By Mickey Howley
Tyler Hill looked anxious last Saturday morning one hour into the Open House on Main Street. Those of you who know Tyler, from either his position at Mechanics Bank or as Water Valley Chamber of Commerce president, know he has this slightly vibrating demeanor anyway. Which can be mistaken for anxiousness, but isn’t. But, the source of his concern was the weather; it was overcast, gray, and cool. And Ole Miss was playing at 11 a.m. in Oxford.
Two reasons that might distract or deter folks from shopping downtown. Tyler was not happy. For Tyler, being a Mississippi State University graduate, the thought of having the Rebels early kickoff time messing up his plans did not sit well. And well, one can’t do anything about the weather either.
But Tyler needed not worry, because Main Street filled up Saturday. There were crowds on the sidewalks and people were going in an out of stores; all ages and all genders. Seemed like most of the community was there.
Folks told me that is how Main Street was every Saturday up until the 1960s and had not seen that many folks shopping downtown since. So the Open House was a big win for all the merchants, all the shoppers, and Water Valley itself.
Let’s not make it just one day. If you were on Main Street Saturday, you now know you can buy a lot in Water Valley. Can you get absolutely everything here? No. But shopping downtown first, this season and through out the year, makes a huge difference. One could feel that Saturday and it felt good.
Thursday morning Nov. 14 from 10 to 11:30 at the Water Valley Main Street office the Stennis Institute at MSU is bringing two guys from Brainerd, Minnesota to have a “Curbside Chat.” Chuck Marohn and Jim Kumon of Strong Towns live in central Minnesota and, if you’re familiar with Garrison Keillor and Prairie Home Companion, they are from neighborhood of Keillor’s fictional small town of Lake Wobegon. A town Keillor says is, “the little town that time forgot, and the decades can not improve.” Chuck and Jim are coming from such towns, and well, they are trying to improve. By being a bit retro and also a bit new thinking. You might not think that towns 1,000 miles north of us would have much in common, but that would be wrong. They are dealing with the similar issues of sustainability and quality of life and keeping the infrastructure up and going just like we are. What I like about this is, is it always great to hear a perspective from somebody way outside who has a similar situation. They’re not here to critique Water Valley pro or con. But more to say, let’s think about what works and what could be better. Small town philosophy with practical implications. I’m saying I think it’ll be well worth your 90 minutes Thursday morning to hear and speak with them.