side.  

 

VLJC: Where is your favorite outdoors spot?

RS: My favorite outdoor dining spots are 320 Fifth Street (they have a great courtyard out back) or Bird Dog Café on Short 7th, which is a fun place to take furry friends. 

 

In terms of general outdoor activities, I love a few different spots:  Mason Park on 7th Avenue (which is shaded and also has a dog park); Gardiner Park on the corner of North 4th Avenue and West 7th Street (which has a walking track, a play area for kids, picnic tables, and a large field for recreational activities); and Bogue Homa Lake (an 882-acre lake that’s great for fishing, picnics, and boating and/or other water activities).

 

VLJC: Tell us about a place you like to take out of town guests.

RS: Naturally, I enjoy inviting out-of-towners to my Laurel property, where we can fish at the pond (which is stocked with bass, catfish, bream, and white perch); practice shooting targets in the woods; view wildlife (so far I’ve spotted deer, geese, ducks, raccoons, and even a single turkey in the yard); and enjoy the new deck and screened-in porch. Within the city limits, I love taking my friends to the Lauren Rogers Museum of Art, PDI / Phillip’s Drive-In for milkshakes, Lee’s or Bird Dog Café for coffee, and Pearl’s for fried chicken.  My friends also enjoy visiting the historic district to see Home Town houses – and a trip to Laurel wouldn’t be complete without a stopover at Scotsman General Store and the Laurel Mercantile.  

 

VLJC: What’s your favorite souvenir to recommend or gift?

RS: I really love the items at The Laurel Shop in downtown.  They’ve got mugs, t-shirts, the works. I also love the locally-made pottery available at Southern Antiques (also in downtown Laurel). 

 

VLJC: Ok lastly, let’s talk off-the-beaten-path in Jones County – what’s your favorite secret spot? 

RS: I think the Carpenter Bros. Emporium of Wonderful Whatnots in Ellisville is the coolest (and probably most underrated/unknown) shop around the county. They’ve got so many interesting “whatnots” – vintage antiques, art, handmade items, furniture, clothes, and more. I’d highly recommend checking out this shop, as one visit here is like stepping back in time.

 

For more information on Rebekah’s episode of Home Town, check out Laurel Mercantile’s blog with stunning photos, plus be sure to watch Season 6, Episode 5, Grand Millennial on HGTV or Discovery+.

Indoor Experiences in Jones County: What to Do on a Rainy Day

If the forecast is rainy during your trip to Laurel and Jones County, Mississippi, no need to worry. There are plenty of fun indoor activities to experience in our hometown! When some of our outdoor attractions are off-limits, these unique spots provide plenty of fun for your whole group!

What to Do on a Rainy Day in Laurel MS

 

Buff City Soap 

Bath bombs, soaps, and bath whips! Oh my! All of your bath and laundry dreams come true at Buff City Soap in Laurel which offers delightfully scented, plant based soaps, handmade daily, in each locally-owned soap makery. Buff City Soap is on a mission to create handmade products that are free of harsh ingredients and full of nourishing plant based goodness. In store, Makers whip up enchantingly fragrant creations to share with customers. From iconic soaps and bath bombs to their swoon-worthy laundry soap, Buff City Soap’s products are plant-based and handmade daily so you can smell wonderful.

Axe Throwing  

Axe throwing has quickly become one of the most popular activities for friends and family to enjoy together, and Adventure Axe Throwing in Laurel is providing a one-of-a-kind place to enjoy a fun night or day in Jones County. An unforgettable and thrilling experience, your competitive spirit will come alive when it’s time to sling axes! 

HAND + made

HAND + made is an integrated retail and DIY experience located in Laurel. Stop in to shop in the retail store or make it a fun-filled day with a class! DIY-instructed classes are fun no matter your age or painting ability. Leave with a project that you’ve created and will treasure forever, plus memories that will last a lifetime!

Magnolia Soap 

At Magnolia Soap and Bath Co., experience hand poured, plant-based soap & beauty products. Magnolia Soap started as an alternative to traditional harsh soaps and now provides a way for people with sensitive skin to indulge in clean, perfectly-scented soaps and bath products. Stop in and grab hair products, shower steamers, body butters, scrubs, oils, and so much more. 

Scavenger Hunt at Museum 

One of Laurel and Jones County’s most visited attractions, the Lauren Rogers Museum of Art is an always-free museum located on beautiful Fifth Avenue. Museum patrons will take in traveling exhibits as well as a variety of permanent collections ranging from Japanese Woodblock Prints to classic European and American art.

If your crew is ready for a treasure hunt, be sure to stop by the front desk of the museum to grab an artBINGO card for an interactive exploration of the exhibits. Rainy day scavenger hunt? Yes, please!

 

For even more things to do during your trip to Laurel and Jones County, check out these fan-favorite spots to eat, shop, and play in the New State of Jones.