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Street Talk

Local Flavor Preserved In Water Valley

By Mickey Howley


Folks from out of town visiting Water Valley for the first time often remark that they are quite surprised to find what they consider “quaint” businesses still on Main Street.
So many towns have lost their local owned and operated newspapers, drugstores, banks, retail shops, restaurants, and hardware stores. In towns smaller than Water Valley these businesses have folded and just disappeared. In towns larger than the Valley, these local owned businesses have been largely replaced by chains or franchises. So the news last week that Joey Hastings was taking over Sartain’s Home and Auto from Judy and Jack Sartain was very welcome news and a great indicator.
Because this transition breaks what has become a sad, but normal pattern for many small Main Street businesses when it comes time to change hands. The general pattern is for business like Sartain’s, businesses that even may be doing well, closing. Why? Because Main Street retail is hard work with long hours and great financial risks with often marginal return for the effort. While these businesses might be attractive to visitors, they are not a super deal for either the selling owners or the prospective new ones. The common solution is just to fold.
That is not happening here. There are a number of reasons. Sartain’s has kept, via careful management and daily hard work, very tuned to the needs of its customer base. The store has constantly evolved over the last half century. The inventory reflects this. The service is consistent and superior. One is always greeted and asked and then actively led to the searched for product. The product knowledge is always tops. This, for me, is the best reason to patronize the store and the reason why Sartain’s is better than any big box store. They know the products. And so Jack and Judy have earned this business transition and Main Street is lucky to have Joey taking over.
Joe Walker was laid to rest last week. Doctor Joe was a semi-regular in high season at the Farmers Market, selling his homegrown various varieties of corn from the back of his old Chevy pick-up. He clearly was not doing this for the money, for him it was a great hobby — almost a sport. He really liked the game of being there on Saturday mornings and interacting with people. The corn was just an excuse.
The other thing Joe was doing for downtown Water Valley, as recently as a year ago, was working a plan to have Branch of Hope fix a row of derelict buildings on Main Street. The plan never worked out, but it was not from any lack of effort or desire or energy on Joe’s part. He saw the project as a way to help people and help the town at the same time.     
And he was doing this at a time when he was very self aware of his failing health and fully knowing there was no financial incentive in it, too. The definition of altruism is unselfish regard for or devotion to the welfare of others. Joe defined that. He will be greatly missed.

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