Note: this article originally appeared in our sister publication, the Dallas Observer.
Country superstar Miranda Lambert is pulling up stakes in Oklahoma and doubling down on her hometown of Lindale, a tiny community halfway between Dallas and Shreveport with country music in its soul and big dreams pinned on one of the biggest names in the industry.
The Grammy-winning “House That Built Me” singer has sold both of her business ventures in Tishomingo, Oklahoma — the Pink Pistol boutique and the Ladysmith B&B — to her ex-husband Blake Shelton, according to county officials there.
Now she’s turned her sights back to Lindale, where her 3-year-old Pink Pistol boutique and wine-tasting room is set to move into a mixed-used development viewed as a savior of sorts for the town’s flailing downtown.
“It’s so great to have Miranda come back here to Texas,” says the artist's mother, Bev Lambert, standing in the middle of construction rubble in the cavernous building that will soon house the new Pink Pistol in Lindale. “While she’s currently in Nashville, her family of course loves to have her home any time we can get her. We look forward to her adding her artistic flair and creative spirit here.”
With her star power comes some powerful friends, namely Tye Phelps, owner of the Love and War in Texas restaurant and live music venues in Plano and Grapevine. He's expanding with a venue next door to the new Pink Pistol. The boutique will have its soft opening this Friday, with its grand opening scheduled alongside Love and War in October.
Phelps, who helped launch Lambert’s career when she was a 15-year-old kid selling cowboy hats for gas money to drive to gigs, is so committed to the new project with Lambert and her parents, Lindale residents Bev and Rick, that he moved his family there in January.
“I wouldn’t normally throw a dart into a small East Texas town and put a Love and War there,” Phelps says. “But because Miranda started with us when she was 16 years old, we’ve had a relationship ever since, me and her parents especially. We always kind of kidded around that we should do something together.”
Lindale officials and developers could not be more excited that those long-discussed-but-never-before-realized plans are finally coming to fruition.
“With all of his star-studded connections, lots of cities were courting him, offering incentives for him to come to their town,” says Seong MacLaren, the town’s energetic director of its new tourism department, which was created in April 2015.
“However, the ace in our pocket is Miranda.”
"A TOUGH YEAR"
Some 160 miles to the north, Tishomingo has been buzzing for months over Lambert’s divorce from Shelton, an Oklahoma native who proposed to her in that town of 3,000 and who still has a home there.
When the Tishomingo boutique on Main Street closed in May, Lambert released a statement saying that having all her assets in her hometown was her ultimate goal. “Sometimes you need to close a chapter to build on a new beginning or go back home,” she said in the statement.
Shortly after, her Ladysmith B&B closed as well. County records show that 212 Building Investments bought both properties on May 18, with deeds filed at the county on July 15.
Shelton has acknowledged that he bought the Pink Pistol and has hinted at big plans for the former boutique on Main Street, but neither star has publicly spoken about the closing or sale of the bed and breakfast in a turn-of-the-century building across the street.
Neither Shelton nor Lambert’s representatives returned calls seeking comment for this story.
“We don’t know yet exactly what he’s going to do with the properties,” says Tishomingo Mayor Tom Lokey. “Of course, there’s rumors of everything under the sun. But certainly, the people here in Tishomingo appreciate that they are able to come to an agreement, and that he was able to purchase her properties. We are looking forward to his developing those into whatever will be beneficial to both him and the community.”
Lambert, who lives in Nashville, still has Redemption Ranch, a no-kill dog rescue and shelter in Tishomingo. The operation is run by her nonprofit MuttNation Foundation, based in Lindale.
She has no plans to close or move that facility, her mother, Bev Lambert, tells the Observer in an interview.
As for her presence in downtown, Lokey says locals will miss her but are grateful for the contributions she has made to Tishomingo and her continuing commitment to take care of its homeless and abused animals.
“We hope and wish for the best for her and all the success she can have in Lindale,” Lokey says. “It’s been a tough year this past year for everyone, but I’m looking forward to good things for her.”
BRINGING IT BACK HOME
Lindale, for its part, is brimming with anticipation over her decision to consolidate her energies back at home. Her photo is plastered on billboards, restaurant walls and shop signs all over this town of 5,400, although considerably smaller when Lambert, now 32, graduated from Lindale High School, according to census reports.
This is a town that is clearly proud of their native daughter, where tour buses pull off Interstate 20 and drive four miles north to visit her boutique, buy her souvenirs and taste the goods from her family’s Red 55 Winery.
On her 32nd birthday last November, Lambert penned the deal with three local developers and Phelps to become one of the two anchor properties, along with Love and War in Texas, in the The Cannery Lindale, a 50-acre mixed-use development that will include six music venues capable of hosting a collective 22,000 fans, a 21-acre park with trails and a fishing pier, retail stores, restaurants, a junior college extension and loft apartments.
The development is built in and around the town’s historic cannery, which shut down in the early 1990s. While the town’s population has grown, the downtown has flagged, with businesses and activity moving closer to Interstate 20.
Chad Franke, a Canadian who arrived in Lindale as a missionary 20 years ago and has raised four children there, says he and his partners, Chad Michel and Bill Andreason, at Lindale CBC LLC saw a unique opportunity in Lindale.
Officials were desperate to save the town from becoming just another pit stop on a Texas highway, and Lindale CBC saw a way to attract millennials and a need for a mixed-use area to revitalize the city.
Their original idea for a mixed-use development was in another location closer to the Interstate, but when they approached the city about it, officials asked them if they’d be interested in moving their idea to the old abandoned cannery, he says.
“It was just obvious to us that we needed to talk to Bev and Rick and see what their and Miranda’s interest was,” Franke says. “They loved the idea. Bev would always tell us that Miranda has an old soul. She loves renewing things, she loves old cars, redoing houses. And when they heard that we were doing a development in the canning company, and it was the downtown of her hometown, it just fit. It was the perfect kind of restoration mindset for them.”
If Lambert is doubling down on Lindale, the city and the developers are doing the same for her. The public-private partnership with the Lindale CBC LLC, of which Franke is a member, has committed $15 million for the project so far — $5 million of that in taxpayer dollars.
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Project leaders have high hopes for Lindale to become a music destination, not just for the 400,000 residents within a 30-mile radius of the county but for fans from all over the country.
Already, Phelps and MacLaren say, artists have been calling and asking when they’ll be able to come and play Lindale.
The Cannery’s six stages will include a small, one-person listening stage for young musicians to get started, much like Lambert when she was a teenager, and a 15,000 outdoor amphitheater — big enough to handle a show by Lambert herself — to host them when they’re big stars.
“We’re set to groom the next generation of music,” Franke says. “Miranda is an example of what we’re wanting to see happen in the next generation.”