Devoted friends

Published 11:59 am Wednesday, March 28, 2007

By By LYDIA GRIMES – features writer
Some doors close and other open.” That is what Book &Bean co-owners Leza Nelson and Kathy McMillan believe about their lives and their business.
Their story is about two acquaintances who followed their dreams and have become the best of friends through working together.
The two renewed their acquaintance when they began attending a devotional and working out at the YMCA. They talked about their dreams: Nelson wanted to open a bookstore, and McMillan wanted to teach yoga.
Merging those dreams seemed like a great idea, and within two weeks they had come up with a plan for a bookstore and coffee shop.
They took the idea to Bob McMillan, who owned the building where Book &Bean is now located. He liked their idea of restoring the old historical building to its original beauty.
And community input has helped change the business somewhat, the ladies said.
For Nelson, the books side of the business was a natural fit. A native of Atmore, Nelson said she grew up with a love for books. Nelson graduated from Auburn University in 1991 and moved to Brewton when she married her husband, Steve. Together, they have two daughters - Elizabeth, 14, and Mary Chandler, 10.
McMillan was born in Demopolis and moved to Brewton as a child. She has a son, Jim, from a previous marriage and two daughters, Kathryn and Mary Ashton, with husband Dan McMillan. Mary Ashton is a member of the senior company of the Andalusia Ballet, keeping McMillan busy with trips back and forth.
McMillan had briefly been in business with her sister-in-law, Perri McMillan of McMillan-Wingate, before she and Nelson opened the Book &Bean.
And although the business has changed somewhat from its original concept, the partners agree that they are happy with it. Today the yoga classes and bookstore have changed into a bit different format, but McMillan and Nelson are satisfied with the outcome.
Mornings at the Book &Bean are quite lively. A group of men and women gather there regularly - and while the coffee and muffins are being consumed, problems of the day are discussed and sometimes even solved.
In addition to furnishing coffee and muffins to start the day, Book &Bean offers lunch items such as sandwiches, delicious pizzas and salads. The store can even have a pizza ready for those headed home in the late afternoon.
The store has boosted its health food products, while the books have been phased out somewhat.
One of the favorite themes of the Book &Bean is a character known as the Queen of the Bean. She is a &#8220wrinkled little old lady” doll that McMillan and Nelson found in Atlanta. She shows up in odd places around the store, but most of the time she is sitting in the front window watching the world go by.
Some time ago the Queen disappeared for a while and when she came back, she had her own traveling album.
McMillan and Nelson have talked about selling the Book &Bean to help perpetuate the business and keep it open longer hours.
Candy Smith came to McMillan and Nelson when she was looking for a place for her business, Shades of Gray. She occupies some of the space on the second floor.
While changes may yet be ahead for the friends and the business, they have stuck to one of the things that brought them together - a shared appreciation for their blessings.

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