My Big Box of Potential

Guest Post by Rena Cantrell


Hi I’m Rena, and just before turning 50 I decided my new baby would be a run-down building in Commerce GA.

It started off just as a knowing; knowing that I wanted to create, and create something I would love and others would love.

Create something to give back and something that would last and have meaning. I’ve always loved old homes and old buildings.

They have so much more character and when you walk into one you get the feeling they have seen things, lots of things.

I love taking something old and worn and giving it new purpose or making it look new again. I had already done some renovation to my own home but, I wanted something more. I started looking for inexpensive smaller homes, ones I could renovate and then flip.

I thought this would satisfy my creative mind. That is when Commerce popped onto my radar. I only live 15 minutes from there but really had no idea of its existence. I found a small two-bedroom house, did some minor renovations, and put it on the market.

Then I started looking for the next project.


Little did I know at this point that LOTS of changes were getting ready to take place in my life. I started off just looking for another older home. Ideally, a fixer upper house, one where I could live and work. Nothing worked out so I started looking at commercial properties that were built before the 1940s, thinking I could build a loft apartment in the upstairs. Again, Commerce popped up!

The City of Commerce is exploding with history and in some ways, it’s a time capsule. All the old buildings have such great stories, like Jay’s that has a bomb shelter in it, and another building housed the meeting place of a secret society. The light used to warn them that someone was at the door still works today.  Or my building where the first Fords in the city were sold and survived a fire set by arsonists. These are just a few of the great stories of Commerce that would be lost if someone doesn’t love these old buildings back to health.


After looking at several buildings, I settled on 1642 South Broad, which is a brick two-story building with a dilapidated wooden façade covering a magnificent white brick face. It was erected in the early 1900s by Dr. W.B. Hardman and was known as the Ford Place. It has survived the great depression and was almost destroyed by arsonists that severely damaged the rear section. It has been many things over the last century including a Ford Dealership for Model Ts, a hardware store, the Commerce newspaper, and most recently Commerce Printing.

My vision for South on Broad is a simple one; I want it used to house things that people love. I love food, and I’ll be the first to admit that I am a foodie. I also have a passion for creativity, art and people. What better way to get all those things than to renovate an old building and have certain areas dedicated to the City of Commerce and local artists. My plan is to have retail space, office space and a restaurant downstairs with a large hallway given the name Harmony Row that will house works of art by local artists and memorabilia pertaining to Commerce. Upstairs will be more office space and a loft apartment.

The challenge now is raising the funds to save these buildings. I have a good start on mine but it needs lots of help. I’ll be putting in a lot of my own money but I also have planned fund raising events and a donation page.

I call it the Big Box of Potential because I see the potential of what it can be and what it has to offer to the people that come there.

When my friend Frances asked if I would like to be part of Heart Bombing the buildings in Commerce I was 100% on board. I’m so excited for her and Katie’s adventure with the bank and I hope others will see the beauty in the old buildings in Commerce.

Follow South on Broad on Facebook

Upcoming Events: Rummage Sale and Live Painting



  1. Hey Rena, I’m Trent Sellers co-owner with my wife Kim (Director) of Commerce School of Dance. I imagine you know our building, 1736 N. Broad St. We seem to be fascinated with some of the same things; Old homes, buildings, art. I’m a Fine Art Photographer, I shoot medium format b&w film, writer, musician, etc. If enjoyed working on many old homes in Atlanta and some in Athens before the Crunch; The Lumpkin House across from the Grit on Prince Ave. The gray and white house next door which is now Flagpole Magazine. Also a few nice houses. Yet I was knocked out with the economic down turn starting in 07. It was so nice to read (and you write well) about Your views, Loves, enthusiasm towards Commerce. Hope to meet you soon, Trent. 706 870 6387


    1. Hi Trent, thanks for responding and reaching out to Rena. I will pass the information on to her.
      I’m Frances. We’ve met several times. I’m the local painter looking for a building for my art studio. Rena and I are working very closely on several projects and partnering with the city to boost volunteering and cultural offerings in the community. We love Commerce and want to see everyone prosper.
      Please join us on April 15 for Rena’s Rummage Sale. She has a long way to go on the renovation of her building and this event will be a fundraiser for the front façade renovations.
      I have donated a couple of pieces of art for her to raffle and I will be in the building working on a mural I am making for her building.
      We hope to see you there.


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