Start Small — Do Big: The Power of Baby Steps

The Power of Baby Steps

The Laurel Mercantile has a fantastic print and now a mug with the uplifting saying, “We have the POWER to do this.”  This phrase was coined by the director of the HGTV series, Home Town, during their first summer of filming in sweltering South Mississippi.  However, this phrase can be applied to anything.  We like to apply this winning saying to our efforts as a Main Street America Accredited organization.  

What started as a small, grass-roots movement to bring back Laurel’s downtown to its former glory has become a booming trend!  It didn’t happen overnight or even over a year, but with a series of small, incremental improvements, these efforts provided momentum for long-term economic transformation and improved quality of life in our community.  In the world of small towns and Main Street organizations this is referred to as “incrementalism.” Incrementalism is not flashy.  It’s several small changes that take place over a period of time… like a domino chain reaction in slow motion. 

Incremental Work

For decades, the community and economic development field was hooked on what Patrice Frey, President & CEO of the National Main Street Center calls the “silver-bullet solution.” Shrinking budgets sent city leaders on a search for the “one big thing” that would transform their local economy, whether it was a big new commercial development, a pedestrian mall, or a convention center on the outskirts of town.  Those of you who lived in Laurel through Urban Renewal will definitely remember the development of all these things.  However, through years of research, we have learned that what our town has is much more important than what it’s missing.  By focusing on what sets our community apart from others, Laurel Main Street, together with the City of Laurel and our partners, has been able to restore a thriving city center in downtown.

One of the special things about being part of Main Street America is that we aren’t doing this incremental work alone. We rely on a national network of partners and supporters.  We are incredibly thankful for our city leaders for creating the environment for success by adding wayfinding signage,  improving our streets, adding lighting, bike paths, ad valorem tax credits and continuing to work toward improving city services that businesses rely on.

Some would say that a town’s exports are the measure of its success, but at Laurel Main Street we believe it’s the people, not the products that are the heart of our town’s success story. These small steps and small victories have provided Laurel residents with an optimism about the future, a true sense of community pride, and a productive spirit of unity.  We consider that a true success story.

Mississippi Main Street Annual Awards

Rescue, Renovation, and Rewards

In 2013, the old Laurel WAML radio station photos were displayed at a Mississippi Main Street Association meeting on design. A re-use project idea for the building stumped the panel and demolition seemed to be the best option.

Thankfully, Kenny and Carrie Mann came forward with a creative vision that no one else could have imaged — a microbrewery in downtown Laurel.  Kenny is a former maritime chief engineer with 13 years of sea time.  His wife, Carrie, is a long time employee of the Laurel School District.  They were experienced home brewers with the dream of someday opening their own brewery.  In April 2015, the couple purchased the unsightly building and started on the repairs.  After months of renovations, painting, and product tests, Slowboat Brewing Company held its first tour that December.  The conversion of this property has allowed a new business to become a thriving success and a welcome addition for places to go and things to do in downtown Laurel.

On Thursday, June 15, 2017, The Manns were recognized by the Mississippi Main Street Association for their Outstanding Adaptive Reuse Project.  This award is granted to the best reuse of a building that has outlived its former use.

Pictured L-R: Carrie and Kenny Mann, Judi Holifield (Laurel Main Street Executive Director), Truitt Taylor (Laurel Main Street Board Member), and Larkin Simpson (VP at Economic Development Authority of Jones County)

 

Something to Celebrate

The Manns are active craft beer advocates and are involved in the Mississippi craft beer community.  Their passion for their craft draws people into their brewery.  The live music, games, friendly atmosphere, and great beer keep the crowds coming.  On July 1st, Slowboat will celebrate another milestone — the ability to actually sell their beer on premises!  House Bill 1322 allows Mississippi breweries that produce no more than 60,000 barrels of light beer or wine per year to sell up to two cases of their product per day per customer.  Patrons of Slowboat Brewing Company will not only enjoy on-site beer sales, but also growler fills, multiple new beers, specialty casks, food trucks, and plenty of live music.

Slowboat’s main focus is small batch artisan styles, including Farmhouse, Sour, Spontaneously fermented wild ales, Belgian style, Barrel-aged, experimental ales, and an ever evolving collection of popular American craft beer styles.

 

The Market Beautiful is Coming to The City Beautiful!

Attention shoppers: this is something you won’t want to miss!  The Market Beautiful is bringing their award-winning show to town!  Over 80 vendors, both local and out-of-state, will line Front Street this weekend with fabulous vintage finds and handmade merchandise.  Local stores and merchants will be open as well, and some will even extend their store hours.

The Market Beautiful started in a garage in 2010 with 5 vendors and has grown to shows in 5 states with over 100 vendors and 5,000 attendees on average at each show. This marks their first show in the south and we can’t wait to shower them with our southern hospitality!  Jana Roach and Vanessa Pleasants work full-time to bring an amazing and unique experience to customers, along with the most wonderfully curated vintage finds! In between markets, Jana and Vanessa run their blog and manage their online community via Instagram which has grown to nearly 100,000 dedicated and engaged followers.  Jana and Vanessa carefully select and curate vendors for each show to ensure shoppers are treated to the very best of the best.  Many vendors travel with them because of the success they’ve seen. They truly care about their vendors and customers alike, as well as keeping the show fresh, exciting, and unique!

There will be something for everyone at The Market Beautiful.  Enjoy live music from Tasche De La Rocha, food trucks and sweet/cold treats, coffee, and free kids activities.  Laurel’s own Clairmont & Company will have a kids craft area and Six Point Furniture will present a workshop.  Erin and Ben Napier, hosts of HGTV’s Home Town, will help kick off the inaugural market with a meet and greet too.  The Market Beautiful also offers prizes for the first 50 in line and a lot more!

The Market Beautiful (formerly Vintage Whites) has been named one of the top 4 markets in the United States and voted a top 5 not-to-miss market by Country Living Magazine!

Enjoy the market on Friday night, June 9th for early shopping night. Early shopping tickets are $25 and include a free drink and admission for Saturday! Early shopping night is a more leisurely shopping experience and you get first pick at the merchandise!  Vendors restock on Saturday morning and gates open at 10 AM for general admission. The market goes until 5 PM and is free for kids 12 and under! 

Downtown Thursdays – Central Sunbelt Summer Series

Summers in Downtown Laurel have something for everyone and this year is sure to be the best yet!

The Downtown Farmers Market

It all kicks off on Thursday, June 1st at 3:30 with the Farmers Market.  This event allows fruit and vegetable producers, local artists, crafters and cooks to bring their delightful and delicious creations directly to the public.  If you want to sample the best of homemade, handcrafted, and homegrown products, stop by and see everything this event has to offer.Get there early and get a cool cup of fresh blueberry lemonade to enjoy while you shop!  We will also host an assortment of food trucks!  The Farmers Market is located at the end of 5th Avenue in the residual parking surrounding the Jones County War Memorial. The pedestrian brick path between Library Street and Carroll Gartin Blvd., specifically.

The Laurel Farmers Market opens each Thursday in June from 3:30 p.m. – 7 p.m.

For more information on how you can participate in the Farmers Market, click here.

Downtown Movie Night

Agape Church is also producing the Downtown Movie Night again this year! Every night after the Farmers Market, Movie Night will host hundreds of Laurelites for FREE family friendly movies. With an assortment of vendors selling food and drinks, this is a night for the whole family to enjoy!

Agape Church, in partnership with Coca-Cola of Laurel and B&C Welding and Fabrication, proudly announce the Coca-Cola Fireworks Show on June 1st in Historic Downtown Laurel! This event is ABSOLUTELY FREE so plan on arriving early to get a good space in our new location, The Backlot at Magnolia Street! The fireworks show is scheduled to start at approximately 8:15pm followed by the showing of Disney’s MOANA. Various snacks, food, drinks, Downtown Movie Night T-Shirts and raffle tickets for a custom made, gas, granite top fire pit (valued at $1600) will be available for purchase that night as well. For more information and movie schedule check out the Downtown Movie Night website www.WeAreLaurel.com.

We are so appreciative of the generous sponsorship from Central Sunbelt Federal Credit Union!

Downtown Home Town Celebration

Join us on Tuesday, May 23rd in Downtown Laurel as we celebrate the season finale of Home Town on HGTV and toast to the upcoming second season!  The homeowners from Season 1 will be in attendance for a meet and greet.  Don’t miss this opportunity to welcome your newest neighbors!

Due to inclement weather, the screening of the show will be held at the Laurel Little Theatre.  Doors to the theatre will open at 8:30 p.m. and the show will begin at 9:00 p.m.  Be sure to check our Facebook page for a complete list of downtown merchants who will be open late!

Many thanks to our generous sponsors: BancorpSouth, Magnolia State Bank, Community Bank, First State Bank, and Citizens Bank, and to the Laurel Little Theatre organization for allowing us to use their space when weather threatened the event.