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Country star gives new life to old Portland building

Portland, Tennessee is growing, but it's still primarily known for two things: strawberries and country star Ronnie McDowell.

A native of Portland in northern Sumner County, McDowell is in the process of revamping "Strawberry Manor."

It's a building on highway 109 where McDowell used to rehearse his act. He's turning it into a museum and entertainment venue for fans. McDowell gave Fox 17 a preview tour of the venue.

"This will seat a hundred folks," McDowell said. "I'm painting a Portland scene from 1955 on that wall."

Prints of one of the stars' other passions will be on sale in the gift shop including a portrait commissioned by country legend George Jones and McDowell's tribute to superstar Dolly Parton.

Fans will get to see a mural painted by McDowell and his late brother 40-years-ago as a tribute to the town that helped raise them.

"I love Portland," McDowell said. "It's my hometown. I have so many unbelievable memories here. These are my roots."

Area businesses like El Azteca Mexican restaurant downtown are excited about McDowell's new venture. Manager Daniel Rodriguez said when McDowell performs in Portland he draws a crowd.

"A lot of people come from out of the state of Tennessee," Rodriguez said. "I've seen people from Florida coming all the way over here to his show, North Carolina, Kentucky."

While Strawberry Manor is getting a face lift, McDowell said some things will remain the same including an ornate ceiling his father crafted

McDowell said he also plans to leave the stage which still has a lot of life left in it.

His old tour bus, bought from his mentor country legend Conway Twitty, will be a part of the museum as well.

No word yet on an opening date, but renovations are moving quickly.

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