Skip to content

Street Talk

Ask Around, You Can Find It In Water Valley

By Mickey Howley

How many times have you been working on a project or need something and just know what you need is not available in Water Valley, but probably is available in Oxford? And so you just get in the car and drive north, figuring you will find what you need in one of those big box stores on West Jackson.  

If you are a guy like me who saves receipts and tracks mileage, you might know the number of times you take such a trip. In 2008, I was working on a project and went to Oxford 104 times to buy stuff. That’s about 4,200 miles and 85 hours of driving and $840 in fuel for my old GMC. That’s not very efficient purchasing. To my credit, in that same year I also made 119 purchases in Water Valley.

Here is the story of one of those Water Valley purchases. I was looking for a certain type of electrical box cover. I went to the various stores in Water Valley that might have such a thing. No luck. So I jumped in my truck and headed to Oxford, ended up going to 4 places thinking I was sure I’d certainly find that cover at the first one.  No luck again.  So I drove back to Water Valley empty handed.  

Then I was thinking I’d have to go to Memphis or somehow order the cover on-line.  I wanted that particular cover. The next day I was back in the Water Valley store where I first looked for this cover. This time, I was looking for something else, and this time I opened my mouth in passing about my search for that elusive item. Just that quick the store owner had a photo of it in his catalog and said he could have the cover by tomorrow. Happily I ordered it on the spot.

So here’s my internal lesson from that purchase “Open your big mouth.” Had I done that in the beginning, I would have saved beaucoup shoe leather, tire tread, time, and aggravation. We all know that shopping in a small town for a particular object is either very easy or impossible, especially if you want that object now.  Not everything may be readily available.  

But our local merchants are very customer friendly and resourceful. They have to be; they’re competing against the big box stores whose corporate headquarters are in Atlanta or Chicago or Arkansas and whose stores you can find on West Jackson Avenue in Oxford. That’s tough competition for our local merchants.

So other than driving fewer miles, here are some additional reasons to shop locally in Water Valley. Independent businesses create a community character for downtown that big boxes and chains don’t. Independent businesses create local jobs and the payroll and profits stay in the community.

Buying at a local independent business re-invests your money in the community; this means that most of your money stays here. Independent businesses offer choices; sure one small business may not have the selection you want, but collectively many independents offer more overall selection and options than going to one source (I’m thinking of the big W-store here). Most importantly, local businesses improve the quality of life here: they strengthen downtown, provide personal service, and they know their goods and products better, too.

Last week’s survey had brick as the favorite facade material. Go to for this week’s survey on what local businesses are most competitive with Oxford stores.

Leave a Comment