By Jack Gurner
WATER VALLEY – Bill McGregor has always liked the looks of the Hendricks Machine Shop building on South Main Street. Now he owns it and is in the process of renovating the historic structure.
“I remember the old building from when I was a kid coming to Water Valley,” said McGregor, 44, owner of McGregor Industrial Steel Fabrication, Inc. located on Hwy. 7 in Lafayette County between Water Valley and Oxford.
“I always told my wife I’d like to have one of these old buildings on Main Street,” he said.
Around Christmastime of last year his wife, Dawn, suggested that he talk to Richard Baird about purchasing the building. “He wanted to sell it. But, he didn’t want to sell it to anyone who was interested in doing anything but keeping it in its original condition.”
“I told him that was what I was interested in doing,” McGregor said. “So, he sold it to me.”
“The bulk of the work we have done so far has been all roof work. I’ve worked at this really hard over the past couple of months to get the roof back on this building because it was completely ruining all the floors, the ceilings, everything in the building was deteriorating.”
McGregor said that once he gets the roof back on the building and gets it dry inside, then he doesn’t have to be in any hurry. “I’ve got a little bit of work that I am going to do immediately, cosmetic things I am going to do to make it look presentable on the inside.”
Toward that end, he has replaced a number of broken windows including the large showroom window. For safety’s sake, he replaced it with a piece of 8 foot by 10 foot tempered glass that had to be brought here from Dallas, Texas
“That was the only place that had a big enough tempering oven to temper a piece of glass that size. They broke two of them before they finally got here with it,” he said.
McGregor is also trying to find blue glass to replace the broken panels that surround the entranceway to the showroom. “It’s hard to find. I thought I could just go out and buy it, but it’s not working out.”
He said that he has found a painted material that matches the blue glass and he may use it for the restoration.
He praised the cooperation he has gotten from Water Valley’s City government and citizens. He added that the police have done a good job of helping protect his windows from being broken out.
“That’s what I like about Water Valley. If I were in Oxford doing this, the city would be down there giving me a bunch of misery every day. Tearing me up about some kind of permit or I was parked out on the street too long.”
“But, down here in Water Valley, everybody tries to help you. Everybody’s glad you came down here,” he said. “People come by blowing the horn and hollering.”
“The mayor has been by here,” he added, referring to a friendly visit from Mayor Larry Hart. “But, nobody comes by here trying to give you a hard time.”
McGregor acknowledged that the remodeling process could be messy. However, the area will be cleaned up. And, he added, the building would be kept up.
“If I am doing something down here that aggravates somebody, all they have to do is stop and tell me.”
McGregor said that he doesn’t have any immediate plans for the building. “I may bring a couple of my old tractors down here and put them in that showroom just for people to look at.”
The tractors to which he refers are part of his John Deere collection. But, unlike some who collect replicas of the farm machinery, he collects the real thing including six tractors and six or eight “hit or miss” engines.
All are pre-1938 with the exception of one 1959 tractor. “I’ve been interested in tractors and equipment since I was a kid. That’s all I ever wanted to do.”
It was this interest that brought him to Water Valley when he was about 20 to work as a mechanic for Frank Brooks at B&B International. After it closed, he worked for Johnson’s Chevrolet.
McGregor said that he worked a few more jobs before getting into the welding business. In 1993 he opened the steel fabrication firm that has grown into an international business.
He and a partner came to Water Valley in 2002 and bought B&M Building Supply and changed the name to Valley Lumber. He said the Hendricks building was of interest to him then, but it wasn’t for sale at the time.
Just this past weekend, McGregor worked from a lift repainting the faded Hendricks Machine Shop sign across the building’s front. He estimated it might take about an hour per letter.
“I’d like to do something with the building that would put some people to work,” he said. “I don’t know what that would be right now. But, I’ll figure out something to do with it to keep in intact.”