By Mickey Howley
Sometimes dreams of it will wake me from a sound sleep, other times ideas of it will whisper in my head and curl around in my brain. Most of the time it is just a daily challenge to proselytize to the willing and not so willing. Not a handicap to my way of thinking, per se, but the thing that makes everything possible. Buy Local. The key to it all.
If you have been reading this column for the last seven years you well know all the writers, Jessie Gurner, Alexe van Beuren, Susan Hart, Coulter Fussell, and me, have beat the Buy Local drum incessantly. In fact it has become an inside joke between Alexe and me—she’ll ask, “What ya gonna write this week? Lemme guess–Buy Local!”
Well Water Valley, guess what? This column is about Buy Local. Surprise!
Buy Local has been paying off. Because it has been making a difference downtown, a huge difference. Last year an amazing variety of new businesses opened on Main Street. Clothing stores (that’s right plural), a frame shop, a gift store, a restaurant, a bakery, a second hand store and a brewery. All those business owners invested time and money in Water Valley downtown because they believe that folks—local folks—will support them. But Buy Local traffic on Main Street runs two ways—the new businesses have faith you will support them, they are counting on you, and you have the hope they’ll have the goods and services you want.
Not only have you been buying local, but it is really possible to Eat Local, too!
That’s possible now in the Valley—seafood, barbecue, Mexican, pizza, soups and sandwiches, fried chicken, and plate lunches. The variety of Eat Local has never been better or more diverse.
Part of the Main Street job is to track economic numbers – the folks in Jackson – the Mississippi Develop-ment Authority and Mississippi Main Street want to know if things are changing and sometimes numbers can tell the story. Numbers like how many new jobs and businesses come in or expand or how much money is invested or how many square feet of historic commercial buildings are back in productive commercial use.
And by those measurements, 2013 was a banner year in Water Valley. More jobs, more businesses, more money in downtown and way more square footage transitioned from empty to active.
This new year 2014, the Year of the Creative Economy in Mississippi, looks to be a very good year for Water Valley. Buildings are under renovation that will bring more retail square footage and more upper floor downtown housing back from being long time vacant to daily useful. More than several businesses have plans to invest substantially in downtown. New ventures from film to art to music are in the works.
So keep on keeping on and doing what you have been doing with Buy Local and Eat Local! That is the key to everything. Shop and dine in the Valley and look for those storefront window sign with the red railroad tracks. That’s a joint Chamber and Main Street promotion, by the way that was designed locally by Fussell and produced locally by Varner Printing.