For Melody Paris Bardowell, Rocky Mount Mills runs in the family. When Envolve Vision moves its corporate headquarters to the 150-acre live-work-play campus toward the end of 2018, it will mark a kind of homecoming for Melody, an account executive.
With renovations underway to transform a 22,887-square foot portion of the 200,000-square foot historic mill into dynamic Class A office space for Envolve Vision, we talked with Melody about her family history, knowing your neighbors, sending her son to a nearby university and more …
RMM: What makes Rocky Mount Mills special to you and your family?
Melody: I’m a fifth generation mill worker, meaning when Envolve Vision comes to work at the mill next year, I will be the fifth generation of my family to be here. We came in 1890 from farming. And my great-great-grandfather worked here. In 1901, my great-grandfather worked here, he started at the age of nine years old working in the mill. And he worked here until he passed away in 1944. At that time you had to have somebody in your family working here in order to live in a home at the mill village. My grandfather at the time had just got back from the war and he decided that he would take on that responsibility, so he came to work here.
My grandfather met my grandmother here. They worked on different sides of the mills, but there was a pipe that leads from one side to the other. And he would pass her gum through the pipe. Because gum was something you couldn’t have everywhere. So he’d pass her gum and he told his friend the first day he met her, he said, “I’m gonna marry that girl.” So they met here, fell in love, got married and they raised three kids here at the mill village and were married over 60 years.
RMM: What a sensational overview of one family’s history of the mill. Now that we’re entering a new era of the mill, tell us what you think about coming here every day as a team member at Envolve?
Melody.: I’m super excited to carry on my family tradition of working here at the mill. At Envolve, we have a great community of folks that are really looking forward to spending their time here. We’re right here on the river, so on our lunch breaks, we can take a run really quick and come back. There’s plenty of food to eat here, there are great restaurants. A great beer community, so when you get off and want to spend time together, that’s easy. I feel like we can bring any customer here and they would be impressed with the offerings that we have at the mill in such a great historic area.
RMM: You’re raising a family here in Rocky Mount. What’s Rocky Mount like as a place to live, launch a career and raise a family?
Melody: Rocky Mount is great to me because you don’t have traffic and you still have all the things you’d want from a big city. You have all the same stores, all the same conveniences without having to worry about driving too far to get anywhere. You’re right down the road from the beach, if you want to have a great beach day, you can. If you just want to drive up to Raleigh and get some neat shopping in, you can’t find anywhere else, it’s easy to do that. So it’s the perfect kind of mix.
RMM: When you think about where your kids will eventually go to college, what are the higher education options like?
Melody: Actually, my son is going to the engineering school at NC State, so he will be right here in the broader community. I can’t wait for him to come back and hopefully to put some of his engineering skills to work at the ill. That would be really neat. East Carolina University and the Brody School of Medicine are close by.
And if he decided to stay right in town, there are great programs here with Wesleyan College and with the two community colleges — Nash Community College and Edgecombe Community College . It’s fun too for me to take some of the cooking classes at the community colleges.
RMM: What’s it like to raise your kids in Rocky Mount?
Melody: I feel like Rocky Mount offers a small town value with big city opportunities. So you can have all the same things you can have in any other city. But here, you know your neighbor. You know who’s on your kid’s little league team, they’re right there next door. For my grandparents, being here at the mill was important because of the community, the family feel. Times change, but the family feel is still here.
RMM: How are you colleagues feeling about moving to Rocky Mount Mills?
Melody: We’re all very excited. It’s such a unique space. To be at a place where you can just go lunch really quick, meet friends after work, go for a run, live within easy walking distance. I don’t think we as a team could ask for more than that. I mean, that’s what we would all want to have.