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Journeys of Discovery: The renaissance of Loretto, Tennessee

Thomas Wilmer
Mandy (right) and Eric McClaren in front of their Loretto, Tennessee Lo-Town Brew coffee house.

In the latter decades of the 19th Century, new towns and villages sprung up across Tennessee. Some of the settlers were U.S. citizens relocating from the eastern seaboard, along with European immigrants, all in pursuit of opportunity. Land in rural Tennessee was easily accessible by riverboat, trains and wagons.

German Catholics established the town of Loretto in 1870. Before long Loretto was served by stage and railway. The economy bustled with lumber mills and downtown retail establishments. The Loretto Milling Company opened in 1895 to serve the needs of farmers with feed and fuel and the business is still thriving 125 years later.

But, following WWII the local economy and employment started an inexorable decline when the new U.S. Route 43 bypassed the town.

Today, thanks to visionary, risk-taking young people like Mandy and Eric McClaren a new breed is leading Loretto’s economic renaissance. They opened a coffee house in a renovated derelict 1930s commercial building. Even though the McClaren's opened their doors just days before COVID-19 threw them a curve ball, this past fall they started work on a soon to open brewery. Join correspondent Tom Wilmer in Loretto at Mandy and Eric’s Lo-Town Brew to learn the rest of the story.

This show is the sixth in a multi-part series showcasing Nashville’s Big Back Yard--an economic and tourism initiative encompassing a natural watershed region that wends through the Natchez Trace National Parkway in Tennessee’s southwest quarter down to the Shoals Region in Northern Alabama.You are invited to subscribe to the Lowell Thomas Award-winning podcast travel show, Journeys of Discovery with Tom Wilmer, featured on the NPR Podcast DirectoryApple Podcast, IheartRadio, the NPR One App & Stitcher.comTwitter: TomCWilmer. Instagram: Thomas.Wilmer. Underwriting support provided by Honolulu based, Hawaiian Legacy Reforestation Initiative and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.

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