By Pat Culverhouse
Sara McDaniel is in love. It’s a love that centers on a city, its potential, and a mission she tackles daily.
“I’ve always loved Minden but the longer I live here the more I love our town…I want more and more people to come here,” McDaniel told members of the Minden Lions Club Thursday.
McDaniel owns and manages more than 20 doors (properties) in Minden including four Air B&Bs and has completed projects that have renovated older properties into long- and short-term rentals. Her work has been featured in several national publications including Better Homes and Gardens, Southern Living, Southern Lady, The Minute Magazine, Cottages and Bungalows and American Farmhouse Style.
In addition to exposure in national publications, McDaniels was instrumental in bringing Minden to television last year via HGTV’s “Hometown Kickstart” and was featured Wednesday, Nov. 8 on a Magnolia Network (formerly DIY) “In With The Old” segment. That program featured McDaniels’ renovation efforts on a three-story, 1905 Victorian home on West Union she had acquired. “It was beautiful, the way they honored the community,” she said.
McDaniel said she had purchased the Victorian home along with another property that held a very special appeal.
“I had my eye on the old Spanish Court apartments (located downhill from Minden High School on West Union) that were built in 1931 and were the very first apartments in Minden,” she said. “When they were built, they were the most state-of-the-art in Louisiana for 1931.”
After walking several times through the complex that had been out of use since the 1980s, “I knew it was something in my heart that I wanted to do,” she remembered.
McDaniel had been contacted by staffers at Cottages and Bungalows about projects she had in mind, and the magazine came on board to document the renovation. That decision again put Minden in a national spotlight.
“They documented the renovation over one year in every magazine issue,” McDaniel said. “Hundreds of thousands of eyes were on our town and putting content and blog posts about all the wonderful things about Minden.”
The Villas at Spanish Court is now completed and is a short-term, boutique stay just two blocks off downtown, McDaniel said. It has already become a destination for visitors, and the renovation project also created other benefits.
“It was so rewarding to see that this project helped employ 100-plus workers and created jobs through my staff. I’m nothing without the people who surround me,” she said.
McDaniel’s desire to introduce Minden to as many people as possible extends to her network of social media sites that include Instagram, Tik Tok, Facebook, Pinterest and You Tube. Collectively, those platforms attract more than 600,000 followers.
“You may not be on social media, but it’s as simple as showing up in your space every single day…and it’s free,” she said. “There’s a thing called ‘showing’ and, in essence, I am producing a reality TV show every single day…taking walks through neighborhoods showing off our town and how amazing it is.”
Promoting Minden and its potential could be a shared task, McDaniel told Lions Club members.
“If two hundred people would do the same (use social media) we wouldn’t have an empty hotel room, restaurants would be full,” she said. “TV, newspapers, magazines are always looking for sources, looking for stories…they’re hungry for content.”
McDaniel’s success in renovating properties is something that wasn’t in her plans early in her career. After graduating from high school, the Springhill native told herself that she would go to college and never return to Louisiana. Then came what she called a “devastating” divorce while living in Texas, followed by a return to her home state on the strength of faith and determination.
“The Lord had other plans for me, and that included investing in Minden and making our town better. I was in Laredo, Texas driving home when the Lord spoke to me and told me it was time to come back to Louisiana,” she said.
Her return eventually led to her first renovation project and current residence, the “Little Cottage that Could” with the yellow door, located on McDonald Street.
McDaniel’s philosophy is “…simple as simple can be; just be kind. I try to be kind to those I interact with every day….always painting Minden in a positive light despite other things that may be going on. I want every single person to love Minden like I love Minden.”
After all the renovation and television projects, McDaniel said she has no idea what lies ahead, but intends to “slow down a little bit for now. But, we’ll see what’s down the road.”
A glimpse of Sara McDaniel’s rental properties is available by visiting http://www.mindenstays.com.