By Ida Brown / firstname.lastname@example.org
The Meridian Star
If you see Tyler Harrell walking around looking for something, most likely it's not anything he's lost.
Harrell loves looking for small change – on the sidewalk, at work under tables and counters, in vending machines. If money is to be found, Harrell will more than likely be the one who will discover it.
"Friends look at me and laugh and ask, 'What are you doing?' At work, I joke and say, 'I'm getting my overtime,'" he said.
Harrell started regularly searching for small change around the age of 10, after his late grandfather, Emerson Harrell, shared a bit of wisdom with him.
"My Grandpa Harrell always told me that the easiest money you'll ever make is by bending down and picking it up," said the 25-year-old Meridian native.
In 15 years Harrell has picked up pennies, nickles, dimes (and occasionally quarters and a dollar bill) from everywhere he has lived or visited. And in that time he has amassed a tidy sum.
"I roll the change I find and I've saved some money doing it," he said. "You'll be surprised just how much change you'll find; every little bit adds up."
There's never a dull moment around Harrell, who has an infectious laugh and upbeat personality.
After living in Meridian his first 10 years, his family moved to Detroit, Mich., then to Shreveport, La., where he lived another 10 years. While living in Louisiana, he developed a love for Cajun food and Cajun cooking.
"When I was real young, my sister, Delita, and I baked cookies with our mother, who also taught us how to make crackers and add spices," he said.
"But now I do a lot of Cajun cooking – I started cooking in college, experimenting with different dishes, like gumbo and etouffee."
Harrell's experiments in the kitchen have also led to the creation of his own cola, which he calls Hex Cola ("Hex" is a reference to his Cajun influences). The cola making started out as a dare, but now he hopes to turn that dare into a profitable business.
"One of my friends said, 'You know, making this (cola) has got to be simple.' We talked about it for awhile and then he said, 'I bet I can make better cola than you can.' I can't turn down a bet."
The two had one month to come up with the best cola concoction and in the end, Harrell's was voted the best.
"I just added a lot of different ingredients – the zest of oranges, limes, lemons and other ingredients – boiled it, strained it, poured the liquid on top of sugar to make it a syrup, then added carbonated water," he said, not wanting to give away his secret recipe.
Harrell also has dabbled in brewing beer. He calls his beer, "Voodoo Brew," (also a reference to Louisiana) and created it while a student at Louisiana State University.
And while Harrell loves Louisiana, Meridian has always been home.
"Anywhere that I've lived, I've always called Meridian home," he said.
In fact, he would like to start a cola business in his hometown.
"Meridian is a small hometown and I would like to start a hometown business here and add to the local economy," he said.
In addition to cooking, cola making and other creations, Harrell also enjoys playing golf and tennis.
"I'm not that good at them, but I try," he said with his signature laugh.