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. 

#ShopSmall with Us on Small Business Saturday – November 25th

The #ShopSmall Movement is Coming to The City Beautiful!

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 were 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.  

On November 25th, the Saturday after Thanksgiving, we will celebrate Small Business Saturday.

Be a Part of the #ShopSmall Movement

On November 25th 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.     Shop Small

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 25th event!

So join us on Small Business Saturday to get great deals, find some incredible,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.  More than 100 million Americans shopped small on Small Business Saturday last year.  Join the movement and shop local on November 25th this year!

#ShopSmall #ShopLocal #ShopLaurel