Just 100 miles northeast of Dallas you’ll find the charming little town of Mount Vernon. It boasts a quaint, but thriving town square and a solid sense of community. Historically thought of as a weekend lake getaway for city folk trying to escape the Metroplex’s sweltering summer heat, Mount Vernon has quietly been transforming into a vibrant east Texas destination.
Mount Vernon is like most other small Texas towns: Friday night football, summer rodeos, a farmer’s market on the square, and the struggle between preserving the past and embracing future growth.
One couple in particular is making quite a splash in this sleepy little east Texas town. Shannon and Greg Ostertag moved to Mount Vernon after Greg retired from the NBA. Greg spent most of his basketball career playing with the Utah Jazz. But he grew up in Duncanville, Texas and knew he always wanted to return to his Texas roots, and settle down in a place with good schools, a farm, and his own tractor.
Not only are the Ostertags living their dream of being farmers, they are also committed to doing their part in revitalizing downtown, preserving history and improving the quality of life in Franklin County. A couple of years ago, they purchased and began renovating and restoring two historic buildings on the square. One is the famous M.L. Edwards Building, which once housed a hardware store, a funeral parlor and the city’s opera house. The Ostertags have transformed the space into the tasteful Bistro 1916 and the M.L. Edwards & Co. general store, featuring locally sourced gourmet kitchen items, beautiful tableware for bridal registries, fine soaps and candles, and more. At the back of the space you’ll find Watermelon Mills Coffeehouse, where you can whet your whistle with not only freshly brewed coffees, but also teas, lemonade, spritzers and seasonal libations. Upstairs is The Loft. It’s accessible by an ornate wooden staircase or by the original pull-rope elevator that was used to transport caskets (remember the building was once a funeral parlor). The Loftis a wide open, private event space with stunning views of downtown Mount Vernon, exposed brick walls, and original wood flooring. Ostertag Construction has also been remodeling and rebuilding historic homes as well as building new affordable homes for families in Mount Vernon. Folks are starting to take notice and making their own expressions of community: participating in projects like “Paint Our Town” in which donated paint and labor is supplied to homes in need of little facelift.
One of the newly restored homes worth visiting is the Holbrook, a bed & breakfast. Built in 1890, this is the place you’ll want to stay when you’re in town. Within walking distance to the square, the Holbrook is the perfect “home away from home.” Four unique bedrooms, each with their own baths and unique decor are spacious and comfortable. And just wait until breakfast – chocolate chip caramel pancakes are just one of the mouthwatering courses on the menu. The owner is also putting in a gorgeous lap pool so guests can cool off during the hot east Texas summer. If you are in need of a weekend getaway on the lake or you’re just passing through,you’ll find Mount Vernon is a town that is willing to invest in itself, its people and its guests.
You can learn more about these and other Texas destinations in the travel issue of Texas Lifestyle magazine.