By Howard K. Brodwin
About one hour south of Nashville, amid the rolling green hills of middle Tennessee, you'll stumble upon the quaint town of Lynnville, population 345 (est.). No, that's not a typo and we didn't leave off a few zeros. Originally settled in 1809, this rural town sits not far from Lynn creek, which was named for the Linden or Linn trees, which grew along its bank.
Lynnville still has all the trappings of early 1900's America, including a Railroad Museum that pays homage to the industry that helped rebuild this town. Much of Old Lynnville was burned and destroyed during the Civil War, but the construction of the Central-Southern Railroad in 1860 brought with it a new town of Lynnville.
Travel another mile out of town, cross over the creek on Abernathy road, and you've found the world headquarters for Colonel Littleton, "purveyor of fine accouterments in the Americana tradition." The red tin roofed buildings include the Colonel's office, showroom and workshop/R&D facility, where some of the finest handmade leather goods, knives, travel accessories, apparel and gift items have come to life, carrying the Colonel's name and logo, along with the spirit of early America. These gifts are perfect for your groomsmen.
The Colonel himself started this business 18 years ago, with the goal of "making things that would last and become more meaningful as time went by... things that would be around long enough to be handed down to children and grandchildren and be cherished as family heirlooms." Starting first with vintage cuff links, he began to design and manufacture his own line of gifts and accessories. Those simple items evolved into a vast catalog of unique and distinctive products, ranging from stylish money clips, pens and pocket knives, clothing, and clocks.
"I've always been a collector by nature, and I've always wanted to know how and why something worked," says the Colonel. "I was the little kid who took things apart and put them back together. I have a real respect for days gone by and get a lot of inspiration for new products from the past."
Even the basic drink coaster and can caddy gets a much needed upgrade with a touch of Tennessee style. Hand crafted bridle leather and engraved with a simple single initial, these items add a touch of class to any ones bar collection.
Design and expert craftsmanship are hallmarks of the Colonel Littleton product line. Something a simple as a dresser caddy - basically a small tray for you to unload your daily collection of keys, coins, cufflinks, wallet, phone, etc. - is done in rich bridle leather and trimmed with pewter wire, leather lacing or brass rivets, giving it a rustic feel. Add a custom engraved brass nameplate or embossed leather oval to the center and you have a personalized gift that will be used daily and last for years to come.
Many of the products in the Colonel Littleton collection can be personalized to make a special occasion that much more significant. "I saw a need for people to have family keepsakes, so personalization of products became important to me." The Colonel's desk boxes, money clips and pocket knives become more than gifts when they're handed down from one generation to another - they carry the spirit of the person who's initials they bear.
And the Colonel holds true to authentic design standards. "You will never see a Colonel product with a speck of Velcro on it," he says. While it would be easy to put something like Velcro closure straps on his GP No. 1 bag, it would lose its authenticity and spirit of the 1850's. With a bag like this "even the highest executive can show a little individuality and personality."
"I think everybody really wants to believe that there are still businesses that operate on a handshake, where a person's word stands for something and where a half-dozen lawyers are not needed to run a business," the Colonel says. "I think when we look back on the good times in our lives, it's the simpler times we remember. When people buy a Col. Littleton product, they feel they have a connection to small-town America. They may feel that Col. Littleton knife in their pocket and think they have a little of that simple life right there with them."
The next time your travels take you in the vicinity of Lynnville, Tennessee the Colonel has extended an open invitation for anyone to stop by his place - "Drive through the creek (unless it's been raining a lot) up to the old barn and keep to the left. Ranger, our Golden Retriever, will probably meet you at the front porch. Just pat him on the head and come on in."