Be Golden

A lot of things are golden — rules, ratios, the Laurel High School mascot, silence — and most of the visitors to our hometown are golden as well. But an issue has arisen in our city that we cannot remain silent about any longer. The safety and comfort of our neighbors is being invaded, and we wouldn’t be good neighbors ourselves if we didn’t address it. If you live or own a business in Laurel, please read this. If you’re a fan of our hometown and you’re planning a visit, please read this. If you’re bored at work, heck, you can read this too.

What We Learned in Waco

When Laurel learned that it would be broadcast into homes across the country, the city leadership formed a book club and read What to Expect When You’re Expecting a TV Show, and met each week for coffee and discussion. KIDDING! If only it were that simple! In actuality, several of our city leaders took a trip to Waco, TX, the home of Fixer Upper and the Gaines’s empire. They spoke with business owners, homeowners, and city leaders there, and learned about what we should expect and how we should prepare. The team learned from the mistakes Waco made in the wake of the Fixer Upper frenzy. They decided on the way home from that trip that the city of Laurel, and any organization that worked in cooperation with the city, would never offer tours, maps, or reveal the location of homes featured on the show. The merchants of downtown Laurel whole-heartedly agreed.

It’s Personal

Laurel has welcomed Home Town fans from across the country and around the world. Through all of this interaction with such a vast cross-section of people, we have noticed that good manners and the notion of being a good guest mean different things to different people.

Some of our friends and neighbors have experienced some uncomfortable situations, but many have experienced things that are downright scary. The stories we’ve heard from friends and neighbors sound like they could be the beginning of a true crime TV show, but they’re actually the result of a home improvement TV show.

You may be wondering why Laurel Main Street, an organization that is committed to the economic vitality of downtown Laurel, is addressing this. To that, I’ll say, “It’s personal.” Its personal to all of us because this is our town. It’s personal because we loved Laurel before it was popular and we’ll love it long after the Home Town hype has faded. Laurel Main Street has worked for over a decade to make Laurel a great place to live and work, and we’d like it to stay that way.

If Good Fences Make Good Neighbors…

You know the saying, Good fences make good neighbors”? Its not about tall pieces of wood between two houses; its about respecting boundaries. For the first few years of the show, Home Town fans were happy for a glimpse into The City Beautiful on TV. Visitors to Laurel enjoyed driving down the avenues, trying to spot the homes, and we welcomed those visitors into our town and into our stores with open arms. However, in the past year, a new breed of fan has emerged. These fans don’t love our town. They don’t care about being good neighbors, and they’re not very respectful visitors either. We understand that many guests feel that Laurelites are their oldest and dearest friends. What can we say? Our locals are pretty amazing! Whether you’re a guest in someone’s home or in someone’s hometown there are a few guidelines to follow to make sure you’re respecting their boundaries and will remain friends even after you’re gone.

1. Follow the House Rules

Before you arrive, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the way things are done to avoid any misunderstandings.

  • Respect the personal space of others. Don’t ask where Home Town cast members live. Say hello if you see someone you recognize in public, but respect their privacy when they’re at home.

 

  • Don’t trespass. We have beautiful streets and avenues lined with sidewalks, and we LOVE seeing guests walking around, admiring the architecture and trying to guess who might be behind the front door. However, when someone enters a yard, garden, or porch uninvited, they are trespassing and nobody likes a trespasser.

 

  • Keep the noise to a minimum. Part of the reason that so many people choose to call Laurel home is because of its sleepy, small town qualities. Please don’t drive past homes while honking and yelling at the homeowners.

 

  • Observe polite parking protocol. If you suspect that you have found a home that was featured on Home Town, please do not park in front of it and wait for the home owners to exit. Please do not block driveways in the hopes that a local celebrity will come to personally ask you to move your vehicle and take a photo with you since they’re there.

2. Act More Appropriate Than Usual

Represent your neck of the woods. Make your mama proud. Put your best foot forward. There’s about a dozen ways to say it, but the bottom line is to be your best self. Isn’t that what Home Town does for you? The show features the best parts of small-town life and then invites you to experience it for yourself. Surely, you can return the favor when you visit.

3. Leave Things Better Than You Found Them.

  • Clean up after yourself, your pet, your kids.

Accidents and awkward situations are bound to happen. Be ready with an apology or a helping hand to try to mend the situation as quickly as possible. If you forget everything else, just follow the Golden Rule:

do unto others as you would have them do unto you”

(Matt. 7:12).

Would you want strangers peeking through the slit in your curtains to see what books are on your coffee table? Probably not. Would you want a group of tourists posing for pictures on your front porch swing? My guess would also be no. Would you want a strangers trying to photograph your kids while they play in your house? What about while they play in the yard? Is that ok? That’s a hard no. Children should be off limits.

There’s more to being a great guest than just showing up and being the life of the party. And speaking of parties, the city of Laurel and Laurel Main Street host multiple public events each year, and you’re invited to them all! This is a great way to get a feel for the city, and even to spot some familiar faces you might have seen on Home Town.

We have opened our town to you. We have invited you into our magical piece of the planet, and we are so glad you love Laurel. You can show your appreciation by being kind, courteous, and respectful.

Laurelites, be trustworthy. Show your neighbors you care by checking on them, looking out for their home and property, and protecting their privacy.

For the sake of our city and those who love it, we are asking you to Be Golden. Our city will thank you. Our neighbors will thank you. The Home Town family will thank you. We can make the world a better place one act of kindness at a time.

Won’t You Be My (Good) Neighbor?

These are the days we look forward to all year long — welcoming tourists from near and far to downtown Laurel and playing license plate bingo as we drive down Central Avenue. We are thrilled to be able to open our downtown to visitors once again. Covid-19 still posts a significant threat to our community, but Laurel Main Street, its members, and partners are doing everything we can to keep our community safe and healthy, both physically and economically. We need your help to keep it that way.

Be a Good Neighbor

Wash

We’re sure you’re familiar with the recommendations to wash your hands for 20 seconds or sanitize your hands before you eat, you may not realize that there are hand sanitizing stations in and around retail stores downtown. Laurel Main Street has also provided hand sanitizer to its members. We encourage you to use hand sanitizer or good old soap and water after touching doors, handling money, and before eating.

Protect

While we can’t demand that you wear masks in public any more than we can demand you wear clothes, we do think it’s a nice thing to do. Laurel Main Street provided masks to members and has encouraged business owners and their employees to continue wearing masks while serving the public. The city of Laurel has also requested the use of masks in the following manner:

• All employees of essential businesses and all employees of nonessential businesses shall wear a mask when working in or moving about the same workspace as other employees or working in or moving about the same room as the public.

• All customers age 12 or over shall wear a mask while inside an essential or nonessential retail establishment.

• For purposes of this Order, “mask” shall be defined as any face covering; including, but not limited to, fabric masks, homemade linen or cloth masks, household dust masks, handkerchief, scarf, surgical mask, KN95 mask or N95 mask.

• This Order shall not apply to customers who have trouble breathing or are unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance; anyone with a disability; or anyone with a medical condition for whom wearing a mask is not recommended by their healthcare professional.

• Retail establishments are encouraged to post notice of the requirement for customers to wear masks at each public entrance of the store and to provide reasonable oversight of their customers to ensure compliance.

The order goes into effect June 17, 2020 at 8 a.m. and ends July 1, 2020 at 8 a.m.

To read the entire mask order, click here. Remember, we wear our masks to protect you, our neighbors and welcome guests. Please do the same for us.

You might notice that some retail stores and restaurants are limiting the number of people allowed inside at one time or even requesting contactless payment options. We hope you’ll be respectful and understanding of the requests of business owners.

Clean

Please discard disposable gloves, masks, etc. in trash receptacles. Garbage bins can be found throughout the walkable downtown area and in our parks. We take great pride in The City Beautiful and hope you’ll help us keep it clean for others to enjoy as well.

Be Our Guest

We want our community to thrive, for businesses to stay open, and for employees to stay healthy. Keeping a lid on COVID helps us all! We understand that our requests may require you to make adjustments to your plans. We hope you’ll still visit our town and support our local economy. We look forward to seeing your smiling eyes and greeting you from a safe distance!

Resources for Small Business Owners

To our dear business owners, Main Street supporters, members, and partners:

We understand that these are uncertain times and uncharted waters. We are working to compile a list of resources that may be beneficial to you and your business. If you have not already, please join the Laurel Main Street Members Facebook Group. We are sharing information there as quickly as we receive it. Additionally, we are listing resources here, on our blog, in the hopes that you’ll be able to find the information that is most helpful to you, all in one place. Laurel has always been a city known for its tenacity, and this time will be no different.

We Are Laurel!

For information about the coronavirus (COVID-19), please visit the following government public health organization websites:

For resources related to small business, please visit the following websites:

Mississippi Power Project Share & Community Connection

Mississippi Power, through its Foundation, has announced a $350,000 commitment to assist South Mississippi residents, local charities and small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The $350,000 will be dispersed via Mississippi Power’s Project Share and Community Connection programs:

·         $200,000 for Small Businesses – Businesses with 50 employees or less are eligible for this new Project Share program distributed through Catholic Charities.

·         $100,000 for Project Share – Distributed through Catholic Charities. Any Mississippi Power customer with a demonstrated financial need may be eligible to apply for Project SHARE by simply calling 1-855-847-0555.

·         $50,000 for Local Charities – Food banks, non-violence and youth shelters, and other agencies that count on Community Connection donations to operate, especially during a crisis.

We suggest that you call Catholic Charities at 1-855-847-0555 for more information or to apply. 

Help for Live Event Cancellations

If you feel led to assist in efforts to support members of our community who have been impacted through the cancellation of live events, here is sample language to send when writing or emailing elected officials.

Sample letter to Congress:

Subject: Protect Live Events Small Businesses
Dear Representative [NAME], 

As you consider relief legislation to assist Americans in responding to COVID-19, I am writing to urge you to include resources to assist those of us for whom congregating in large gatherings is actually our living. 

I work in the live events industry and we have seen our revenues dry up virtually overnight. I know we all have to do our part to fight this pandemic and that stopping large gatherings through social distancing is our best approach. My hope is that the assistance you are developing provides fast, substantial, and easily accessible aid for small businesses like mine.

Thank you for considering my request, and thank you for all you are doing to help us get back on our feet after this crisis.

Sincerely,

[CREATOR NAME], [TITLE]
[BUSINESS NAME]
[BUSINESS ADDRESS]

Reminders

Loblolly Festival: Things to Know Before You Go

It’s the most wonderful time of the year — It’s time for Loblolly Festival!  This year’s festival is one you won’t soon forget and here are some tips to help you enjoy Loblolly Festival, whether you’re a first-timer or a seasoned veteran.  The Loblolly Festival is one of Laurel’s biggest events with over 12,000 people attending annually, so lace up your walking shoes, it’s festival time!

Beat the Crowds:

The festival officially starts at 9am, so if you want to get first pick of the merchandise or avoid the crowds, come early.

Get a T-Shirt While You Can:

Stop by the Laurel Main Street trailer, which will be station on West Oak St., and purchase a commemorative Laurel Main Street 10 year anniversary t-shirt or a Loblolly Festival t-shirt.  Make this one of your first stops because these shirts will go fast!

Wear Your Walking Shoes:

Loblolly Festival covers almost all of the central business district of downtown Laurel and includes over 120 vendors, crafters, performers, and activities. You’re bound to see a lot of people you know and some you forgot you knew!

Check the map and entertainment schedule:

When you arrive be sure to pick up a map.  It will help you get the lay of the land, and if you’re a strategic shopper, this will definitely make it easier for you to find any specific vendors you came to see.

 

Bring cash:

Some vendors accept credit cards, but not all do.  There is an ATM located downtown at the Laurel Welcome Center inside the First National Bank building as well as BancorpSouth.

Be sure to check out the brick and mortar merchants too:

Most downtown retail stores are open during the festival and many offer sales, specials, and live music.

Check the weather:

Loblolly Festival is a rain or shine event so check the weather and dress accordingly.  The Laurel YWCO will be open and available to the community from 10am – 2pm during the Loblolly Festival.  Come in to cool off and enjoy your lunch in the tea room! 

Sip & Stroll:

The walkable downtown area comprises a social district, which allows downtown patrons to “sip and stroll” as long as their beverages are in a “to-go” cup.  Open container laws are still in effect.  Please drink responsibly.

‘This the Season to Shop Local in Laurel!

For as long as I, or anyone else can remember, the merchants of Downtown Laurel have held their Christmas Open House on the first Sunday of November.  This serves as the perfect preview for a much newer movement, Small Business Saturday.  With more than 20 places to shop, browse, and eat in the walkable downtown area, this year’s Christmas Open House is sure to provide something for everyone on your shopping list!  Bring your friends and family and support our local businesses this holiday season!

Christmas Open House Details

Most downtown merchants and retailers will be open from 12-5 p.m. on Sunday, November 4th for the Annual Christmas Open House.  However, it is up to each individual retailer to set their own hours for this event, so if there’s a shop you don’t want to miss, be sure to check with them for their hours.

The Importance of Shopping Local

We’ve heard it stated time and again that local businesses are the backbone of a community, and indeed, they are.  Small businesses, locally owned and operated, are an integral part of our community. According to the American Independent Business Alliance, “Independent, local businesses employ an array of supporting services by “buying locally” themselves. They hire architects, designers, cabinet shops, sign makers and contractors for construction. Local accountants, insurance brokers, computer consultants, attorneys, advertising agencies help run it. Local retailers and distributors also carry a higher percentage of locally-produced goods than chains, meaning more jobs for local producers.” Sounds a lot like Laurel, right?

Research reports show that for every dollar spent at a local business, 3.5 dollars are recirculated into the local economy, which creates more local jobs. Money spent at a chain retailer often doesn’t leave that chain retailer, as they outsource most of their products and services.

When you shop locally, you get to know the people behind the business and you enjoy a connection you would not otherwise have. Our local businesses give our community its flavor. The combined presence of our town’s many local businesses makes it different from every other city in the world. By supporting those businesses instead of chains, you help preserve the uniqueness our community.  Local businesses define our sense of place, and their survival depends on our patronage.  So this holiday season, we urge you to SHOP LOCAL in LAUREL.