By Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal
BALDWYN – Only a handful of businesses line Main Street, but Michael James and Lori Tucker think it won’t be long before that number grows.
Their optimism is based on a simple premise: Improving the looks and accessibility of the area will bring more businesses and customers.
The city is wrapping up a four-year, $530,000 project that has added paved crosswalks, 22 street lamps, new sidewalks, new handrails, improved drainage and new landscaping.
“We hope it draws attention to Main Street and gets people to locate there,” said James, mayor of the city of about 3,500 people.
Tucker, executive director of Baldwyn Main Street, said the improvements are significant because they’re the first major work done on the road since it was built in 1940.
Most of the work was paid through grants. The city contributed $40,000 in matching funds.
“It’s been a lot of work, but it’s been worth it,” Tucker said. “It’s been a good investment. The reaction from the community has been very positive.”
While several empty store fronts still dot Main Street, Tucker said the project has generated optimism among business owners.
“It’s been a snowball effect,” she said.
Debbie Gentry, a business partner in Houston Discount Pharmacy, approves of Main Street’s face-lift.
“It’s made a huge difference in the look of it,” she said. “Hopefully it will bring some unique merchants downtown. I’d like to fill those empty spots.
“But we don’t need another pharmacy,” she added with a laugh.
The efforts to revitalize downtown won’t go unnoticed by other potential entrepreneurs who might be looking for an opportunity to start a business, Tucker and James said.
“I think they’ll see that there is life in downtown Baldwyn,” James said.
Tucker said small specialty shops and boutiques would find Main Street ideal.
“I think an antiques shop would be great,” she said. “People are always going out to find them, so why not have an antiques shop here to draw more people.”
James is lobbying to get a shoe store.
“And we could use another restaurant, too,” he said.
Gentry said Baldwyn’s downtown still holds plenty of allure.
“Small towns are great place to do your shopping,” she said. “We know our customers because they’re our friends and neighbors, and we treat everybody that way. You’re supporting our schools and our city when you shop locally. So if we can attract more businesses, we can draw more traffic here.”
James said he hopes that improvements similar to the Main Street project can be extended to other streets downtown, but that will take time and money.
“We’ll have take it one step at a time,” he said. “All these grants require matching local funds, so we’ll have to see what happen. But we think we’ve taken a good first step.”
Contact Dennis Seid at (662) 678-1578 or firstname.lastname@example.org.