By Mickey Howley
Last Saturday downtown was just great. The weather was near perfect, the street was busy and almost every parking space was taken. Best of all — folks were shopping.
I saw a new blue Mercedes with California plates parked on Main. And I talked to a man from Wisconsin who was traveling (he read about WV in the Wall Street Journal) and stopped in. He found the town “delightful.” It was nice that there were visitors from far away on a day when downtown looked very alive. But the best thing about Saturday, other than a few Oxonians escaping the game day craziness, was the shoppers were almost all locals.
I have heard Betty Shearer say this several thousand times, “You used to not be able to get a parking spot on Main Street on Saturday because the shops were full. And the population here has remained the same.” I’m paraphrasing her, but Betty’s point is why has local retail suffered so when the number of customers over the years has remained the same?
Well there are million different reasons why, but if you were shopping downtown last Saturday, it felt like the Valley was coming back and back to stay. For whatever reason was—the motivation does not matter—people last Saturday were voting with their actions, with their mere presence, and with their dollars. And that’s what is needed to keep downtown getting better and going strong. All the merchants I talked to were thrilled. So if you were shopping last Saturday in WV—thanks a lot because it really matters, please keep it up, and make sure to tell all your friends.
Last week seemed like “Road Trip” week for the WVMSA. Last Wednesday taking a ride south to Starkville were Eddie Ray, Kagan Coughlin, and Ed Croom. We all rolled in Eddie’s machine early last Wednesday to visit a senior class of MSU landscape architect students. Their class project was to design a “pocket park” for Water Valley. There were 20 separate presentations on what their conceptual ideas for the lot at Main and Wagner could look like. We will get the presentations on a digital “drop box” and let folks take a look.
Last Thursday another group of Vallians rolled north to Tunica for a Mississippi Development Authority Asset Mapping Division meeting. Invited by Joy Foy of MDA, this group highlighted Water Valley’s creative economy. Julia Ray, Janet Brewer, Deirdre Uncapher, and Beth Long were the Valley representatives for the day-long event.
Last Monday, I was invited to the Baldwyn Main Street annual meeting. As many of you might know, Baldwyn and Water Valley have much in common. Both towns are about the same size, have similar population demographics, and share a common railroading history (the train still goes through Baldwyn). And both towns are the same distance from a larger town.
Baldwyn is to Tupelo as we are to Oxford. And that larger town relationship, while not the key, is important to how well the smaller town’s Main Street does. And Baldwyn, like we are, is working hard on their downtown.