For Curt, historic preservation is not a “hobby.” He started his own commercial property company, Townspace Properties, saving numerous historic buildings from the wrecking ball. He has completed masterful restoration and re-purposing of historic commercial properties in Spring Hill, Franklin, and College Grove, TN. One of those projects, now known as “The Commons at Spring Hill” was the original home for Early’s Honey Stand, one of Williamson County’s oldest retail businesses. Famous for homemade southern favorites and gifts such as jellies, honey, smoked meats, and baking mixes, Early’s had been sold by the original founder, and moved to another location. A few years ago, Gibbs bought the Early’s brand himself, and re-opened the Spring Hill store. He has also opened Early’s Honey Stand at The Mill at Lebanon, and the products are available online at www.earlysgifts.com. Curt’s eldest son Curtis returned home after graduating from the University of Memphis, and now manages the Early’s Honey Stand business.
After retiring from General Motors, Curt decided to return to school, Harvard Business School that is. He was also contacted by investors in California to help bring back the Indian Motorcycle company, America’s first motorcycle. (Later the group of partners sold the company, and today Indian Motorcycles are manufactured by Polaris Industries.)
While staying in Central California, Gibbs restored an old home there as well, working with a Michigan State University professor and the Sherwin Williams company to develop a historic color palette for paints.
Once back home in Tennessee, Gibbs managed his commercial properties, and continued his passion for buying and restoring antique cars. One Saturday, he joined fellow members of a local antique car club for a visit to Lane Museum, an antique automotive museum in Nashville. It was on that visit he decided he wanted to purchase his own large building, to use for restoring and displaying classic cars.
He contacted realtor friends, and they brought him a list of area buildings to visit. The Mill at Lebanon was on that list.
“I didn’t know much about Lebanon, said Gibbs. “ “I told my wife I was going to look at an old factory building. She said, ‘Just don’t buy anything.’”
Little did Curt know, his building search would become a lifechanging adventure. Undaunted by the magnitude of The Mill project, he signed a deal to purchase the Lebanon property that first afternoon he looked at it. “All I could think of as I was driving home was, how am I going to explain this to Lynda?,” he laughed and said.
Fast-forward seven years, today Curt’s commitment to restoration and successful development of The Mill at Lebanon remains determined and optimistic.
“A project like this requires patience,” Gibbs noted. “The Factory in Franklin took many years before it really took off. I want to create a vibrant destination that the public can come and see, and experience the heart of The Mill’s history and manufacturing environment. We’ve had to ride out the economic slowdown. It is more important to me to maintain the integrity of what this property can become, than rush to acquire tenants that won’t work for the long term success. Getting the right tenant mix and a staying true to our vision for quality design and redevelopment is important.
We feel good about the direction we’re headed, with commercial office space now leasing, work spaces and exhibit space for artists, retail and restaurant space, and convention/event space. Residential living and hotel development are also future possibilities,” he added.
And what about his original interest in a large venue to restore and display antique cars? Curt said he would love to see a school for automotive restoration at The Mill, with a program that teaches the skills needed to restore antique and classic cars. He said many of these same craftsman skills are applicable to historic building restoration as well. And maybe he could pass on his vast knowledge, and instill his desire to share the beauty of things past for future generations.
Curt’s renovation projects are amazing and inspiring! For more information about The Mill at Lebanon and Curt’s other historic properties, visit his company website at www.TownSpace.com.