By Mickey Howley
Jackson last Thursday had a Water Valley table of 10 seated in the middle of the Old Capitol Inn ballroom under the chandelier. Everyone was dressed nice. The room was cool. There was a threefold reason for being there. Two Vallians were getting awards and Yalobusha Brewing was one of the sponsors for the event. It was a big day for a small town in the Capital City. Alexis Showah took home an award for Best Adaptive Re-Use. Sounds funny, but it means best creative use for a building that has outlived its initial use. Justin and Alexis’s 1930s service station re-imagined into seafood restaurant is pretty unique. Alexe van Beuren was Main Street Merchant of the Year, for the whole State of Mississippi.
A big deal for Alexis and Alexe. And they both earned those awards the hard way.
Under lying the awards was a lot of grit and grime mixed with dust and sweat. Fixing buildings and putting successful businesses in them is not for the faint-hearted. Those two awards and Yalobusha Brewing’s presence at the ceremony were based on several underlying aspects.
The basic asset for all three is the building and location. Think about it. Would Crawdad Hole have the same great atmosphere if it were a metal building? Would the BTC be the same if it were on the bypass? Would Yalobusha Brewing even be here if the only option was the industrial park? Those buildings the businesses are in, as old and crumbling as they all existed at one time, were initial assets that caught the imagination of those entrepreneurs. That’s the first step and basic key, saving a historic building is worth it, no matter the condition and even if you don’t know what to do with it. Somebody will figure it out. No historic commercial downtown building to start with, you got nothing.
The awards are for individuals, but they are also indicators of a strong local startup mindset, a hands-on desire to fix things, and a supportive business culture in the Valley. Both Alexe and Alexis will tell you that they are not alone; there are plenty of other folks, many like them, doing the daily hard work of making Main Street active and inviting.
And would anyone even try a business if they did not have full faith the community would support them? Nothing would have happened either. Community support is essential.
So to sit under the chandelier in Jackson is just one indicator that Water Valley “gets” the intersection of historic downtown assets, creative entrepreneurs, and community support. That what makes the Valley’s Main Street an award winner.
Last week at the market the tomatoes went fast, they are still in short supply, but the upside of the delay is it looks like a late crop this year. So if you have been waiting, the wait is over. Lawton Gafford was at the market with a new twist, a special local flavoring in his homemade ice cream. The 20 cups he had with him went fast, he’ll have more this week. I won’t tell you the flavor; you’ll have to come taste for yourself. See you Saturday morning under the big magnolia on Main.