By Mickey Howley
Last Thursday evening I was in Jackson. The Missis-sippi Economic Develop-ment Council was having their winter meeting. I was not planning on spending the night, but did stay for a dinner talk at the Agricul-ture Museum.
Bob Tyler was the speaker for the evening and though I kidded him about being ancient, Bob can still deliver a motivational speech with the best of them.
Afterwards I walked across the Ag complex grounds to my car parked by the Crawdad Hole restaurant. Got in my Chevy to drive back to the Valley and the battery was dead. And the restaurant and parking lot were packed, couldn’t get jumped if I wanted to, so I waited for a bit until people left. Joe Showah, owner of the Crawdad Hole (WV’s version is the Crawdad Hole Jr) got me a battery boost and I was on my way.
On the way back I was praying my car would not die and thinking about the conversation I had with Joe while waiting for the parking lot to clear. Even thought the place was busy, he said Friday nights were even more packed. People just seemed to be out having a good time. Restaurants, even seemingly simple ones, add so much to a town. But it is a tough business to be in; good food, great atmosphere, and consistent quality and service are hard to create and harder still to keep going.
People spend money on food. We like to eat. If you look at the statistics, the average American adult spends about $6,000 dollars a year on food. And just under half of that is spend on food in restaurants (okay that’s fast food, coffees, lunch included, too). That’s some $2,500 a year per person on average. Or a bit over 200 bucks a month per person. Which if you add it up is a lot of money.
The economic section of the 2009 WV Main Street Charrette said in the WV trade area that cumulative figure was just under $11 million total and with only $1.5 million was being spent here. That was a “keeping dollars local” rate of less than 15%. Pretty sad.
Here’s what the Charrette said then about this poor economic situation and the opportunity waiting: “Din-ing. The primary trade area is leaking approximately $9 million each year. Dining can really emerge as a cluster item for Water Valley even attracting customers from more far away places. With a 33% capture rate on dining, the community could support another 15,000 square feet of space based on $200 sales per square foot. This represents a significant op-portunity for Water Valley.”
Some people took that Charrette information to heart; the dining situation downtown four years later is quite different. There are several small and specialized, but great places to eat, downtown now. Last November Food&Wine Magazine se-lected WV as one of their Best Small Food Towns. That is a very positive transition. Proof things can change for the better.
And that 2009 Charrette report is still a valid document loaded with information. If you want to be in business in WV, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll send it to you.