Brandon: “We had a room in the back of our store, The Lucky Rabbit, and we started creating sets from TV shows. Our first set was from Stranger Things. We’ve done The Office and Christmas Vacation. Schitt’s Creek is up now. After Halloween, we tear it down and bring back Christmas Vacation.
These sets came out of trying to separate ourselves from other places around Hattiesburg. People call us the flea market or the junk shop. We don’t really have a name for what we do, but we sell nostalgia. Life is hard right now and we want you to feel good while you’re here. You can make a local call from one of our working phone booths. We have a little 15-person theater, and currently we’re playing Hocus Pocus on the projector.
We had a computer repair shop in Hattiesburg for ten years and it became time to do something different. Abby wanted to open a store that was more vendor-based in a big, old building. We had never done anything like this, but we opened in 2013 in a smaller location around the corner. Then someone came to us about this building that used to be the wholesale department of a hardware store.
I’m into pop culture. Now I get to buy and sell quirky things for the store. Most of them are things Abby wouldn’t let me bring into the house. We have about 50 vendors here, including my mom and dad. It’s exciting to see all of them do well.”
Abby: “We did a Google search for a store name and found Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. He was Walt Disney’s first character in the twenties, which is when this building was built. Oswald was scrapped for Mickey Mouse. Before there was a mouse, there was a rabbit. One of the first Disney cartoons was Oswalt in a five-and-dime, our original concept for the store. The Lucky Rabbit became our name.”
Brandon: “We got the idea to be open the first Thursday through Sunday of every month from a store in Minnesota. We changed out the sets at the front of the store each month to make it a big event, and the crowds came. Tinkering with stuff is my thing, and I discovered I love building the sets. I don’t do much work like this at our house. There, it has to be perfect. Here, what I build only has to last for three months and I’m able to be more creative.
We already had a lot of things from the eighties so taking sets to the next level with Stranger Things wasn’t too difficult. It was just manipulating things in a way that people have seen before. The Office was harder. It was more modern and needed many small pieces on the desks to make you feel it. It was also a huge set and took a lot of time to build. We had to install the drop ceiling and a window wall. The week after we opened The Office set, COVID shut everything down. We created a wait list that gave you three minutes in the room. The wait became 8 or 9 hours on the weekends, but people came back and were so happy to be there.
We use Google images to study these rooms, and it’s a game of replication. We search the Internet and find the exact item that’s on the show or we come to the assumption the item doesn’t exist. Then we make it or find something similar. The beds from Schitt’s Creek had to be perfect because there are many scenes with those beds. We looked everywhere and couldn’t find them, so we made them. You can’t just put any bed in there and expect people to have their brains tricked. The scenes are in our heads, but they wake up in your brain when you are standing in them. We even have the lights outside the motel windows to look like it’s daylight. The lighting also has to feel like the show.’
Abby: “We also learned it has to be photo-driven and not the exact set. It has to look good in people’s pictures.
I had a baby two weeks ago, and I was very pregnant while I painted this furniture for Schitt’s Creek. We made a lamp out of a candlestick holder. The curtains are from the fabric my mom had from the 80s. We figured out how to make the brick walls for the motel. You get desperate and get creative. Brandon and I work well together. He’s the builder, and I’m the pusher and the driving force. We put hundreds of hours into these sets and sometimes reality and TV merge — I start to wonder if we are looking at the show or our set. We’ve made a lot of mistakes and learned a lot of lessons since we opened in 2013. Getting to this point is amazing and a joy for us. We started hitting our stride with set design in the summer of 2019. The Office opened in March of 2020 and 7500 people came through the store that first Saturday. Then COVID hit, and we had to reinvent ourselves. The business model changed. but people still supported us. We offered people something nostalgic that made them feel good.
Our oldest daughter helps and has good ideas. She is also our worst critic. Sometimes a set gets weirder as we go. I was going through my own crisis and I told a story through the pieces that I added,even if no one else ever noticed.
I just started thinking about the next two sets. We have our schedule down to quarterly and it makes it easier for us to plan. People give us suggestions, but it has to be a show we can both become obsessed with and watch over and over together.”
Brandon: “The Lucky Rabbit is now open every weekend and thousands of people drive for hours just to come here. Visit Hattiesburg did a year-long study and we were the 4th-biggest attraction in Hattiesburg. They start here, then go to other places around town. This gives nearby restaurants a reason to be open every weekend. People have bought the buildings around us because they are close to us. There is a lot of momentum in downtown Hattiesburg right now, and we love being a part of it.
We like providing a store like this in a small town like Hattiesburg. Some are even surprised this is happening in Mississippi. We want to show people you don’t have to go somewhere else to be creative. Don’t move to Dallas or a bigger city. Stick around and create your dream. Open your coffee shop or business in the small towns where you are the only one and can make a difference. We need you here.”