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Street Talk

Perception Of Valley Changes Over Year

By Mickey Howley

There were big visual changes this year on Main Street. The street itself looks fabulous, the majority of Main Street was repaved and restriped and the long desired crosswalks were added at key pedestrian crossing points. So far nobody has been run over and most drivers, except those who are busy texting, stop for crossing pedestrians. This year set a very positive record of sorts, at one time there were 11 buildings undergoing major renovation. I don’t think Water Valley’s downtown has seen that level of construction activity for many years.
It is a great trend, it is still going on, the place looks a whole lot better and nobody is going to suggest we’re “derelict” again. People investing money and effort in what is already there, the creative re-invention of Water Valley’s historic commercial spaces, shows a strong faith and belief in downtown and the economic future of the Valley.
Here’s a partial list of the past year on Main Street. Several new eating establishments opened, Hometown Pizza and Between Friends serving local food and local brew. The BTC kept the focus on the local food movement with the release of the “The BTC Cookbook.” And that release was featured in Southern Living, Oprah, Country Living magazines and many newspapers around the country.  
And the Valley won some awards, too. The BTC’s owner Alexe van Beuren won Mississippi “Merchant of the Year” from Main Street. Alexis and Justin Showah won a best in state award for “Best Re-Habilitation Building” for their hard work in creatively changing an abandoned 1930s gas station into the Food&Wine rated Crawdad Hole Jr. Mississippi Heritage Trust awarded the Valley’s downtown the “Town Renaissance Award” for the community wide collective effort in fixing downtown. And while not an award, Patrice Frey, Main Street’s National Director, had an overnight visit and walkabout in the Valley.
Water Valley’s Main Street had some pretty good national and regional press. Preservation Magazine had a feature article on downtown being fixed up. Bill Warren’s signs were featured in the Huffington Post. At Home Memphis Mag-azine called us “Missis-sippi’s Best Kept Secret.” The Mississippi Arts Commission featured Water Valley in the MPB radio show kicking off the “Year of the Creative Economy.”  And two of the seven creative economy short films for the whole state were filmed here, downtown, featuring local arts and the brewery. Speaking of film, 2014 saw the first feature length movie being filmed here and is expected to debut this spring. The promotional trailers were filmed last week with shots overlooking Main Street.
Maybe the best change in the last year is how others see the Valley. Malcolm White is the director of Mississippi Tourism and he was here this spring for the Chamber banquet. But Malcolm has been keeping an eye on what is going on here for longer than that, he had the Valley featured as one of the Creative Economy poster towns back in 2011 when the CE push got started statewide. When one of Malcolm’s friends from long ago recently asked him about good places to live in Mississippi, he said Water Valley. Mind you his friend is a native Mississippian who moved several states away many years ago and really had no intention of moving back. But last week she was in the Valley looking and liked what she saw. She can imagine herself back in this state and in this town and liking it. And that change in perspective, how others view the Valley as a place to be and live, is perhaps the biggest change in the last year.

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