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Street Talk

Good Design Helps Increase Business

By Mickey Howley

Last week Eddie Ray retired from Mechanics Bank. Eddie had a long career there, he guided the bank for many years, expanded its interests and holdings, built new bank offices and renovated the old ones, and made sure the bank was left in capable hands.

He made sure Mechanics Bank remains the major business smack dab in the middle of Water Valley’s downtown. So you think a hard working guy like that would be planning something relaxing his first day off the job? Not Eddie Ray; he was at the Mississippi Main Street Design Conference with me on his first official day of retirement, which he spent sitting in fascinating seminars about State Antiquities Law and Best Practices for Design Review and Mississippi Landmarks Program and talks on Design Guidelines. Very sexy stuff. Just thinking of that kind of excitement makes me want to retire now.

Those of you who attended the Water Valley charrette presentations in the courthouse back in January of 2009 will remember the charrette leader, Mississippi Main Street’s architect Randy Wilson. Randy was one of several speakers at this conference in Jackson and even he said that while good design pays his bills, he finds it hard to see why non-architects find it interesting. This comment came during a presentation titled, “Dealing with Mid-Century Alterations to Historic Buildings” that focused on “Carrera Glass” additions to buildings. Note: the best example in Water Valley of this is the blue glass covering on the corner of the Hendricks Machine Shop building.

Eddie sat through this presentation and took notes and stayed awake. Why? He could have easily been fishing, but he was there because he is a Main Street guy from “way back,” a dedicated volunteer (we’re lucky, WVMSA has a quite a few), and he has a serious interest in good design on Main Street.

Good design not only pays Randy Wilson’s salary, but it pays off in the long run. Ask the hard working stylists at Hair Trendz. Their business has steadily increased with new customers who patronize the business not only for the cuts, but for its sharp looks both day and night. And the old customers like the new look, too. It is a basic perceptual fact of retail shopping nature that if a place looks clean and inviting and taken care of, chances are the business inside will be good, too.

If the storefront looks tired, rundown, and shabby, well, chances are the business inside might be in the same shape. That is the point Randy Wilson was trying to get across: good design, whenever it was made, continues to work. And just because a design is old, does not mean it was a good one to begin with. That’s what kept us awake and very interested: the relationship between good design and good business.

Members of the WVMSA Design Committee like Eddie Ray and Jessie Gurner who is currently serving as chair of the Design Committee, have been to conferences and know about these issues and seen their effect.

This is not to say they are “architects”, but they are available as local contacts to talk to and point you in the right direction if you think good design can help your business. Contact the WVMSA if you need any design assistance with buildings or businesses.

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