WTOK - Meridian
A vibrant downtown is a thriving downtown. Festivals and events that take place along main streets in downtown communities help not only spur economic development but promote tourism. Leaders from across Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana were doing just that, learning how to build and grow successful festivals and events in various home towns.
“We train them on the current trends of downtown revitalization. How to improve their downtowns. How to attract tourists. How to help their businesses flourish downtown. So our training gears to making your downtown revitalized, sustainable and thriving,” explained Jeannie Zieren, Director of Training and Information Services with the Mississippi Main Street Association.
The two-day conference allowed leaders from various communities both local and state wide, to work together by sharing ideas on how to help their towns grow, but is also brought together professional exhibitors and creative and preforming artists so they can showcase what they have to offer.
“We want to bring them to these event planners and showcase what they have to offer and hopefully they will get hired and they will get to go to these communities and share their expertise and maybe make some money. We really want to support our creative economy artists,” explained Zieren.
This conference not only impacts towns across the state, it also impacts our local community. With over a dozen Meridian event planners and organizers in attendance all with the goal of learning how to make our Queen City prosper.
“The local residents should be excited about the fact that event planners in Meridian are committed in making their events even better. Making it appeal to more individuals while bringing more people into our community and spend dollars in our community which is always our goal,” Dede Mogollon, Executive Director of Meridian/Lauderdale County Tourism.
At the end of the day every piece of knowledge learned will help build local community character and help community leaders contribute to the creative economy and the quality of life.
A mural greets residents and guests at the mouth of Main Street in Water Valley, Mississippi.
Photo by Jeff McVay
Hundreds of them sent blue collar working men and women flocking to the Houston area to cash in… literally. Jobs were plentiful and paid well, so why not? Boom Town – as Houston became known – had arrived.
Lafayette County already has its version of Houston (Oxford) and we swell and relax as the seasons change and as our UM students dictate. But what about our neighboring counties: Yalobusha, Marshall, Tate, Lee or Panaloa?
Well, one for sure – Yalobusha County – has firmly established itself as a North Mississippi Boom Town over the past two or three years, an undebatable fact as the small town of Water Valley and its fewer than 4,000 residents have rolled up their sleeves and plunged the area into a revitalization and restoration blitz.
The vigorous downtown development mission (Water Valley Main Street Association) perpetually works to improve the area, spur economic development and provide a plethora of entertainment opportunities for residents and its cousins from the north (Oxford).
Art (and music) seem to be the conceptual themes with numerous studios and music venues popping up around the downtown area: Yalobusha Brewing Co., Bozarts, Yalo Studios and Gallery and Rip it Up (the newest studio in the Valley which is owned and operated by Oxford-based musicians Tyler Keith and Laurie Stirratt). Water Valley conveniently packages all of its art-themed residents and businesses into an annual event – an Art Crawl – which features approximately 20 “art studios” and 40 individual artists within walking distance of the downtown area.
Down the street from the galleries, new dining and drinking establishments have popped up as well.
The extremely popular Crawdad Hole (restaurant) opened in 2011 and features seafood and Cajun and Creole foods, definite favorites anywhere you venture in North Mississippi. The restaurant is handsomely housed in a former gas station and features boiled crawfish, shrimp, po’ boys, and – best of all – Yalo brew. The Crawdad Hole is open Thursday-Sunday and can be found on Facebook where they post weekly specials and other gems.
Ah… and what can you say about Yalobusha Brewing Co. that hasn’t already been said? AMAZING comes to mind – and delicious.
The production brewery – North Mississippi’s first, opened in 2013 in the vintage Hendricks Machine Shop – has now branched out into their version of a casual music venue complete with the flow of gallons of Yalo brew as well as North Mississippi’s best country, rock, bluegrass and blues music. The event – titled Brewery Tours Tasting and Tunes – has been a regular staple for just over a month, but is already being known as THE thing to do on a Friday evening in North Mississippi. Yalobusha Brewing Co. is located at 102 Main Street in Water Valley. Visit YaloBrew.com for more information.
Yalobusha Brewing Co. features ‘Brewery Tours Tasting and Tunes’ Friday evenings at 6 .
Photo courtesy of Yalobusha Brewing Co.
Alexe Van Beuren (left) and chef Dixie Grimes spearhead the day-to-day operation of B.T.C. Grocery in Water Valley.
B.T.C. Old Fashioned Grocery on Main Street is yet another Water Valley jewel that must be seen… as well as tasted (see photos and video below). The establishment, owned and operated by Coughlin’s wife Alexe Van Beuren and business partner/co-owner/chef Dixie Grimes, experienced humble beginnings in 2010 after a massive restoration effort, showcasing fresh produce and other basic staples supplied by nearby farmers. Today – while it still features fresh, local produce (some of which is donated by amiable Water Valley farmers… just because) – the iconic grocery has added hearty breakfasts and plate lunches to its repertoire including soups and sandwiches made to order by chef Grimes and staff. Need a vintage adding machine or Polaroid camera? Yep… you can find those in the iconic “grocery” store as well (along with other amazing relics and antiques from a humble North Mississippi bygone era). Just go and you’ll see for yourself because these written words can’t possibly do the place justice.
Kagan Coughlin (left) chats with Kevin Guyer at B.T.C. Old Fashioned Grocery on Wednesday, Jan. 26.
Photo by Jeff McVay
Reaching deep into its versatile genre art bag, Water Valley Main Street attracts history buffs in droves to the Water Valley Casey Jones Railroad Museum located across the street from the Yalobusha Brewing Co. Housed on the site of the former Illinois Central Railroad Depot, the museum is open Thursday-Saturday from 2-4 p.m.
Economically, The Valley is also booming. Even though the town is considered by many to be a community possessing a “quite charm,” it also attracts those who are interested in the purchase of affordable housing as real estate prices average far below those in Oxford (only a short 20 miles north).
Coughlin and Van Beuren have also embraced the real estate facet of the revival, opening the Blu-Buck Mercantile Hotel, Water Valley. These refurbished 2-floor studio-type apartments feature high planked ceilings (no popcorn on these babies), central (digital) heat and air, and ancient wooden floors perfect for young families, seasonal guests or even UM students willing to commute to Oxford. Again, the difference (other than a 20-minute commute) is a price tag that is fraction of what townhomes in Lafayette County (and more specifically, Oxford) go for these days. And, Coughlin says that your pups are welcome (unless – as in my case – that pup is a 200-pound Great Dane). “I’ll have to give that a little more thought,” Coughlin said.
Jobs and careers in the township are plentiful, fueled by such entities as BorgWarner manufacturing plant, Water Valley Poultry, Valley Tool, Mechanics Bank and Yalobusha General Hospital & Nursing Home, and of course, the Water Valley School District led by Dr. Michael McInnis.
New to the economic boom in Water Valley, Base Camp Coding Academy entered the picture last year and was founded by Glen Evans and (who else?) Kagan Coughlin. HottyToddy.com will pick apart the new academy in an forthcoming feature as it gets closer to opening its doors to a new generation of high school graduates.
An ambitious date of June 1 is planned by Base Camp Coding Academy to begin training the newest wave of coders expected to be released on Mississippi after an intense year of training.
Base Camp Coding Academy is headquartered directly above B.T.C. Grocery in Water Valley.
Photo by Jeff McVay
“Water Valley is a place where folks are excited to welcome new people and pull them into the community,” Coughlin said. “If you want to start something here, it can be shocking to see the amount of support and well-wishing you receive. People genuinely want you to succeed because they’re nice, and because there’s a core feeling that everyone wants what’s best for the community, and they appreciate you for contributing.”
Kagan Coughlin and Kevin Guyer chat at B.T.C. Grocery in Water Valley on Wednesday, Jan. 27.
Photo by Jeff McVay
Well done, Mr. Coughlin. That about sums it up.
To infinity and beyond, Water Valley.
NEW MEMBERS ELECTED TO MISS. MAIN STREET BOARD OF DIRECTORS
JACKSON, Miss. -- Three new members have been elected to the Mississippi Main Street Association (MMSA) Board of Directors.
Ed Gardner, Jr., Director of Business and Economic Development of Entergy in Jackson and Keith A. Williams, Mississippi Regional President of Hancock Bank in Gulfport have both been elected to the state board.
Also, Jennifer Gregory, Chief Executive Officer of the Greater Starkville Development Partnership in Starkville has been elected by fellow MMSA Directors to serve as the 2016-2017 Directors' Representative on the state board.
Gardner recently joined Entergy Mississippi as the Director of Economic Development. He came to Entergy from PowerSouth Energy Cooperative where he worked for five years as the economic development representative for Northwest Florida. Prior to joining PowerSouth, Gardner worked as Vice President of Economic Development and Workforce at the Birmingham Business Alliance in Birmingham, Ala. Gardner also has more than 13 years of local economic development experience with the City of Auburn, Ala. and Pell City, Ala.
Williams serves as Mississippi Regional President for Hancock Bank where he is responsible for all lines of business in the state. He joined Hancock Bank in 1987 and has held a number of management positions through the years. He is President of the Gulfport Planning Commission, serves on the Executive Leadership Team of the American Heart Association and the Board of Directors of the Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic. He also serves on the Board of Directors of the Gulf Coast Carnival Association, the Revelers Carnival Association and is President of the Bayou Bluff Tennis Club. He is a graduate of Leadership Mississippi, Leadership Gulf Coast and the Gulf Coast Business Council's Master's Program.
Gregory is the CEO of the Greater Starkville Development Partnership (GSDP) in Starkville. The combination of Gregory's event planning experience and professional experience in marketing has led to a new approach to the tourism program at the GSDP, since joining the organization in 2009. Working with a team to create successful events like Pumkinpalooza and Starkville Restaurant Week has provided Starkville with unprecedented notoriety and publicity in print and online media outlets. Because of the growth of the Starkville CVB and the creation of the Starkville Main Street Association, tourism spending in Starkville has increased 50 percent in five years.
Gregory joins Lori Tucker, Executive Director of Baldwyn Main Street Chamber who is serving through 2016 as Directors' Representative on the board.
Directors' Representatives serve two-year terms and represent the 51 Main Street programs in Mississippi on the state board.
The MMSA board is made up of a statewide group of business, government and community leaders. The 2016 MMSA Board of Directors are as follows:
Board President Suzanne Smith, Renasant Bank; President-elect Matthew McLaughlin of Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz P.C.; Treasurer Joey Hudnall of Neel-Schaffer; Past President Mark Loughman of Mississippi Power; Allison Beasley, Southern Mississippi Planning and Development; Hilary Burroughs, Sanderson Farms, Inc.; Steve Kelly, Board Member Emeritus; Mayor Chip Johnson, City of Hernando; Keith A. Williams, Hancock Bank; Ed Gardner, Entergy; Jennifer Gregory, Greater Starkville Development Partnership; Lori Tucker, Baldwyn Main Street Chamber; Katie Blount, Mississippi Department of Archives and History; Leland Speed, EastGroup/Parkway Properties; Jim West, College of Architecture, Art and Design at Mississippi State University; Glenn McCullough of the Mississippi Development Authority; Ken P'Pool, Mississippi Department of Archives and History; John Poros, The Carl Small Town Center at Mississippi State University; and Joy Foy of the Mississippi Development Authority.
The Mississippi Main Street Association is a program of the National Main Street Center, Inc., and the Mississippi Development Authority with many allied partners and investors. Main Street is an economic development program based in historic preservation. The mission of the Mississippi Main Street Association is to provide visionary leadership, guidance and counsel to Mississippi Main Street communities through organization, promotion, design and economic development to make our cities and towns better places to work, live and play.
From Staff Reports | Posted: Sunday, January 24, 2016 4:05 am
Comparing this corner in downtown Meridian to its Google Map image from June 2013 shows one dramatic improvement to the srea. The thousands of people who pass the corner daily are seeing signs of life instead of a kicked-in, boarded-up door.
Meridian Main Street looks back at 2015, forward to 2016
There was a lot of change and growth in downtown Meridian in 2015. With the improvements, there were some growing pains, such as ongoing road work, but those temporary inconveniences were offset by new businesses and activity pointing to even more growth, according to Karen Rooney, executive director of Meridian Main Street.
At its 2015 annual meeting, the organization announced 40 new privilege licenses were granted in 2014 and more than $8 million was invested by property owners.
By the end of 2015, there were façade enhancements, complete building restorations and new 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 new year shows promise of even more downtown growth, with plans for 16 buildings, according to Rooney.
According to figures published by Mississippi Main Street, Meridian Main Street is just one of 51 Main Street organizations, but Meridian garnered 12.5% of net new businesses and 10% of all building renovations.
"These numbers indicate Meridian, along with Meridian Main Street, are setting and achieving goals for the revitalization of downtown," Rooney said. “Meridian has been blessed with locals like Tommy Dulaney and the Mississippi Art and Entertainment Experience board, who have championed the $44 million world class cultural experience; as well as local developers, such as Tim Allred and Mitch and Kristin Marshal, who have been willing to invest their money into revitalizing our beautiful old buildings," Rooney added.
"We also have long time business owners such as LaBiche Jewelers and Meridian Underground Music who have made significant investments in their property," Rooney said. "We have a Community Development Department that has been helping to overcome obstacles as, opposed to create obstacles to development. We also have a great tourism department that is actively promoting Meridian to potential visitors. In addition, 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."
Another example that points to a downtown on the rebound is the attendance and participation in events put on by the organization, Rooney said.
“Our annual Mardi Gras celebration was bigger than ever for 2015, bringing thousands to downtown," Debby Delshad, the program manager for Meridian Main Street, said.
"In addition to people and pet parades, live music, a Mardi Gras store and gumbo and chili cook off, in 2015, we added an art education component for elementary school kids featuring the creation of Mardi Gras shoe box floats. The theme of the floats had to match up with literary works they were studying in school."
This year, Mardi Gras is set for Feb. 6, and Delshad hopes that particiapation tops last year's event.
Other events like Earth’s Bounty, Candy Crawl, Kid’s Art Crawl, and the Just Start It! Entrepreneurs series held in 2015 drew not just Meridian natives but people from neighboring counties and states.
Earth’s Bounty provided a venue for 30 vendors to sell their goods and brought in about $75,000 in sales dollars for these vendors.
Downtown has also been the setting for many other large events that bring in thousands of dollars and people, according to Rooney.
Those events include the State Games of Mississippi, the Jimmie Rodgers Festival, the Hwy 59/20 festival, and the Mini Maker Faire at Soulé Steam Feed Works.
Big year planned
Looking ahead into 2016, Rooney says there are many projects already underway that show that the growth in Meridian will continue.
She pointed to the strategic development plan for a proposed Meridian Health District unveiled in December.
“This will be a very positive change for Meridian, linking the hospital district with the commercial district.” she said.As well as construction, Rooney said there are some favorite events that are returning in 2016.
The Meridian Mini-Maker Faire is predicted to triple in size in May, and Meridian Main street will again host a Downtown Residential Workshop this spring to encourage upper floor apartment and residential living development.
To learn more about Meridian Main Street and find additional information about the upcoming Meridian Mardi Gras, visit www.meridianmainstreet.com.
Looking Ahead at Meridian Main Street
On Jan. 7, developer John Tampa received the keys to the Threefoot Building, and has reached out to the MSU-Riley Center to work with them to build on the common ground they share as residents of downtown Meridian.
Another high profile project, according to Rooney, is the Thrash Building, which has been renovated into a bridal store for Faulkenbery’s, which opened this month.
Other active projects that will make significant contributions to downtown Meridian, according to Rooney, include:
• Construction has begun on the Mississippi Arts and Entertainment Experience.
• During 2015, Tim Hester purchased the 78,000 sq. ft. Hulett building, which had been empty for five years. This new business has plans to include an event venue space and ultimately a boutique hotel.
• The Kress building, which has been empty for 30 years, will be finished with renovations this fall and will house the new MSU-Meridian Kinesiology program, house teaching labs, research labs, offices, classrooms, new technology and another library.
• Mitch and Kristen Marshall will be opening 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.
• The Trustmark building is receiving a $1.5 million facelift. According to Jay Adcock, the 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.
• The Bellsouth Building is being developed into 27 luxury apartments and will be available in about a year.
• Meridian Underground Music is celebrating 20 years by doubling the size of its store and 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.
• The Pigford Building is being renovated into "The Venue."
• The old Downtown Club, The Rainer, The Bible Book Store and the McKee glass buildings have been purchased with plans to be announced soon.
• A group of locals have been working with the Mississippi Children’s Museum to bring a children’s museum to downtown.