December Downtown: Bring on the FUN!

There’s no doubt that Downtown Laurel is a special place, but it shines especially bright during the Christmas season.  Whether you’re admiring the meticulously decorated store windows or taking a stroll under the majestic oaks of 5th Avenue, we invite you to breathe in the magic of the holidays.  Laurel Main Street invites you to fill up, hang out, and kick back while you savor the joy of small-town Christmas.

Make Spirits Bright

Art Class at Lauren Rogers Museum of Art — Thursday, December 18th from 3:30 – 5:00 p.m. — Grades K5-6th. Participants will make a variety of handmade Christmas tree ornaments and a Christmas art project. While you’re in the neighborhood, enjoy the charming preserved and restored homes lining Laurel’s brick-paved 5th Avenue.

Enjoy an integrated retail & DIY experience at HAND+made by Clairmont & Co. On Wednesday, December 12th and Saturday, December 22nd you’ll enjoy a special Mom + Me Craft & Story Time.  Looking for a girl’s night out?  Get your friends together for Corks + Crafts on December 14th.

Also on December 14th is Holiday Date Night at The Gift Shop at Oak Street Place.  Have dinner or dessert at Lee’s Coffee and Tea, then shop for Christmas presents! Get 20% off at the Gift Shop with your purchase at Lee’s. Lee’s full menu is available, and we hear it’s board game night, too!

What Fun it is to Ride & Sing

The 2018 Coca-Cola Christmas Truck Tour is making a stop in the City Beautiful again this year! The illuminated vehicle has become a global advertising icon and symbol of holiday happiness since first gracing the TV airwaves nearly two decades ago. The real-life Coca-Cola Christmas Trucks spread holiday cheer throughout Mississippi during the month of December. Once the sun has set, you are invited to enjoy an incredible after-dark experience, as the truck lights up! The Coca-Cola Christmas Truck will be set up on the 400 block of Central Avenue on Thursday, December 20th from 5 p.m. – 8 p.m. Take pictures with the Coca-Cola Christmas Truck and Santa,  and enjoy free giveaways and more!

Contact Sweet Somethings Bakery to book a carriage ride through downtown.

Oh Come, Let Us Adore Him

The First-Trinity Presbyterian Church Chancel Choir will present their annual Lessons & Carols service on Sunday, December 16th at 6:00 p.m. This year’s service will include choral works by Francois Poulenc, Leo Sowerby, Paul Manz, and Mack Wilberg. This is always a wonderful evening of sacred music and childcare is provided.

First Baptist Church of Laurel will present “The Glory of Christmas” with their Celebration Choir & Orchestra, along with a cast of students, children, shepherds, & wise men celebrate.  Performances are scheduled for Saturday, December 15th at 7:00 p.m. and Sunday, December 16th at 6:00 p.m.

The Agape Church offers three opportunities to hear the message of Christmas in music.  Saturday, December 22nd at 6:30 p.m. and Sunday, December 23rd at 10:00 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. The cost is absolutely FREE but, due to limited space, you must reserve your seats.

Discover the Magic of Enchanting Downtown Laurel

On December 21nd, from 5:00 – 9:00 p.m. our downtown merchants will host a very special Christmas after-hours event

HAND+made– Christmas story read every 30 min, refreshments provided, manger scene craft, & discounts in store

Laurel Mercantile & Scotsman General Store– Santa’s workshop

Lott Furniture & Laurel Leaf– Nativity in Maker’s Alley, refreshments provided

Shug’s Cookie Dough & Candy Bar– Gingerbread men cookie decorating kits available for $5

Allie’s on Magnolia– Hot chocolate bar, sales in store

Guild & Gentry– Refreshments provided, live music

Loblolly Boutique & Crescent Line Toys– Glamping in Trustmark Art Park

Adam Trest Home– Discounts in store

Southern Antiques– Photos w/Snoopy, DIY Charlie Brown Christmas Tree

Patina’s– refreshments provided, sales in store

YWCO– Cookies w/ Mrs. Claus

Lee’s Coffee & Tea / Gift Shop at Oak Street Place– Live music featuring Harmonia

Sass & Class Boutique– Reindeer food

Peddlers Junktion– DIY vintage inspired stocking available for $5, door prizes, sales in store

New Look– Snowman ornament craft available for $6

Razme’s Party Supplies– Pictures w/Santa

Cosmic Deli– Special dessert: Christmas cookie cheesecake

Jack & Jill’s Consignment Boutique– OPEN

J Parker– OPEN

The Pearl Diner– OPEN

Sweet Somethings Bakery– OPEN

Pause Coffee & Espresso Bar– OPEN

Boutique on Central– OPEN

The Knight Butcher– OPEN

Bella Bella– OPEN

Fill Up, Hang Out, Kick Back

The Pearl Diner – home cooking that you don’t have to cook at home!  Blue plate lunches are offered Tuesday – Friday beginning at 11:00 a.m.  The Pearl Diner is located on the corner of Oak and Magnolia Streets in the former Burton’s Jewelry building.

The Knight Butcher – Lunch is served at Laurel’s only full-service butcher shop daily from 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.  Be sure to check their Facebook page to see their daily lunch specials.  Stop by Monday – Saturday between 10:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. to pick up gourmet meats, delicious homemade fudge, and The Knight Butcher’s famous jerky!

Lee’s Coffee & Tea – Lee’s is a downtown favorite with gourmet coffees, organic teas, soups, paninis, and more.  Enjoy local art while you rest up from your adventures.  Lee’s is open Monday – Thursday from 7:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 7:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m., and Sundays from NOON – 5:00 p.m.

Sweet Somethings Bakery – This family-owned bakery and ice cream shop on Central Avenue offers something to satisfy everyone’s sweet tooth.  Stop by and get your sugar fix any time Monday – Saturday from 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Shug’s Cookie Dough and Candy Bar – delectable treats to sit and savor or take them to-go are available at Shug’s!  This gourmet cookie dough bar provides sweet treats for all tastes including traditional childhood favorite candies (Jelly Belly! Peach Rings! M&Ms!) to more refined and grown up treats (truffles galore!) all sold by the pound. Shug’s is open Monday – Thursday 10:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m., Friday – Saturday 10:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m., and Sunday 2:00 – 6:00 p.m.

Mimmo’s Ristorante Pizzeria – Laurel’s newest restaurant is open for lunch and dinner!  Enjoy traditional Italian food and wines as well as brick oven pizza.  They’re open Monday – Friday from 11:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m. and Saturdays from 4:00 – 9:00 p.m.

The Loft – The Loft has become a downtown staple and serves dinner Tuesday – Saturday beginning at 5:00 p.m.  Enjoy casual dining with indoor and outdoor seating.  Perfect for groups, children, parties and more.

Slowboat Brewing Company – Slowboat Brewing Company is a brewer owned and family operated micro-brewery in historic downtown Laurel.  Their primary focus is small batch artisan styles, including Farmhouse, Wild, Belgian style, Barrel-aged, experimental ales, and an ever-evolving portfolio of popular American craft beer styles. Stop in for samples, tours, trivia, live music and more! For hours and entertainment lineups, visit them on Facebook or Instagram!

Cafe La Fleur — Café La Fleur is up and running once again!  Stop by to have some of your old favorites or try something new at this locally owned New Orleans style eatery.

More Ways to Make it Merry

Enjoy a day full of Christmas festivities at Landrum’s Country!  The Christmas Candlelight Tour at Landrum’s Country on December 16th is sure to bring out the holiday cheer in all who attend.

We encourage you to enjoy all the locally owned stores and restaurants, make a memory, start a tradition, and most of all, make your holidays merry and bright!

 

 

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The Annual Downtown Laurel Christmas Tree Lighting

If you take a drive around the historic district in the coming weeks, there’s one truth you won’t be able to miss – we love Christmas in Downtown Laurel!

From the shining Christmas trees decorating each home on 6th Avenue, the wreaths lining the streets of downtown and our favorite display of all, the City of Laurel’s official Christmas tree in Pinehurst Park.  It’s clear that we celebrate our favorite season like no one else, and nothing says Christmas in Laurel more than the official lighting of the city Christmas tree.  We would love for you to celebrate this Christmas tradition with us!

The 2018 Laurel Christmas Tree Lighting

Thursday, November 29th | beginning at 5:30 PM

Sponsored by BancorpSouth, the City of Laurel and Laurel Main Street

5:30 p.m. – First Baptist Church of Laurel Children’s Choirs — Jonathan & Cindy McKenzie, Directors

5:45 p.m. – Students of Laurel Music Lessons – Alexis Frenette & Joshua Rooks, Directors

6:00 p.m. – Laurel High School Concert Choir – LaTisha Hamilton, Director

The official welcome will be delivered by Lew Yoder, president of Laurel Main Street, followed by a special greeting by Mayor Johnny Magee. Soon after, the park will spring to life as Seth Assink, President of BancorpSouth, lights our beloved Downtown Christmas Tree.

After the tree lighting, enjoy the festivities at the Laurel-Jones County Library Open House. Bring the kids to meet Santa, enjoy arts and crafts, and free refreshments.

Many of our downtown merchants will extend their hours for this event so be sure to stick around, shop awhile, and enjoy a stroll under the lights of beautiful downtown Laurel.

Legacy & Leadership: SouthGroup Insurance

SouthGroup Insurance Services is celebrating their 100th anniversary this year. According to a Bloomberg report, 80% of businesses fail in the first 18 months. We admire their longevity and are pleased to share their story.  The following is an interview with Laurel Branch President, Brad Kent.

What is SouthGroup Insurance Services?

SouthGroup Insurance Services is a full-service independent insurance agency.  At our core, SouthGroup provides Property & Casualty and Life & Health insurance to businesses and individuals from a vast array of insurance carriers.  However, from the perspective of a business philosophy, we are actively engaged in helping businesses and families assess and manage the risks they face in everyday life.  Our mission is to manage risk and build personal relationships and partnerships in an environment of trust, integrity, teamwork and stability.

How did SouthGroup Insurance Services begin?

The story of SouthGroup, while unique, is a familiar story of business evolution like many family owned American businesses.  We take great pride in the fact that we have been a locally owned and operated company for 4+ generations. 

Our agency has a very long history in Laurel, as we are currently celebrating our 100th birthday.  In fact, we have continually served the people of Laurel and Jones County for 100 years.  Our earliest roots date back to 1918 with the formation of the Graves, Lindsey & McLaurin agency which was located in the Pinehurst Hotel. In 1929 the business moved into our current location on Central Avenue in downtown Laurel. 

CT Ferrell

SouthGroup Insurance – C.T. Ferrill Building – Central Avenue

My great grandfather, John H. Jones, grew up in Clinton, Iowa, as did several of Laurel’s oldest families.  After a successful career as a publisher in Chicago, he ultimately moved to Laurel and opened the John H. Jones Insurance Agency whose first offices were also in the Pinehurst Hotel.  Both Graves, Lindsey & McLaurin and John H. Jones continued successful independent operations in downtown Laurel until 1983 when a merger created Graves, Lindsey, McLaurin & Jones (GLMJ).  At that time, the companies were operated by Russell Lindsey and my grandfather, Irwin “Skinny” Bradford.

My grandfather died not long after the merger.  That’s when my father, Charles Kent, took over as the 3rd generation to lead the agency.  GLMJ continued success and consistent growth over the next 30 years.  However, times change and industries evolve.  Like many industries, market conditions over the last 20 years have changed and driven consolidation within the independent insurance industry. 

SouthGroup Insurance Services was first conceived in 2000 by a select group of insurance agency professionals from 12 of Mississippi’s leading insurance agencies.  These agencies, widely recognized as industry leaders by their peers, convened to consider the challenges facing successful agencies and the solutions to these challenges that would enable them to offer an incomparable level of service to their clients.  Those solutions were the genesis of SouthGroup.

On January 1, 2002, with the official merger completed, those 12 original agencies began operating under the SouthGroup banner with corporate offices in Ridgeland. 

Today SouthGroup is the largest independent insurance agency in Mississippi with offices in 22 locations.  SouthGroup is also 1 of 2 agencies on Insurance Journal’s list of Top 100 Privately-held Agencies in the United States.

However, the unique quality that SouthGroup possesses compared with other large agencies is our “Main Street approach”.  Rather than consolidating all of our offices, SouthGroup has continued operating in each location.  This validates our strong belief in the importance of building close, personal relationships with our clients, and serving our local community. 

How do you think SouthGroup will be different 5 years from now? 

SouthGroup’s plans are to continue to grow.  Like most businesses, technology is changing the way that we operate. Whether it’s internal technologies to make our business work more efficiently, utilizing social media platforms to engage the community or transacting business online, technology is changing our business all the time. Today SouthGroup operates “in the cloud” and strives to be as paperless as possible.  I predict that we will continue to embrace technology, and therefore it will promote change that presents challenges, but also leads to increased profitability.

Who do you want people to know about your services? 

First and foremost, we offer a valuable service to anyone that purchases insurance.  As an independent agency, we do not work for a single insurance company.  We offer choice, and choice is a vital necessity to promote competition, which leads to value. 

More specifically, SouthGroup remains the dominant business insurer in Laurel and Jones County.  Whether you are a sole proprietor, or you operate a large enterprise, SouthGroup has the products and services to compete for your business.  This includes general liability, commercial property, worker’s compensation, commercial auto and more.  Our clients range from small “mom and pop” businesses to several of the largest employers in Jones County.

What is your best advice for those looking to participate in the growth, revitalization and restoration of Downtown Laurel?  Our goal as Laurel Main Street is to support our existing businesses and recruit new ones. Why should people want to be a part of Downtown? What have you learned that can help that person on the verge of making the decision to start his or her own legacy as a downtown business?

I am a staunch believer in strengthening from your inner core.  Whenever I travel, I am always looking for a downtown area, and I judge the vibrancy of a community on the look and feel I get from the downtown area. Because of this, what is good for downtown Laurel, is good for all of Jones County.  As downtown Laurel continues to flourish, this will lead to increased tourism and economic development, which in turn will provide a higher quality of life for our local families and businesses.  My recommendation to everyone is that they get involved.  This may be as simple as volunteering, or as complex as purchasing downtown property and starting a new business.  While it seems that downtown Laurel is reaching critical mass, I believe that this could be just the beginning of something much more substantial for our community. This requires involvement at every level – families, entrepreneurs, the business community and local government must be in lockstep if we want to take downtown Laurel to the next level.

#ShopSmall with Us on Small Business Saturday – November 24th

The #ShopSmall Movement is Coming to The City Beautiful!

On November 24th, the Saturday after Thanksgiving, we will celebrate Small Business Saturday.

For decades we’ve rushed off to the big chain stores on Black Friday to crowd the aisles in search of that one great deal, or this year’s must-have Christmas toy.

Sometimes, in the excitement of it all, we forget that some of our most enjoyable shopping experiences can be found at a local shop, far from the hustle and bustle of the crowded department stores.

Small business owners pour their hearts into every detail of their business.  They strive to create an enjoyable and unforgettable shopping experience for their guests.  Now it’s time to celebrate these entrepreneurs who put so much love into every detail of their business and the experiences they provide for their customers.  

Be a Part of the #ShopSmall Movement

On November 24th businesses all over Downtown Laurel will not only open their doors, but will welcome shoppers with special events, giveaways, promotions and more! 

Business owners, As a Laurel Main Street member your business can join the #shopsmall movement and receive the attention of our nationwide audience as well as customized promotional tools and tips. You don’t have to be a Main Street member to participate, but we’d love to have you as a part of our #shopsmall team.

Shoppers, do you believe in supporting small businesses?  The #shopsmall movement is a great way for you to support local entrepreneurs while enjoying a unique shopping experience. The effect of an event like Small Business Saturday has a direct impact on the goals and dreams of local folks just like you. When you support Laurel’s small business owners, you’re telling them that you appreciate the work they are doing to further our city’s growth, and that you believe in them. So invite friends to shop with you.  Share your shopping experiences on social media using the hashtag #shopsmall.  Let small business owners know you value their efforts.     

Why #ShopSmall?

The impact of an event like Small Business Saturday can’t be limited to a tally of a single day’s sales, or a list of great deals. The value of an event like this represents something much bigger — an appreciation and support of small business owners, and the impact on the local economy.

Small businesses help communities thrive.  There are 252,019 small businesses operating in Mississippi.  They make up 99.3% of all businesses in our state.  Small businesses in Mississippi created over 5,000 new jobs in 2014 alone.  That means that almost half of all employees in the state of Mississippi work for a small business.  Small businesses help ensure local economies stay strong and vibrant.  When small businesses succeed, we all do.

Consider this: When you spend $100 at a locally-owned small business, $68 stays in the local economy. Compare that to the same $100 spent at a chain store where only $43 remains locally. With the average American shopper likely to spend over $684 on holiday gifts this year, shopping at independent businesses in your hometown has the potential to make a major impact on the health of the local economy.

As the official Neighborhood Champion for Laurel’s Small Business Saturday, Laurel Main Street has worked to bring together an incredible group of local retailers who are ready to welcome you during the November 24th event!

So join us on Small Business Saturday to get great deals, find some incredible and unique local gifts, and enjoy a fun shopping experience, but, most importantly – to support the folks who are trying to make a difference for our city!

Small Business Saturday is a national initiative aimed at helping local businesses compete during the critical holiday shopping season and aims to drive shoppers to local small merchants the Saturday following Thanksgiving. In 2017, an estimated 108 million consumers reported shopping or dining at local independently-owned businesses on Small Business Saturday — generating roughly $12 billion in reported spending. Join the movement and shop local on November 24th this year! 

#ShopSmall #ShopLocal #ShopLaurel

‘This the Season to Shop Local in Laurel!

For as long as I, or anyone else can remember, the merchants of Downtown Laurel have held their Christmas Open House on the first Sunday of November.  This serves as the perfect preview for a much newer movement, Small Business Saturday.  With more than 20 places to shop, browse, and eat in the walkable downtown area, this year’s Christmas Open House is sure to provide something for everyone on your shopping list!  Bring your friends and family and support our local businesses this holiday season!

Christmas Open House Details

Most downtown merchants and retailers will be open from 12-5 p.m. on Sunday, November 4th for the Annual Christmas Open House.  However, it is up to each individual retailer to set their own hours for this event, so if there’s a shop you don’t want to miss, be sure to check with them for their hours.

The Importance of Shopping Local

We’ve heard it stated time and again that local businesses are the backbone of a community, and indeed, they are.  Small businesses, locally owned and operated, are an integral part of our community. According to the American Independent Business Alliance, “Independent, local businesses employ an array of supporting services by “buying locally” themselves. They hire architects, designers, cabinet shops, sign makers and contractors for construction. Local accountants, insurance brokers, computer consultants, attorneys, advertising agencies help run it. Local retailers and distributors also carry a higher percentage of locally-produced goods than chains, meaning more jobs for local producers.” Sounds a lot like Laurel, right?

Research reports show that for every dollar spent at a local business, 3.5 dollars are recirculated into the local economy, which creates more local jobs. Money spent at a chain retailer often doesn’t leave that chain retailer, as they outsource most of their products and services.

When you shop locally, you get to know the people behind the business and you enjoy a connection you would not otherwise have. Our local businesses give our community its flavor. The combined presence of our town’s many local businesses makes it different from every other city in the world. By supporting those businesses instead of chains, you help preserve the uniqueness our community.  Local businesses define our sense of place, and their survival depends on our patronage.  So this holiday season, we urge you to SHOP LOCAL in LAUREL.