September 22, 2020

Old Try founder Micah Whitson heading South for letterpress pop-up in Oxford

Not long after a job moved me from Mississippi to Alabama in 2014, a colleague recommended I drop in for lunch one day at Johnny’s—a Birmingham meat-and-three with Jackson roots known for having spectacular catfish, among other menu staples.

Hungry and homesick, I did as I was told. And though Johnny’s is a good 100 miles from the Mississippi state line, my jaw hit the floor when I walked in and saw the walls covered in all things Mississippi, anchored by a selection of Old Try letterpress prints I’d seen several times before in magazines and home design blogs.

Johnny’s in Homewood, Alabama, has a distinct Greek influence from owner and Mississippi native Tim Hontzas’ (pictured) background. The walls are decorated with Mississippi accents,
including several letterpress prints from Old Try. (Photo: Kelsey Justice for Oxford Magazine)

Suddenly this Alabama restaurant transformed into something warm and familiar and good, something I thought only lived 100 miles away. I felt at home for the first time since the move to Birmingham—a feeling that never changed each time I stopped in for a catfish plate over the next two years.

Old Try founder Micah Whitson is an Alabama native and Ole Miss alumnus living in Boston with his wife, Marianna, and two children. In the aftermath of catastrophic tornadoes that devastated Micah’s home state in 2011, the Whitsons were compelled to pursue something that would reconnect them to their native South fueled by the longing to give back to it.

“I wanted to make things that I wasn’t able to find,” Micah told me in 2015. “I wanted to hang something in my house that people would know is tied to Alabama, or Mississippi or North Carolina.”

Old Try’s influence continues to grow, as does its inventory. The site sells prints, t-shirts, hats and other products tied to every region of the United States, some of which are the result of unique creative partnerships with other design brands.

Micah’s latest project is a love letter to his alma mater which he’ll debut at a pop-up event at the Graduate Oxford Oct. 20. Oxford’s Banner Years highlights the Ole Miss Rebels’ three national football championships and is part of a collection that will feature the championship years of other college football teams.

Folks also have the opportunity to print their own Oxford pennant print on site with half of the proceeds going to the Ole Miss Art Department.

For more information, check out the Old Try x Ole Miss Art Pop-Up Facebook event page.