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!

101 Things to do Downtown THIS WEEKEND

Ok… not really 101 things to do, but there is SO much going on this weekend!  Loblolly Festival is all about arts, crafts, food, and family fun!  Here’s the rundown of places to go, drink, eat, and play!

Food + Drinks

Enjoy delicious festival food from the vendors and food trucks that line the 400 block of Oak Street.  You’ll find corn dogs, funnel cakes, fish on a stick, award-winning BBQ, hot tamales, steak sandwiches, baked goods and more!  Stop by the beverage wagon near the Loblolly stage (near Trustmark Bank) for a cup of Budweiser, Bud Lite, and Michelob Ultra or taste a craft beer brewed locally by Slowboat Brewing Company while you enjoy live music.  It is ok to sip and stroll, just stay within the boundaries of the festival, which is the walkable downtown.  For more information on the sip and stroll ordinance, click here.

If food trucks aren’t your style, never fear.  Your favorite downtown eateries will be open too!  Stop by old favorites such as Café La FleurThe Loft (dinner only)Lee’s Coffee & Tea, and The Knight Butcher or check out downtown’s newest additions, Sweet Somethings BakeryShug’s Cookie Dough and Candy Bar, and The Pearl Diner.2018 Loblolly map

Family + Fun

An expanded Kids’ Zone at Loblolly Festival means there’s something to delight and entertain kids of all ages.  You’ll find fun jumps, rides, slides, train rides and more! Enjoy face painting, a special craft area at HAND+made and fun learning activities from Central Creativity.  On Central Avenue, big kids will get a thrill from riding the mechanical bull, water surfing, and much more!

central creativity

Walk through downtown and enjoy the creative, life-size scarecrows on display as part of our Scarecrow Harvest, a growing yearly competition among downtown merchants.

International World Cup champion chainsaw artist, Dayton Scoggins, carves all day near in center of downtown near Mimmo’s.  You’ll be mesmerized watching him and observing his attention to detail in every cut he makes!

Student artwork painted on Masonite door skins will be on display at the YWCO of Laurel, depicting this years’ theme, “Laurel — the Future IS Ours. ”  Be sure to stop in, take a take a break from the heat, and admire Laurel’s talented young artists.

Your family will love the annual Heritage Arts Festival at Lauren Rogers Museum of Art!  Enjoy FREE music and art activities, FREE pizza and soft drinks at 11:30 a.m.  While you’re at the museum, stop in to see their current exhibit, DaVinci’s Machines, on display through November 11th.  Laurel First United Methodist Church will host their annual Pumpkin Patch fundraiser during Loblolly Festival. The Pumpkin Patch will be open from 12-6 p.m. on Saturday, October 6th, on the front lawn of the church. Purchase a great pumpkin and support the student ministry of FUMC!

Live Music + Entertainment

Enjoy live music on the Loblolly Stage located on North Magnolia Street, near Trustmark Bank. 

The Knight Butcher Stage on Central Avenue will also host live music throughout the day.

11:00 – 11:50: Eric Woods

12:00 – 12:50: Paul Johnson

1:00 – 2:00: Jesse Howell

And don’t forget to join us at the Official Loblolly Afterparty at Slowboat Brewing Company beginning at 5:30pm with live music from Molly Thomas The Rare Birds!

Celebrations + More

Meet the Loblolly Lumberjack, a definite crowd favorite as he towers over the festival goers adorned in plaid and carrying his trusty axe. Geo-cachers, check your websites and join the hunt for special treasure hidden in historic downtown Laurel! Stop by the Gazebo at Pinehurst Park for any information you may require during the day’s event. Remember, all Laurel Main Street events are rain or shine so plan accordingly!

With so much to see and do downtown this weekend, you’ll want to commemorate all the fun you had, so be sure to visit the Laurel Main Street trailer during Loblolly Festival and purchase an official Loblolly t-shirt!

MMSA Downtown Revitalization Awards: Outstanding Community Transformation

The Mississippi Main Street Association‘s award for Outstanding Community Transformation is given each year to a Main Street program that has achieved a successful, preservation-based downtown revival. The recognized program will have accomplished major goals in downtown revitalization and has both qualitative and quantitative examples to show the measurable impact. A heavy emphasis is placed on the human resources it took to accomplish the work. On June 21, 2018, Laurel Main Street board president, Lew Yoder, accepted 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.

Outstanding Community Transformation

How do you bring a town back? It’s a question that has no easy answers, and the answers that are given usually require years and more work than one might ever imagine. However, for Downtown Laurel, there is no question that the town has been revived in a powerful way.

It all started when a group of people who loved Laurel sat down together in a room and decided to start a Main Street Program. They couldn’t afford to pay the director or start projects or offer services, but they knew they had to do something to save their hometown. That group became Laurel Main Street’s first board. From there that group changed and grew. When one person couldn’t serve anymore, someone stepped in to fill the space, and here we are a decade later: Mississippi’s Downtown.

The change took time; it happened slowly, then all at once. LMS worked constantly to make Laurel a place where people wanted to live, work, and play. Projects of all shapes and sizes had to take place, and business recruitment was paramount. Results were small at first, but they grew with time.

About two years ago, things really started heating up. The events and promotions LMS produces had kept a steady stream of people interested in the downtown, which put us on the radar of some people with great hope for what Laurel could be. They pursued their dreams using LMS as a starting point and support system along the way. In the past two years, more than a dozen businesses have opened in Downtown Laurel representing millions in private investment, and more are coming. Vacant buildings are now the exception rather than the rule, and a person can spend all day downtown and still not visit all of the stores.

The local business owners are the hero of this story because they took a risk when no one else would. But, it never would have happened if that original group hadn’t met. It never would have happened if dedicated volunteers hadn’t served at LMS events or if the community hadn’t welcomed each new addition to the downtown family. LMS stands at the center of a web that is filled with people who are willing to work hard every day to make Laurel their home and to make their home worth preserving. The truly amazing thing is that the idea of Downtown Laurel is now an exciting one; it’s a place where change happens and futures are crafted. It’s a place where history is lived and not just remembered.

 

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.

What is Loblolly Festival?

Saturday October 6, 2018 · 9am ’til 4pm

Loblolly LumberjackThe Loblolly Festival is held annually on the first Saturday in October and celebrates Laurel’s heritage as a sawmill town. Parking and admission are free, so bring the family and get ready for a fun-filled day!

Vendors from several states, artists, crafters and craftsmen set up shop in the streets of downtown Laurel for this one day event.

From mid-morning to late-afternoon musicians and songwriters will display their talents on the Loblolly Stage.

Festival goers will be enticed by the aromas of the food trucks lining Oak Street. Enjoy authentic festival food like funnel cakes, chicken-on-a-stick and award winning barbecue.

You won’t be able to miss the flannel-adorned Laurel Lumberjack who stands nearly a foot taller than all around him.  He quickly draws a crowd and is happy to oblige those requesting photos.

Look on as a talented artist cranks his chainsaw and shapes logs and limbs into beautiful artwork at this favorite festival attraction, funded by a grant from the Mississippi Arts Commission.

Teens flock to the Art on Masonite contest, hoping to find the winning ribbon pinned to their own creation.

The Kids’ Zone at the Loblolly Festival grows every year too! There’s something for children of all ages!

Soon, the 2018 Loblolly Festival will be a recent memory, but for now, there is still time to experience the fun and nostalgia as we celebrate our storied past and enjoy our artful, musical, delicious present.

Join us for the 2018 Loblolly Festival in downtown Laurel!

Saturday, October 6th from 9am ’til 4pm