By Mickey Howley
If you are a regular reader Betty Shearer’s and Charles Cooper’s columns in this paper, you’ll notice they often talk of how things were in downtown Water Valley and what they remember. And both Betty and Charles have seen a lot. I’m not calling them old, but let’s just say they have a fairly long perspective.
Betty often mentions people who ran certain stores and how they were part of her Main Street gang. And often those stores are no longer in business. Charles wrote several columns ago of how many automobile dealerships were selling new cars in Water Valley, I think the number was four, and how those businesses are all gone. Have a conversation with Betty and she’ll say that the town supported so many more businesses in the past and she quickly notes the town size has not changed.
The ebb and flow of retail is a shared situation for every town. The undercurrent of lament or loss that often comes across when long established retail leaves is because retail is a cultural anchor for residents. It happens to all towns big and small or in-between. And folks treat it like a sad passing, this loss of remembered retail places. In New Orleans it has become a game, like a call and response chant. Get in a group and somebody will name a departed business and the rest will sing as a chorus, “Ain’t dere no more.” It goes like this, “K&B Drugs—ain’t dere no more. Maison Blanche–ain’t dere no more. DH Holmes—ain’t dere no more” and so on and so on.
What I also hear via Betty and Charles comments is a lamenting undercurrent of how Main Street is not as prosperous as it once was. Also there is a suggested connection between Main Street prosperity and the overall health of the town. I could not agree more. It is all about the local economy. The last six years have brought lots of buildings back into retail use (my count is now 15) and that is a solid and on-going positive trend.
So the turn around for a downtown is based on retail. Maybe not retail as it was, for retail is constantly changing, but retail nonetheless. And that retail is always about shopping and supporting local. That is why Margie Johnson’s workshop this coming Tuesday June 4th is so important. Retail drives downtown revival. A strong retail economy is a sure sign of a strong town and a good place to live.
Think of it the opposite way, would a town with empty commercial buildings and sorry retail be the place you want to make your home? If you are in the retail business in Water Valley you’ll want to be upstairs at the BTC Building from 8 to 10 am to hear Margie.
The Farmers Market kicks off the 7th season this Saturday in Railroad Park. This spring has been very wet and also one of the coolest in recent memory. But it is finally warming up and the veggies have been growing and hopefully there will be fresh local tomatoes. Come on out Saturday morning from 8 to 11, get cup of stout coffee, and see what your local farmers and growers have this year.