Published 12:00 am Friday, December 4, 2015

Keith Ales (left) manages Cotton Warehouse Classic Cars, owned by Danny Holland (right). The Panolian photo by Rita Howell

Vintage warehouse holds classic automobiles

By John Howell

Danny Holland’s Cotton Warehouse Classic Cars and Farmers Market is building its inventory of vintage vehicles in the large spaces where bales of cotton were once stored. 

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Holland opened recently with an inventory of 20 autos that he owns, plus more on consignment. Another Batesville vintage auto aficionado, Keith Ales, will manage the dealership, Holland said last week, speaking to the Batesville Rotary Club.

The car dealership is another phase in the redevelopment of the old Federal Compress property that started with last summer’s opening of the farmers market.

“I had sat there and looked at that old building empty since 2004,” Holland said. 

The original Federal Compress complex consisted of six buildings. After Holland purchased the property three years ago, three of the structures — those with wood foundations — were torn down. Two of the remaining buildings — those that once housed Parker Hannifin — are conjoined and provide Holland with a total of 88,000 square feet under roof. He’s devoted half to the farmers market and the other half to the car dealership. The third remaining structure is a more modern metal facility that is rented for warehouse use, he said.

Contributing to Holland’s thinking about how to best utilize the large cavernous buildings adjacent to Highway 6/278 where an average of 24,000 vehicles pass daily, was a trip with his daughter to Asheville, N.C. He visited a vintage auto dealership, he said, and drew inspiration from that visit to create his from his space a dealership that reflects the vintage look of the vehicles he sells.

In addition to sales, Holland’s dealership offers storage for the treasured autos of classic collectors. He offers full maintenance for the vehicles while they are in his care, keeping them ready to drive out the door anytime the owner wants.

Of course, Classic Cars welcomes lookers and visitors passing through the dealership who can see a 1957 Corvette that is believed to be one of 16 of its type and a 1930 Ford Model A Landau two-door coupe, Holland said.

“We’re getting cars from Oxford, Clarksdale and Drew,” he said. 

Even though the Farmers Market got a late start (July) and farmers in the area generally fared poorly with their truck crops, “we had a good year considering what a crop year we had,” he said.

The Farmers Market had 10 regular vendors and a pea sheller “that ran eight hours a day,” he continued.

“We have a lot of ideas out there that aren’t concrete yet,” Holland said.

Among ideas that have come to fruition were a three-day handcraft fair during the opening weekend of the Polar Express Train Ride. Fourteen vendors participated, “two sold out,” he said.

The Farmers Market area was pressed in the service on Halloween when a heavy storm system threatened Batesville Main Street’s Scare on the Square festivities.

“That was fun,” Holland said, recalling that an estimated 2,500 people were able to enjoy the activities sheltered from rain.

Other ideas include:

• Subscriptions to a market basket  program that will offer for pickup or delivery a generous quantity of vegetables in season during each week of the growing season;

• Educational events related to home gardening;

• Turning land where the now-demolished compress buildings once stood into community gardening space.

“We could hold up to 100 vendors,” Holland said, describing the large space available under the roof of the Farmers Market. The market provides a 16 by 16 foot space with access to electrical outlets. Large wall coolers are also available for vendors.

Holland said that he sees a growing interest among farmers for growing truck crops in creek bottom areas of hill land in Panola County that are now considered too small for large-scale, row crop farming.

“Believe it or not, we’re on the edge of a food desert,” Holland said, referring to Delta counties to the west. “We’re looking at grant funding that would allow us to deliver fresh vegetables to shut-ins who can’t get to stores where fresh vegetables are sold.”