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It’s personal for Executive Director Judi Holifield

It’s personal for Executive Director Judi Holifield


I don’t often make things personal in public, but, as I considered what I wanted my Main Street family to hear, it seemed appropriate.

In the movie “You’ve Got Mail,” Meg Ryan asks for advice from her email pal about her business. After the classic godfather reference—“Go to the mattresses”—he says, “It’s not personal it’s business.” Meg Ryan’s frustrated response: That just means it’s not personal to you.

Laurel, Mississippi is personal to me. It’s the town where I marched in my first parade as a Drum Major in 1969. It’s the town where the Laurel Retail Merchants Association supplied almost all of my outfits for a week in Washington D.C. when I won the Voice of Democracy speech writing competition. It didn’t seem to matter that I was Judi from Soso; they were proud, and I felt at home.

1977 began my teaching career at Northeast Jones High School, and I found my way back to downtown to help Clinton Harrington Piano Co. and the merchants desperately trying to survive Urban Renewal. I filmed TV commercials, co-hosted radio shows, did voiceovers, hosted street dances and battles of the bands and talent nights, and got all my choral friends to bring their choirs downtown to usher in the holidays.

Youth, ignorance, and a touch of tenacity aren’t always a successful combination. I had no clue how to do any of it, but “Fake it ‘til you make it” has served me well. And, for whatever reason, be it “Lord! We’d better stop her” or “Lord! We’d better help her,” I’ve always had help along the way.

In 1981, I brought my firstborn home to a gingerbread house on N 5th Ave. and learned the sidewalks of that area well as I strolled a colicky baby outside every evening in an effort to preserve my family’s collective sanity. I then left Laurel for the next 13 years.

In 1985, I appeared on national television representing Mississippi teachers in a strike. I coordinated with NBC throughout this time, lobbied the legislature, and spoke to districts encouraging them to walk out. I left teaching soon after.

In 1989, I returned to teaching, this time at Watkins High School, and worked in the Laurel school district until finishing my music educator career at Nora Davis Magnet School in 2002. I was offered a job directing the Whole Schools Initiative; I literally laughed in the face of the person making the offer. Well, I got the job.

Looking back, I’ve sometimes thought they wanted the program to fail, so they hired what they assumed was “country dumb.” However, we are the sum of our experiences, and the choice is always ours to make the most of ourselves; most of us just need to coach to tell us he thinks we can.

In my head, failure is not an option.

I know my connection to Laurel Main Street. My life has been several boxes of chocolates, and—because I’ve done it myself—I’m confident when I tell our local entrepreneurs and creatives to walk through the door and take the opportunity that’s in front of them. We’re here to help you figure it out and watch you ride the waves. It won’t last forever, and you’ll be glad you did it, whatever it is, for however long it lasts.

One great thing about being 62, I’ve eaten a lot of elephants: it’s always one bite at a time. That’s what I told Ben and Erin Napier when they were presented this unbelievable chance with HGTV. It’s personal; this is where we choose to live.

Honestly, I’m not sure we could have marketed ourselves into this position. We’ve done nothing to deserve this opportunity, so let’s do all we can as a community to graciously respond because “company’s comin’ y’all.”

Home Town will feature Laurel as a main character, and we are all players on this stage for a season. We’ve got a short time to prepare. Laurel Main Street is working hard to make sure we are all as ready as we can be, and some interesting changes will arrive soon. And if you want to help move our city forward, vote here to help us win the title of “America’s Main Street!”

We are a community of bootstraps and artisans; we are the town that timber built; we are Laurel, and, no matter how many times I leave, I always find my way back. It’s personal to all of us because this is our town, soon to be America’s hometown, and forever my hometown.

Thanks for reading,



Pair Takes Reigns at Mississippi Main Street Association


Pair Takes Reigns at Mississippi Main Street Association

JACKSON, Miss.—Stacy K. Pair of Gulfport, Miss., has been named the State Coordinator for Mississippi Main Street Association.  

Mississippi Main Street Association focuses on economic development and revitalization of Mississippi’s historic business districts.  

Pair began her Main Street career as the first local director for Philadelphia Main Street Association, in Philadelphia, Miss., more than 15 years ago.  Her family is largely from the Philadelphia, Miss. area where her mother’s side owns the well-known country store, Williams Brothers.

From Philadelphia, she went on to work for Colonial Williamsburg and Corning, Inc. In Corning, NY, Pair was the President and Executive Director of the successful Gaffer District, as well as manager of the downtown Business Improvement District.  She returned to the Mississippi Gulf Coast just six weeks before Hurricane Katrina hit.

Pair has been very involved with downtown revitalization and preservation issues.  She has served on the board of Mississippi Heritage Trust and was the chair of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Preservation Task Force immediately following Hurricane Katrina.  She worked directly with Governor Haley Barbour’s office in the months after Katrina, acting as an advocate for saving and restoring the Gulf Coast’s hard hit historic downtown districts.

Pair has consulted with many communities across the country and has been a speaker at several national forums.  She completed the training required by the National Main Street Center to become a Nationally Certified Main Street Professional in 2006.

Mississippi Main Street Association currently has offices in Jackson, Columbus, Oxford and Gulfport.

Meridian Main Street: Imagine our Future

Meridian Main Street: Imagine our future

  • By Karen Rooney Executive Director, Meridian Main Street

Part of Profile 2016

Imagine coming downtown for the 2018 Mardi Gras Parade. What will you see? How will your experience be different from now?  

Imagine that your friends who have come in town to visit, stayed overnight at the beautifully restored Art Deco masterpiece, the Threefoot Building, in one of the new Courtyard by Marriot suites.  

Your daughter, who is attending the School of Kinesiology at MSU downtown, joins you for the parade, which you view from the balcony of her new BellSouth Building apartment, which faces the beautifully decorated city hall lawn. You marvel at all of the beautifully restored streets and buildings.  

You try to remember what it looked like just five years earlier, and it all seems a distant gloomy memory. Then all of your friends enjoyed the Meridian Main Street Mardi Gras events all afternoon, and end the evening by attending one of the many live music venues downtown.

The next day, after having breakfast at one of the new coffee shops, you show off the new magnificent wonder, the Mississippi Arts and Entertainment Experience, to your out of town friends.

After experiencing a taste of all the arts of Mississippi, you have a lively discussion concerning where you are going to have lunch, because there are so many options.

After lunch, you indulge in some serious shopping, marveling at how many new stores there are, as well as how many have become downtown traditions, such as The Liberty Shop, Loeb's, and LaBiche. Exhausted from shopping, the kids clamor for ice cream at one of the new ice cream parlors.

Your delighted friends ask, “So what are we doing tomorrow?”  Well, you reply “We still haven't seen that concert at the Temple Theater or that new play at the Riley Center. And, of course, we must see the new exhibits at the Mississippi Industrial Heritage Museum and the Meridian Museum of Art.”

It's hard to believe that people once said there was nothing to do in Meridian!

Downtown Meridian has experienced incredible growth and change during the last two years.  We, at Meridian Main Street, started off 2015 by announcing, 40 new privilege licenses were granted in 2014 and more than $8 million was invested by downtown property owners. 2015 ended with façade enhancements, complete building restorations and new and exciting plans for 19 neglected buildings!

In addition 26 new privilege licenses were granted and an additional $14 million was invested by property owners during 2015. The future is looking very bright for 2016, with exciting plans for 16 buildings in downtown.

In January, Mississippi Main Street conducted the Backstage Pass Conference in Meridian for Main Street managers across Mississippi, as well as other event planners.  They are in the unique position to see what is current and developing in 51 different downtown associations in Mississippi, as well as what is happening nationally.  They were very impressed with all downtown Meridian has accomplished during the last couple of years.   According to Stacy Pair, director of administration/Mississippi State Coordinator, “this type of growth is unprecedented.  Nothing short of a miracle.”  Jan Miller, Director of Field Services, said she was, “blown away by how beautiful and dynamic downtown Meridian had become over the last two years”.  

There are many reasons for this growth and many people behind this miracle. There are city leaders, county leaders, individual investors, developers and business leaders who have championed the revitalization of downtown Meridian. In addition Meridian has Meridian Main Street (MMS). For several years now, MMS has been consistently promoting and helping to develop downtown. Downtown is our only focus.

Meridian Main Street has been providing support to the local developers and business owners as part of an Economic Development Program, as well as creating events that bring thousands to downtown Meridian. Events such as Mardi Gras, Merry Meridian, Earth’s Bounty, Candy Crawl, Kid’s Art Crawl, and the Just Start It! Entrepreneurs series. Each of these events, as well as individual stories about the low crime statistics for downtown, has kept downtown in the spotlight.

Downtown has been the setting for many other large events that bring in thousands of dollars and people such as the State Games of Mississippi, the Jimmie Rodgers Festival, the Hwy 59/20 festival, and the Mini Maker Faire at Soulé. All of this activity brings vitality to downtown and has encouraged development and investment.

Meridian Main Street's Promotional Program creates events designed to improve our quality of life, rekindle community pride, improve consumer and investor confidence in our downtown commercial district, and create awareness and excitement about downtown.  Advertising, retail promotions, special events and marketing campaigns help to communicate our district's unique characteristics, business establishments, and activities.  

Our Economic Restructuring Program strengthens our existing economic assets, while diversifying our economic base. This is accomplished by retaining and expanding successful businesses and attracting new businesses that the market can support. MMS is working directly with developers and building owners to help them move their projects forward. Converting unused or underused commercial space into economically productive property also helps boost the profitability of the district.

The goal of our design program includes getting Main Street into top physical shape and creating a safe, inviting environment for shoppers, workers, and visitors. MMS has been working with public works on street lighting and working with the police to make sure there is adequate police presence downtown. When you walk downtown and see beautiful, large flower urns, you can thank the Design Committee. This beautification project for downtown includes more than 30 large flower urns displayed in front of participating businesses.

The fourth point of our approach is organization. Our organization goes way beyond our employees, Karen Rooney and Debby Delshad, and intern.  Main Street cannot accomplish all that we have without our army of dedicated volunteers, our members, our corporate sponsors and board of directors, the city of Meridian, Phil Hardin Foundation, Lauderdale County, and our wonderful, local media partners.  

The Meridian Main Street Board includes Alisha Bailey, Von Burt, Bubba Hannah, Ron Harper, Beverley Hearn, Dustin Hill, Robb Hudson, Tricia LaBiche, Terri McKelviane, Reginald Mnzava and Buster Thomas.

Looking forward in 2016

The future is looking very bright for 2016 in downtown, Meridian.  Here are some of the expectations and plans for the coming year, according to Meridian Main Street.

— In December, the City of Meridian unveiled the strategic development plan for the new Meridian Health District.  This will be a very positive change for Meridian, linking the hospital district with the commercial district.

— On Jan. 7, John Tampa officially received the keys to the art deco masterpiece, the 16-story Threefoot Building.  During this next year, we look forward to seeing construction begin on the 120 room Courtyard by Marriot.

— The Thrash Building, across from LaBiche Jewelers, has been renovated by owner Tim Allred into a beautiful bridal store for Faulkenbery’s, which opened in January.

— Construction has begun on the MAEE and we can look forward to construction traffic during the next year, but the result will be worth it.

— During 2015, Tim Hester, who had completed some restorations in Tupelo, returned to Meridian to purchase the 78,000 sq. ft. Hulett Building, which had been empty for five years.  This new interiors market and climate controlled storage business has plans for 2016 to include an event venue space and ultimately a boutique hotel.

— The iconic Kress building, which has been empty 30 years, will be finished with renovations this fall and will house the new MSU-Meridian Kinesiology program, house teaching labs, research labs, offices, state-of-the-art classrooms, new technology for students and another library.

— Mitch and Kristen Marshall will be opening up Little C’s convenience store and coffee shop in the Gaitlin-Williams Building on Front Street in February. This store will feature some products from  Earth’s Bounty vendors. They are also renovating the Standard Coffee building, on the corner of Constitution and Front Street for Yates Construction.

— The Trustmark building, which sits next to the Threefoot Building, is receiving a $1.5 million facelift.

— According to Jay Adcock, owner of U Need It Antiques and Auctions, which opened in the formerly-boarded up Southern Showroom at the foot of the 22nd Avenue Bridge, the move to downtown has increased his business greatly and he is looking forward to Meridian being a travel destination for antique hunters.

— BellSouth Building is being developed into 27 luxury apartments by Clarence Chapman and will be available in about 12 months.

— Meridian Underground Music, owned by Wayne Williams, is celebrating 20 years in downtown by doubling the size of his Eighth Street store, expanding into two adjacent buildings.

— Hill Real Estate Company, which opened downtown in 2014, doubled their location in 2015, and then in January announced that they are the largest local realty company. Dustin Hill attributes part of this amazing growth to being located downtown.

— The Pigford Building is being renovated into the Venue by Elic Purvis.  Elic returned to Meridian to be part of this amazing revitalization.

— The old Downtown Club, The Raynor, The Bible Book Store, and the McKee Glass buildings have been purchased with plans being announced soon.

— The Meridian Mini-Maker Faire, held at Soulé, is predicted to triple in size this coming May.

— A group of locals have been working with the Mississippi Children’s Museum to bring a children’s museum to downtown.

— Road construction will continue downtown, with 22nd Avenue next on the agenda.

— Meridian Main street will be hosting a Downtown Residential Workshop this spring to encourage upper floor apartment development.

For more information on Meridian Main Street visit the website, or call (601) 693-7480. The office is located at 2120-A Main Street (Fifth Street) in downtown Meridian.



Saltillo Main Street ready to get to work

Saltillo Main Street ready to get to work

Thomas Wells | Buy at Saltillo Mayor Rex Smith began lobbying for the town to join the Mississippi Main Street Association about a year ago. While he asked to join as an associate member, the Saltillo Board of Alderman decided to spend the extra money to become a full member.

Thomas Wells | Buy at
Saltillo Mayor Rex Smith began lobbying for the town to join the Mississippi Main Street Association about a year ago. While he asked to join as an associate member, the Saltillo Board of Alderman decided to spend the extra money to become a full member.

By William Moore

Daily Journal

SALTILLO – Lindsey Hines has wanted to sing Saltillo’s praises since she moved to town more than a decade ago. As the city’s new Main Street director, she now has the chance.

“I have waited on this opportunity,” Hines said. “I am excited to be on the ground floor as we start.”

Saltillo formally became the 52nd member of the Mississippi Main Street Association Tuesday morning. In the coming months, officials with the state organization will spend plenty of time in Saltillo, trying to develop a strategy to help the town.

“Over the next few months, we will work closely with Lindsey to gather information and get things organized,” said MMSA field services director Jan Miller. “We will bring in a resource team, probably in the later summer, and they will spend three or four days in town.”

Saltillo Mayor Rex Smith pushed for the city to join MMSA and wants to find a way to pull together the traditional downtown of Mobile Street along with the new business corridor of Highway 145.

“Folks talk about Old Saltillo and New Saltillo,” Smith said. “That bothers me. I just want it to be one Saltillo.”

The mayor wants the city to tap into folks passing through or close by the city of 4,500 people. A traffic study showed 13,000 cars a day travel Highway 145 and another 40,000 pass by on U.S. 45.

“We’ve got the Natchez Trace less than a mile away and Lake Lamar Bruce just outside the city limits,” Smith said. “We have so many resources, there is no reason for us to fail.”

The cost of joining MMSA is steep on the front end – $10,000 for the first year tapering down to $2,000 annually after the fourth year. In exchange, the city will receive a wealth of information, training and assistance.

According to MMSA, designated Main Street communities receive a minimum of $25,000 in technical assistance during the first year alone. Since 1993, MMSA has provided more than $4 billion in public and private re-investment back into Main Street communities.


Local City receives Main Street Designation

By Wayne Hereford


SALTILLO, Miss.  (WTVA)—Residents and local leaders were all smiles at an official designation ceremony for Saltillo's Main Street program Tuesday.

The program has proven to be a successful one for many cities and towns across the state.

Leaders are hoping that same type of success happens here.

"You know, there's no way that I feel that we can go wrong with it. Of course we have to do our part, and we’re committing to do that," said Saltillo Mayor Rex Smith.

As part of that commitment Smith says the city has already hired a Main Street Director, Lindsey Hines.

"Being a member of Mississippi Main Street opens us up to all kinds of resources with design and economic vitality. It helps us with our historic preservation," she said. 

"It will help our image overall from the community's point of view, and help our citizens and just help us all to be a bigger better family up here," replied Second District Lee County Supervisor Mike Smith.

City officials say that Saltillo is already showing growth both in its historic downtown area as well as the growing business section on Highway 145. 

But, officials admit that the Main Street designation, like the growing business sector, has not happened over night.

"It takes a year, as I said, for the application process. Now, how long does it take to become a Tupelo? They’ve had a Main Street program for 30 years," said Stacy Pair of Mississippi Main Street.

"We're going to be working hard to make big things happen," said Mayor Smith.

Main Street officials say the program provides technical, architectural, and other services.

They say Saltillo is now part of a network of some 1,800 Main Street members across the country.

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Mississippi Main Street Association
P.O. Box 55747 | Jackson, MS 39296
Phone: 601/944-0113
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