The Commons at Eudora Welty's Birthplace

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David Rahaim is the manager at Congress Street Coffee.

David Rahaim's interest in southern literature led him to his position as manager of Congress Street Coffee at the Commons at Eudora Welty's Birthplace. In this role, he also oversees the Commons' use as a space for weddings and receptions.

Rahaim, 28, grew up in Clinton and attended Belhaven University, where he studied creative writing. As a result, he says "southern literature is an enjoyable hobby." When he learned about the property owners' plans to develop the Eudora Welty birthplace into a creative space for artists, writers and musicians to gather, he immediately grew interested. Since he also enjoys making coffee, managing the coffee shop seemed a perfect fit. He has worked at The Commons for about three years and enjoys seeing the space's continued evolution and growth as well as the artistic networking that occurs there.

Property owners David Morris and Joe Nassar use the Welty birthhouse as their office, and created a vision to develop the land and surrounding properties to include an art gallery, artist- and writer-in-residence spaces, and areas for performances. Currently, the Commons includes the coffee shop, Tattered Pages Bookstore, Commons Gallery and Commons Hall, as well as a courtyard with a fountain and statue of Eudora Welty, which provides great photo opportunities during receptions.

Initially, The Commons was primarily used for artistic gatherings and performances, such as the Jackson Collective's annual showcase. With the addition of Commons Hall five years ago, it is now perfectly suited for weddings and receptions. Since first opening the venue to weddings two years ago, Rahaim says, the response has been steadily growing, with more than 10 weddings or receptions held there last year.

"It's been really interesting to work with couples and see what drew them to the property and how they adapt the space to their own style," he says. "A lot of people just happen upon the space, or attend an art or music event here and then think of it for their wedding."

For instance, a Furrows CD release party last year led one couple to choose the venue for their wedding this year. "Many couples like the old southern feel of the space, with the courtyard, porches and fountain, which runs off an old well underneath the property," Rahaim says. "Others also really like the connection to Miss Welty and southern literature; not only was she born here on the property, but she was buried right across the street (in Greenwood Cemetery),"

That "old southern feel" permeates the property, which offers multiple buildings available for receptions. The art gallery space can accommodate overflow and it was made with recycled and reclaimed wood, including the bead-board ceilings. It has a rustic feel. The courtyard features a fountain and outdoor seating perfect for warmer weather. Rahaim adds that couples who have held their wedding ceremonies at The Commons often choose to do so in front of the fountain.

In addition to the statue of Miss Welty, a side garden includes a sculpture called the "Writers' Roundtable" and features wooden sculptures from Jamaica of Welty, Richard Wright, Tennessee Williams, and William Faulkner.

At the back of the property sits Common Hall, the area used for wedding receptions. The building features two large rooms downstairs, including a seating area with a fireplace and chandelier that offers a cozy area for guests to lounge in a quieter space away from the main reception. With its high ceilings, wood floors and columned porches, the building seems right out of Miss Welty's time. It complements the older structures on the rest of the property, even though it is relatively new construction. The hall can accommodate approximately 200 guests for a buffet-style reception, or 50 to 60 for a seated dinner. In addition to the downstairs space, the bridal party can use upstairs rooms when getting ready for the event or to relax. A fully equipped caterer's kitchen offers ample prep space for food service. And since The Commons has no list of preferred caterers, couples can use any food vendor, which Rahaim says allows them to save money.

The Commons is open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. For more information, call David Rahaim at 601-352-3399 or visit http://www.weltycommons.com.

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