A legendary blues hall changes hands in Bay St. Louis, but the new owners will carry on the previous owners' dream of creating a community hub.
- story and photos by Ellis Anderson
When former owners Jesse and Kerrie Loya bought 100 Men Hall (303 Union Street) in 2006, they saved the derelict building from certain post-Katrina demolition. The couple added on a spacious living area and moved in with their family.
Continuing the rehab, the Loyas reopened the hall as a music and event venue in 2010. The building had come full circle. In the mid-1900s, 100 Men Hall had been a rocking stop for blues performers like BB King, Muddy Waters, Chuck Berry and James Brown. Under the Loyas’ stewardship, the hall has hosted everything from weddings to Cajun dance parties in the past eight years.
The building’s fascinating history was a major part of the allure for Rachel Dangermond, who is a writer, consultant and experienced community facilitator. After visiting Bay St. Louis several times for solo writing retreats, the New Orleans native began considering relocation to the coast. The Bay seemed an idyllic place for her nine-year-old son to grow up.
And the peaceful setting would provide the perfect backdrop for the writers’ workshop side of her career that she planned to expand. She’d been facilitating the memoir-writing workshops in her home for years, yet wanted to offer them more frequently and in a more formal setting.
A coast friend who knew about Dangermond’s plans sent her information on 100 Men Hall when it came up for sale. The writer filed it away until, after a trying day, she pulled up the link to the hall’s for-sale page. She called immediately for a showing.
“We walked in and said ‘This is it! This is where I can have workshops, facilitate, have pop-ups for artists,’” said the writer recalling her first viewing. “The rest was just details. From the moment I made that decision, people have come out of the woodwork to help make this possible.”
The hall’s listing agent, Holly Lemoine-Ramond, noted that the sale itself was seamless. “We had lots of interest, but this was meant to be. When we all met for the first time, there was an instant connection. While Kerry and Jesse knew they couldn’t choose who bought their place, it was wonderful to have a purchaser carrying on with the same basic concept.”
Real estate agent Matt Stieffel has been friends with Dangermond for two years and represented her in the sale.
“I’m very excited for Rachel and her exciting new chapter resurrecting 100 Men Hall,” Stieffel said. “Bay St. Louis is lucky to have her as a resident and proprietor for such an iconic piece of our history.”
Even though Dangermond and her son are still unpacking, she says she’ll be ready to host a workshop forMississippi Heritage Trust (MHT), August 8 – 10. MHT’s director, Lolly Rash, had originally contacted the Loyas about hosting the event. Dangermond decided to dive right in after discussing the transition with Rash.
Ironically, the workshop focuses on financing and tax credits for historic buildings that are used for businesses. “I’m going to participate too because I need to know these things,” said Dangermond.
Although her business partner, son Tin, may be watching cartoons instead of attending the historic workshop, he’s still excited about learning the ropes of running an event venue at 100 Men Hall.
“We’re going to split the money,” Tin said, during the Shoofly Magazine photo session.
“He’s the hundred-and-first man,” said Dangermond, laughing. “If nothing else [comes out of this venture], he’s going to learn the skills of running a business.”
Between unpacking boxes and getting Tin ready to start school, the writer is still finding a bit of time to appreciate her new community. She mentioned several helpful neighbors and new friends helping to smooth the big transition.
“I’m so thrilled to be in Bay St. Louis,” she said. “The first day I spent in the hall, I took a long walk on the beach. It felt like trumpets were blowing.”
Click below for more information and to register for the free Mississippi Heritage Trust workshop at 100 Men Hall, August 8 -10, 2018. Space is limited, so reserve now!
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