Journal of 100 Miles

Celebrating the communities and culture along the 100 miles of the Natchez Trace Parkway in Tennessee.

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J.B. Hollis Shares History

Exiting off the Natchez Trace at mile marker 355 in Collinwood, a large sign hangs with a warm and personal, “Welcome.”  Just past this greeting on the main avenue is the Wayne County Visitors Center and Museum, a place visitors can be greeted by the pleasant smiles of volunteers, coffee and brownies and a mayor in overalls full of historical knowledge.

One special volunteer here is J.B. Hollis, 89, who grew up in Wayne County, as did his parents and grandparents.  A young adult in the 1940’s, J.B. tried registering for the military, but was turned down due to a bad eye, and instead, was found in war-supporting jobs.  Most notably, he worked as part of the Manhattan Project in Oak Ridge, TN, a place so secret at the time that the state governor was unaware that Oak Ridge was even being built.  Joining hundreds of workers, whose responsibilities were unknown even to themselves, it turned out they were building the atomic bomb.  “Nobody knew what we were doing until they dropped the bomb,” declares Hollis.

A certificate sits on display in the main hall of the welcome center dated August 6, 1945 and reads:   “US War Department, Army Service Forces Corps of Engineers – Awarded to J.B. Hollis – For his participation in work essential to the production of the Atomic Bomb, thereby contributing to the successful conclusion of WWII.”

Along with his love of the outdoors, J.B. enjoys recollections of family history and growing up in the county he admires so much.  His roots go back to the Civil War where his mother’s grandfather was a Captain in the Union army and his father’s grandfather a Confederate soldier.   His favorite part of volunteering at the welcome center is, “Meeting the nicest people from all over the world,” claims the good-natured resident.   As I could see by the gleam in his eye, I think his favorite part is sharing his delightful stories.

Pictured: (Top Right) J.B. Hollis

(Below Top) Collinwood’s Mayor, Jasper Brewer, sits atop an old family tractor, and his wife, Terry, (Below Bottom) playing the dulcimer.

Visit or give the Welcome Center a call at 931.724.4337.

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The Dragonfly Emporium

The dragonfly is a luminous creature of change and a messenger of life’s beauty, a reminder of the importance of making every minute special and to not limit ourselves.  It is also the inspiration behind the Dragonfly Emporium, a unique café housed in a small cottage, circa 1938, that sits on Second Avenue in Collinwood.

Owner David Harrison, grew up under the influence of an entrepreneurial father in the grocery business in West Tennessee. With years of retail experience, he took his knowledge to the bustling town of Atlanta, GA.  After spending a decade in the metropolitan area working in the restaurant business, he learned to enjoy the culture and the crowds, but knew it was time to make a change.

Family ties drew Harrison to Collinwood where his parents had bought his great-grandmothers house.  When fire overtook the home a few years ago, Harrison made a permanent move to help design and build a new home for them.   While looking for other work, he came across a job to renovate an old house, and noticing the “For Sale” sign, decided to make an offer on what appeared to be a promising venture.  In conversations with community members about what type of business might be needed, Harrison determined the town called for something new and different.  Marrying his knowledge of retail and a genuine knack for working with the public, Harrison came up with the perfect emporium experience, featuring locally created arts & crafts, antiques, gift items and a fun and inviting coffee lounge.

The atmosphere is definitely one of a cozy and eclectic ambiance.  A small front porch with a bistro table welcomes you as you enter.  On occasion, local artists will be creating their work out there.   Inside is a comfortable café surrounded by adjoining rooms that house the unique gifts and antiques while Big Band music plays overhead creating a hip and nostalgic vibe and very original environment.  David has made a successful attempt at creating a great brand – the name coming from serendipitous moments where the dragonfly would keep appearing – where people are proud to say, “I got this at the Dragonfly.”

The proprietor has a wonderful philosophy when it comes to owning a business, as he states, “To give people the best you can give them because they deserve it, there’s no reason not to give the best you can offer.”  Harrison speaks highly of the support and cooperation among the town of Collinwood and hopes he can contribute to building the town as a destination for travelers, as well as, a great place to shop for local folks.

Even more interesting, Harrison’s conviction on life, “Don’t put the good china in the cabinet, use it all the time and enjoy it.”  Just as the Dragonfly Emporium makes every minute special for visitors.

July 2009