By Mickey Howley
Last Saturday round about 1 p.m., sitting at the high table at the BTC Old-Fashioned Grocery was Sharon Pierce. She is the establishment owner’s mother. Sharon was putting away, with some degree of relish, a large salad. Sharon lives in Virginia where she has a small farm at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains not far from Shenandoah National Park. It is very pretty countryside, especially this time of year, but her grandkids live in Water Valley and fall colors or not back home, she comes here with some frequency.
Sharon had just flown in to Memphis and picked up the last rent-a-car there. Seems the Football Weekend of the Century in Mississippi had cleaned them out. She looked up from the greens and said, “This place has really changed.” I looked around and mumbled that it looked pretty much the same to me. Maybe the menu was new. “No, I mean downtown,” she said. Sharon was last in the Valley in March. So I thought, okay in the last six months what is different? The answer is a lot—Main Street paved, cross-walked and striped, the Blu-Buck Buildings fixed and painted, the old Flick My Wick looking spiff, the former White Star buildings now two-toned and a balcony going up, a new shiny roof on the old muffler shop, and again visible is the war memorial and cannon. That’s a different look on Main Street and that’s a lot of hard work by a whole bunch of folks—and Sharon noticed it.
Which if you live here, you might have not noticed the changes or not noticed the changes with such drama. But they have happened and it is slow steady incremental effort by lots of folks. Folks who don’t necessarily have a common blueprint or schematic, but certainly have in common and are working with and believing in a common philosophy. That philosophy holds that downtown is the center of economic and social life in a town. And that you can judge a place by how well the center is looking and doing.
Seven years ago the Water Valley Main Street Association started up and got to work. The WVMSA is a collective effort supported by the city, businesses and institutions, and individual members. It is kind of a funny group made up of business folks, artists, teachers, young people, and some pretty old ones, too. While sharing the above-mentioned common philosophy and doing a wide variety projects, the entire group does not collectively meet but once a year for an annual meeting.
This year it will be Thursday October 16 at 7:30 p.m. It is not a big fancy meeting, but it is the one time a year we get together to talk about what has been done and where Water Valley’s Main Street is going. If you are a member or would like to be, see you then.
And earlier that week on Tuesday night at 6 p.m. in the Water Valley Courthouse the economic research folks from Mississippi State will be making a presentation and having a discussion about the local economy. They’ll talk about current trends and future predictions. If you are in business or want to be or just interested in how the Valley is doing, make plans to be there.