MMSA Downtown Revitalization Awards: Main Street Hero

The Mississippi Main Street Association‘s award for Main Street Hero recognizes one outstanding community leader or public figure who has displayed an involved commitment to downtown and his or her Main Street program.  On June 21, 2018, Mallorie Rasberry received this honor at the annual MMSA Downtown Revitalization Awards in Jackson, MS. The following narrative was written by Ethan Davis and was submitted to the Mississippi Main Street judges panel.

Mallorie Main Street Hero

Main Street Hero

There are people who are dedicated volunteers and passionate advocates for their towns. They are at almost every event and are valued. You give them awards to show your appreciation and thank them constantly for their service.

Then, there are people who have been there since the beginning, are at every event, and you never get the opportunity to thank them because, if you did, you’d never be able to stop. There are people without whom the success of the organization is immediately called into question. That, ladies and gentlemen, is Mallorie Rasberry.

Mallorie is a wife and mother, an accountant, a business owner, and perhaps the single greatest advocate for Downtown Laurel, Mississippi on the face of the planet. She started out on the Promotions Committee and has served in nearly every officer position on the Laurel Main Street board in her 8 years with the organization. She has acted as de facto treasurer for most of her tenure on the LMS board and has seen a fair number of sunrises while volunteering. Mallorie and her husband, Jim, generously offered the space for the Laurel Welcome Center and storage for the plethora of signs and shirts LMS always has on hand. She welcomes visitors to Laurel daily and now shares the Laurel Main Street story nationally on HGTV’s Hometown.

The list of reasons why Mallorie is a hero to Laurel Main Street can fill pages, but it all emanates from her sincere belief that Downtown Laurel is a place worth saving. That belief is what keeps her feet moving toward the goal of a fully vibrant and restored Laurel. She feels so strongly about this that she is part of the group that spoke at the closing session of the National Main Street Conference about what a Downtown Comeback was all about.Mallorie Downtown Comeback Mallorie could have left Laurel Main Street; after all, she had plenty of other things vying for her time. But, she chose to stay in the trenches and fight every day. She chose to do whatever she could whenever she could to bring her hometown back. Not many people would stick around for almost 10 years, running most of that time on hope and coffee, but Mallorie did.

Whenever someone in Laurel Main Street needs encouragement or to be reminded that the work is worth the effort, we casually point at Mallorie and say, “She was here when Laurel had been abandoned; she was here fighting when no one believed in this place, and she did it while raising a daughter and working full time. If she can do it, you can too.” What else can we call her besides hero?

On Thursday, June 21, 2018 the Mississippi Main Street Association hosted their 29th Annual Downtown Revitalization Awards Luncheon at the Old Capitol Inn in Jackson, MS.  Each year Mississippi Main Street recognizes excellence in downtown revitalization and honors local Main Street champions.  This is a wonderful opportunity to show the success of Laurel Main Street, to exchange ideas with other Main Street organizations, and is especially encouraging to see other thriving and successful communities.

MMSA Downtown Revitalization Awards: Merchant of the Year

The Mississippi Main Street Association‘s award for Merchant of the Year recognizes one outstanding local business owner who has a flourishing and innovative business and displays an involved commitment to downtown and his or her Main Street program.  On June 21, 2018, Lott Furniture Co. received this honor at the annual MMSA Downtown Revitalization Awards in Jackson, MS. The following narrative was written by Ethan Davis and was submitted to the Mississippi Main Street judges panel.

Merchant of the Year

Lott Furniture Co. is Laurel’s oldest business; they have over a century of history in our small town. Rodney Rowell and his wife Angie believe that their business is more than just a means to an end. They believe that it is a resource for them to put down roots in their community.

Lott Furniture

The business is most certainly a family affair. Rodney’s mother, Nelly, worked there for over 50 years, with Rodney and his sister Candy following in her footsteps. In fact, Angie and Rodney met each
other while working at Lott Furniture. Now, their daughter, Keri, is stepping in to continue the tradition. The Lott crew loves history, and they fuse it with present and future in every aspect of their business. They, of course, take payments via credit cards, but they still do their books by hand, still know their customers by name, still care about the person behind the purchase. 

The Lott Furniture business model is revolutionary, but it’s actually not new. The team took Mr. Lott’s original business model—selling furniture on credit—and adapted it to the young couples that move to Laurel. The couples were amazed that they could get amazing furniture and afford it by paying monthly. Lott Furniture is re-educating the youngest generations about building relationships through credit. They also started a series of workshops called Wine and Design that give décor tips and advice on how to turn a house into a home.

However, the most incredible thing about the folks at Lott is their commitment to Downtown Laurel. Their Instagram feed is dedicated to Laurel itself; you’ll only see ads for their products in their stories. Rodney Rowell has been called the cheerleader for Laurel, and a quick look at how much he supports his fellow local businesses attests to that name. He buys everything he can from fellow merchants downtown and is a tireless supporter of Laurel Main Street. Rodney even met with local creative Bethany Byrd of Own Your Hill to create a map of Downtown Laurel and the other merchants there. Lott Furniture paid for the first batch, and it is now a staple in Downtown; every visitor picks one up when they start to explore.

When it comes to Downtown Laurel, the Rowell’s have seen it all: a thriving center of business, a downtown disrupted by urban renewal, the sheds coming down and the streets alive again. Rodney is the go-to guy for all young and older entrepreneurs. He is the epitome of believing, in good times and bad.

Rowell Family

On Thursday, June 21, 2018 the Mississippi Main Street Association hosted their 29th Annual Downtown Revitalization Awards Luncheon at the Old Capitol Inn in Jackson, MS.  Each year Mississippi Main Street recognizes excellence in downtown revitalization and honors local Main Street champions.  This is a wonderful opportunity to show the success of Laurel Main Street, to exchange ideas with other Main Street organizations, and is especially encouraging to see other thriving and successful communities. 

“The One” Awards

Once a year the Laurel Main Street organization honors members of our downtown community for their commitment to the Main Street cause and their dedication to our community with “The One” Awards.  The awards were named for a phrase that pops up again and again during brainstorming or event planning sessions: “Those who say it cannot be done should get out of the way of THE ONEs who are doing it!”  On April 26th, we celebrated the dreamers, the doers, and THE ONES whose desire to leave things better than they found it is evident in all their pursuits.

This year, we enjoyed a beautiful evening at the home of LMS board members, Mallorie & Jim Rasberry.  Attendees enjoyed perfect spring weather, great food, and fellowship with those who share their affinity for downtown Laurel.  Awards were created by local calligrapher and artist Jade Yoder of Paper Studio and were presented by Laurel Main Street President, Lew Yoder.

Downtown Business of the Year

Chad & Terri Knight, owners of The Knight Butcher, were named Downtown Business of the Year.  They are THE ONES who have completed such a tremendous amount of work on their storefront and have also worked tirelessly to create an engaging and inviting atmosphere.  Their work outside their store, in the downtown community, is widespread as well, and we appreciate their dedication to downtown Laurel and Laurel Main Street!  Whether they’re rallying downtown merchants, creating secret Easter egg hunts downtown, or hosting Laurelpalooza, the Knights have shown their love for downtown knows no bounds.

THE ONE Award

THE ONE Award is presented each year to Laurel Main Street’s top volunteer.  This year, James & Nece Hill and Agape Church received THE ONE Award.  The Hills began their service to downtown Laurel ten years ago when few others had a vision of what downtown Laurel could be.  They renovated the former Woolworth’s building and built a modern church in the center of downtown.  Agape Church’s desire to serve the community around them is a direct reflection of the Hill’s heart for service and love of Laurel.  Agape Church is responsible for Downtown Movie Night, one of the most anticipated family events of the summer.  Without their manpower, Downtown Movie Night wouldn’t happen.  Agape Church will also provide the volunteers for this summer’s Downtown Laurel Farmers Market.  We are so incredibly thankful for the Hills and the congregation of Agape Church for their loyalty and dedication to Laurel Main Street and the revitalization of downtown Laurel!The ONE Award