Laurel Main Street Receives 2019 National Main Street Accreditation

Laurel, MS (April 30, 2019)  Laurel Main Street has been designated as an accredited Main Street America™ program for meeting rigorous performance standards set by the National Main Street Center. Each year, the National Main Street Center and its partners announce the list of accredited Main Street America programs to recognize their exemplary commitment to preservation-based economic development and community revitalization through the Main Street Approach™

“We are proud to acknowledge this year’s 840 nationally accredited Main Street America programs that have worked tirelessly to strengthen their communities,”  said Patrice Frey, President & CEO of the National Main Street Center. “These programs deserve recognition for generating impressive economic returns, preserving community character, and celebrating local history. Main Street America Accredited communities are part of a powerful movement of changemakers, and their dedication to improving quality of life in the places they call home is inspiring.

In 2018 alone, Main Street America programs generated $4.93 billion in local reinvestment, helped open 5,310 net new businesses, generated 25,301 net new jobs, catalyzed the rehabilitation of 8,146 historic buildings, and clocked 2.2 million volunteer hours.

The performance of Laurel Main Street is annually evaluated by the Mississippi Main Street Association, which works in partnership with the National Main Street Center to identify the local programs that meet ten national performance standards. Evaluation criteria determines the communities that are building comprehensive and sustainable revitalization efforts and include standards such as fostering strong public-private partnerships, documenting programmatic progress, and actively preserving historic buildings.

Since its inception in 2007, Laurel Main Street has seen over $40 million in private reinvestment in downtown.  In the past three years, Laurel Main Street has awarded nearly $50,000 in façade grants to downtown businesses and welcomed over 34 businesses to downtown Laurel.  The organization looks forward to even more activity in the coming year. 

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ABOUT Laurel Main Street

Since 2007, the focus of Laurel Main Street is the preservation and economic growth of Laurel’s Central Business District, bounded at the north by 5th St., south by Carroll Gartin Boulevard, east by Front Street and west by Leontyne Price Boulevard.

Laurel Main Street is an organization dedicated to the revitalization of Historic Downtown Laurel, made possible by partnership with our members, the City of Laurel, public and private contributors and the Mississippi Main Street Association and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.  LMS is one of 50 certified Main Street Communities in the State of Mississippi.

 

ABOUT MAIN STREET AMERICA

Main Street America has been helping revitalize older and historic commercial districts for more than 35 years. Today, it is a network of more than 1,600 neighborhoods and communities, rural and urban, who share both a commitment to place and to building stronger communities through preservation-based economic development. Since 1980, communities participating in the program have leveraged more than $79.12 billion in new public and private investment, generated 640,017 net new jobs and 143,613 net new businesses, and rehabilitated more than 284,936 buildings. Main Street America is a program of the nonprofit National Main Street Center, a subsidiary of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Laurel Main Street 2018: A Snapshot of Success

For centuries, Main Streets have been the cultural, historic, economic, civic, and emotional hearts of our towns and cities. We’re proud to be part of the movement that brings these things back to life in Laurel!  The Main Street organization was founded upon the principle that sustainable, comprehensive transformation of a downtown or commercial district doesn’t happen overnight or with one “big fix.”  Laurel Main Street has been at work since 2007 to preserve our historic buildings while revitalizing our local economy.  However, the goal of our work goes much deeper than simply creating a beautiful downtown district with businesses and activities to enjoy… We want to provide a solid sense of ownership in the downtown and core commercial district.

Recruiting

Since its inception, Laurel Main Street has been recruiting business owners and private investors to the downtown area.  Because of those efforts, our downtown has seen a private re-investment of over $40 MILLION dollars. When you attend or are an exhibitor at Laurel Main Street events, such as Loblolly Festival or Touch a Truck, you’re directly contributing to the LMS Façade and Amenities Grant fund.  In the past 36 months, Laurel Main Street has awarded $54,556.94 in façade grants to downtown businesses.  The LMS Façade & Amenities grant was created to help downtown business owners refresh and update their buildings.  There have been 19 façade improvements in downtown Laurel in the past two years.  That’s almost one building a month!  Some of the buildings who received a facelift thanks to a LMS Façade & Amenities grant include The Boutique on Central, Mimmo’s, The Loft on Central, and the shops at Sawmill — Quarter Century, Studio R3, Goodness Gracious, Pause Espresso Cafe, and Bella Bella.

Fundraising

Laurel Main Street has raised over $50,000 to improve the downtown area.  The projects are too numerous to list, but here are a few you might have noticed: painted murals on the Laurel-Jones County Library and the Marcus Building, the addition of 15 trash receptacles, 2 bike racks, and 4 pet waste disposal stations, as well as the string lights above the streets.  Through partnerships with MDOT and The City of Laurel, Laurel Main Street was able to add way finding signage downtown to make it more tourist-friendly and walkable.  Thanks to many generous donations to Laurel Main Street, we have been able to clean up and repurpose Trustmark Park into Trustmark Art Park for children and families to enjoy.  We have also assisted in the transformation of the Oak Street Pocket Park into a lovely spot for eating lunch, taking an outdoor break, or just walking through to get downtown!  

Facts

In 2017, Laurel Main Street proposed a Social District Ordinance that would allow patrons to sip & stroll through the streets of downtown Laurel.  We appreciate the Mississippi legislature and The City of Laurel for this ordinance.  The adoption of the Social District Ordinance has increased shopping, dining, and the overall enjoyment of downtown.  We’re more than family fun and festivals. The Main Street movement is the leading voice for economic development and community revitalization of historic districts across the country.

New businesses in downtown Laurel: 34 businesses in 3 years

Apartments in downtown Laurel: 29          Vacancies: 0

Vacant buildings in 2011: 30          Vacant buildings today: 8

Awards and Accolades

Since 2009, Laurel Main Street has racked up 19 Mississippi Main Street Association Downtown Revitalization awards! Did you know that Laurel Main Street has been awarded the Best Adaptive Re-use Project by MMSA three times?  The rehabilitation and reuse of the First National Bank Building, Slowboat Brewing Co., and The Burton Building are shining examples of what the Main Street initiative is all about! Small-scale development and adaptive reuse go hand-in-hand. The creative and curated nature of small-scale developments allows seemingly “unusable” buildings to be repurposed into unique places with entirely new formats that bring unique focus to neighborhoods and add new value.

Laurel Main Street has also been recognized by the MMSA for outstanding capital campaigns, public improvement projects, business retention and recruitment, and overall community transformation, just to name a few!

Appreciation

We are always thankful for the gifts we receive through the generosity of our community.  Leadership Jones County and Future Leaders of Jones County participants have contributed to our downtown in so many meaningful ways!  Thank you for the picnic tables, garbage cans, Imagination Playground, and the beautiful mural at Central Creativity!

The Main Street movement grew out of a recognition that a community is only as strong as its core.  This approach has proven over and over again that a small number of committed people can make a big difference in a community.

As we look forward to the new year, we are filled with excitement over the things to come.  We want you to know that we hear you loud and clear: you want MORE live music, MORE restaurants, and MORE things to do downtown and it’s our goal to continue recruiting reputable business owners who can deliver what you want.  After all, Laurel Main Street succeeds when small business owners succeed.  The future belongs to downtowns!

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.