The original sign on the Busy Bee Barber Shop and Cafe, wihch was on Church Avenue, will be on display in the Marty Stuart Congress of Country Music. It is currently being stored in Stuart’s warehouse.
The original sign on the Busy Bee Barber Shop and Cafe, wihch was on Church Avenue, will be on display in the Marty Stuart Congress of Country Music. It is currently being stored in Stuart’s warehouse.
A friend of Marty Stuart’s has purchased the downtown building that once housed the legendary Busy Bee Cafe with plans to remodel the second floor for apartments.

Vicksburg native Doug Hudson now of St. Petersburg, Fla., purchased the building at the corner of Beacon Street and Church Avenue from Tommy Jones and Sandra Kilpatrick.

Hudson said the first floor would continue to house retail shops while the second floor would include one large apartment for his personal use along with smaller ones which could be rented.

Hudson’s friendship with Stuart and the opportunities he sees with the proposed Marty Stuart Congress of Country Music sparked his interest in downtown Philadelphia.

Growing up in Vicksburg, Hudson said he came here during the 1980s to attend the Neshoba County Fair and the Choctaw Indian Fair.

“That was pretty much everything I knew about the town,” he said. “I don’t know if we even made it into downtown.”

Hudson said he shared a love of music with Stuart as he is a collector of music memorabilia as well.

“I have a real strong friendship with Marty based on respect and common interest,” he said. “I have no music ability at all but I love the history of music and Marty could see that.”

Hudson said he talked with Stuart about his own collection and later decided that it belonged in the Stuart Center in Philadelphia.

“I began to think that his project was where this collection belongs,” he said. “I didn’t want to ship it off and it be sold at auction. When I talked to Marty about it that is when I realized that he was the right caretaker. I gave him complete access to my collection. He has been to my house in Florida and looked through it.”

While Stuart’s collection places a big emphasis on country music, Hudson said his collection goes from rock and roll to the blues.

Hudson visited Philadelphia in April with Stuart and his wife, Connie Smith.

He toured Stuart’s Warehouse and walked the streets of Philadelphia.

“I guess I walked every street downtown,” he said. “I wanted to get a feel of the town and I wanted to envision what Marty had shown me in pictures and drawings.”

Afterwards, Hudson said he told Stuart that he wanted to get involved with his project.

With a career in real estate, Hudson said he contacted a local Realtor about his interest in finding a building downtown with commercial space on the first floor and big open space on the second floor.

Several weeks ago, the Realtor contacted Hudson about the building on Beacon Street which fit his description.

Much to his delight, Hudson said the building was once home to the Busy Bee during its heyday.

“I called Marty and told him ‘you are not going to believe this,’” Hudson said. “I knew this was going to happen pretty much sight unseen.”

The Busy Bee Cafe and Barber Shop, at 414 Church Ave., was the first black-owned business in Philadelphia.  It was known for the introduction of soul music to the downtown area. Stuart frequently visited the cafe to join the musicians and it influenced his life and music.

Stuart recorded an album in 1982 entitled Busy Bee Cafe.

After seeing the building, Hudson said “within an hour the deal was done. The closing is done and I couldn’t be more excited and happier with the project.”

Hudson said downtown Philadelphia has a lot to offer within walking distance of the courthouse square and the Stuart Center would make it even more appealing.

“Marty and I talked a while back,” he said. “There are a lot of small downtowns that are dying. Philadelphia is not. It is waking up. Look at the number of cars and the traffic. There are a lot of small towns that would just kill to have traffic passing by. I think they said 10,000 pass through a day.”

Hudson noted the number of real estate transfers in conjunction with the proposed Stuart Center, pointing to his building, the old Coca-Cola building as well as the buildings purchased for the actual center along with the historic Ellis Theater.

“I think you would be hard pressed to find the decade in the past 50 years where a project has caused that much real estate transfers in Philadelphia,” he said.

Hudson plans to incorporate the Busy Bee name within the project.

“I think the time is right for Philadelphia,” he said. “I think this town has an exciting future. Look at it like Oxford. I know they have Ole Miss but Philadelphia will have the Marty Stuart Congress of Country Music. I want to be part of something fun and exciting.”

Stuart called Hudson’s project “absolutely wonderful” and noted that it would be a companion piece to the Stuart Center. He is excited that the Busy Bee Cafe will be incorporated into the project.

“I wrote a song about the Busy Bee Cafe,” Stuart said Tuesday morning. “It has been a big part of my legacy. I had no idea it is going to be called the Busy Bee something. It keeps its legacy and I just love it.”

The Busy Bee Cafe sign is being housed in the warehouse and will be on display in the Stuart Center.

“Kenneth Breland donated the sign to me,” Stuart said.

He expects more entrepreneurs like Hudson will soon be looking at Philadelphia.

“I think that Doug Hudson is the first in a line of people that this project will attract to Philadelphia, Miss.,  as small business owners,” he said. “Doug is a country music fan and also a businessman. He understands the quality of life in Philadelphia and small town America. Every time  I go to Oxford I say, ‘Philadelphia is going to do that one day with restaurants, boutiques, etc.’ Doug is first in a line of people who will come there on account of this project.”

Hudson hopes to start with the second floor “clean out” after Thanksgiving.

“It has been closed for 50 or 60 years,” he said. “The first of the year, we will start with the electrical, plumbing and walls.”

He hopes to have an apartment in place for his personal use soon so he can utilize it as the project moves forward.