Manchester’s Dixie Outfitters first franchise in Tennessee

LINDA BARR, Staff Writer

Mike Davis was nervous about investing in a franchise, but now that he’s jumped in with both feet, he’s not just whistling Dixie.

Davis, originally from Oklahoma, and his wife, Julie, just opened the first Dixie Outfitters Southern Heritage Store franchise in Tennessee — in her hometown of Manchester.

"We’re the 11th store to open as a franchise for Dixie Outfitters," Mike said. "We were really excited to bring it here."

Based in Odum, Ga., Dixie Outfitters manufactures unique southern heritage T-shirts, apparel, caps and other products. Opened Nov. 8, the 1,100 square-foot Manchester store at 1900 McArthur St. in the Oak Plaza shopping center, features a 925 square-foot showroom decked out with Confederate flag emblem T-shirts, vanity license plates, bell buckles, jewelry, jackets, stickers, clocks and tin signs among other items.

In addition, the store carries a line of Dixie Outfitters blue jeans and Dixie Girls brand shorts and sports attire. Catalogs are available that contain additional products.

The Manchester store, Julie said, has exclusive rights to Coffee and Bedford counties, so the couple plans on setting up a customized trailer as a booth at area festivals and events.

The Davis’ made it clear that their reason for opening the business is solely their passion for preserving southern heritage.

"We are here to promote southern heritage in a very positive way," Julie said.

Mike added, "There is nothing racist about our store. We just want to promote the true history of southern culture to future generations. It’s a passion for us as much as it is a business."

He said the public’s response to the new store has been "very positive — even better than I expected."

Mike said he proudly displays the Dixie Outfitters’ mission in his store:

"Dixie Outfitters is proud to be Southern and proud of our ancestors who fought and died in the War for Southern Independence.

"We believe various groups have distorted the real meaning of the Confederate Flag for their own purposes. We strive to feature the Confederate Flag in the context of history, heritage and pride in our Southern way of life.

"The Confederate battle flag represents all Southern and even Northern confederates, regardless of race or religion, and is the symbol of less government, less taxes and the right of people to govern themselves. It is flown in memory and honor of our Confederate ancestors and veterans who willingly shed their blood for Southern independence."

Mike added, "It (the mission statement) really spoke to me. It’s similar to that of the Sons of Confederate Veterans — something I feel very comfortable with."

John and Faye Lowe, owners of the first Dixie Outfitters franchise, provide the training and do all the set-ups for the franchise stores.

"They’re very particular about the way everything is set up," Julie said. "They have over 1,760 T-shirt designs."

And, Mike added, "We have the support of the franchise brand name, which is popular throughout the Southeast. It’s like a cult fashion for a lot of good southern people."

Julie said it was the Lowes’ idea, along with Dewey Barber, owner and president of Dixie Outfitters’ parent company, Barber & Co., Inc., based in Tifton, Ga., to start the franchise business.

Married little more than a year, Mike and Julie ran across the franchise opportunity in August. A five-year member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, Mike said he read about the offer in a Sons of Confederate Veterans magazine.

Davis moved to the Nashville area from Dallas in 1999. After living in the Nolensville area for several years, he said it was surprising to find out from a distant cousin that some of his ancestors were born in Washington County, Tennessee.

"I’m just tickled to death to be in Tennessee. To move here and find I have roots here was amazing," he said. "I have no family here. It’s like I was drawn here by fate."

And Julie agrees. "Everything has fallen into place. I believe this is our destiny."

Davis said his family had all but given up on him after being single for 48 years.

He said he met Julie through a mutual friend who also moved to the area from Dallas. And for their first date, he treated his wife-to-be to a black gunpowder shoot-out in Williamson County that was hosted by the Sons of Confederate Veterans’ Todd Carter Camp of Franklin, of which he is a member.

Davis said the moment the two kissed, it sealed the deal and they knew they were meant to be together.

"I was living in the Nashville area," he said. "I just threw caution to the wind."

Proud of his southern roots, Mike said he proposed to Julie at the Confederate Cemetery in Beech Grove in front of the "Pledge to the South" historic marker.

"I promised her mama I wouldn’t take her out of town. I was more than happy to move here," Davis said, referring to the couple’s home in Manchester.

"We’re still on our honeymoon," he said. "As long as I’m living somewhere in Tennessee, I’m happy."

Julie is the daughter of William and Penny Reed of Manchester. Prior to opening Dixie Outfitters with Mike, she worked at LSI-Marcole in Manchester four years and PCA Apparel for the previous 19 years.

As far as the store goes, Davis said, "This was a dream venture. She got more excited about it than me. I was apprehensive until the last minute.

"It’s a big investment and it’s still a gamble — but nothing ventured, nothing gained. I think this is good for the area and the history and culture of this county. There’s a lot of southern pride and history here."

In addition to operating Dixie Outfitters, Mike still works as a free-lance limousine driver for three Nashville companies.

He recently chauffeured Glenn Frey, founding member of the Eagles, for a gig at the Country Music Association Awards.

"He was a nice, interesting character," Mike said. "It was their first time playing an award ceremony. They came in to do the one song and tore out of town after that."

Open Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Friday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday from 1:30 p.m. to 5 p.m., Dixie Outfitters can be reached at 728-0481.

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