By Lena Mitchell/NEMS Daily Journal
Editor’s Note: This is the sixth in an 18-part series about Northeast Mississippi downtowns.
By Lena Mitchell
Daily Journal Corinth Bureau
IUKA – A wave of renovation and revitalization that has been under way in downtown Iuka for several years continues its momentum, with new businesses and special events happening each month.
“You see cars all over downtown now, and they’re not just the business owners,” said Pamela McRae, who is opening her photography studio in a downtown storefront. “It’s an ideal location because I’ve been working out of my house, and it gives me more visibility. With all the changes in town the past year, it’s a real positive step for the business.”
McRae also is spokeswoman for Iuka Development and Economic Association, established about two years ago by business owners to come up with creative ideas that re-energize the entire community and remind local residents of all the businesses right on their doorstep.
Since then, IDEA has established several successful events, most notably a monthly concert series from April through October, using local talent and held in Iuka Mineral Springs Park; a sanctioned Catfish Cooking contest; and Prom in the Park, held at the downtown Jaybird Park.
McRae noted that among recent successes is the planned reopening soon of Café Memories, a popular downtown restaurant that had closed.
The former Alpha Graphics, which carries teaching and educational supplies as well as selling office products and providing copying and faxing service, was bought last year by Gary and Cheri Bullard.
“We bought it a year ago,” Cheri Bullard said, “and it has been a learning experience. Sherry (Russo) started the store 21 years ago a few doors down as a printing business. She was a wise businesswoman who understood changing needs in town.”
Downtown Iuka has an eclectic mix of businesses, including law offices; an antique and gift shop; a pottery store; an optometry office; an insurance agent; a specialty shop for imprinted T-shirts, uniforms and trophies; a bank; an animal groomer, exotic pet and gift shop; a radio station; a video recording business; an apron museum; a TV repair shop; an investment firm; a catering business with small reception/meeting room; a hair studio with boutique clothing; a florist; a long-established jewelry store; an Internet content and design business; a sandwich shop; a dentist; and the local weekly newspaper.
Few people live in spaces above the stores, but many old and historic homes surround downtown. One of them is the old Hundley Hotel, restored and lived in by Eddie and Frank Thomas, “Mississippi blues brothers” known for their “Angels on the Backroads ” (Parts 1, 2, 3 and 4) CDs. They’ve held several concerts in the restored historic Little Episcopal Church sanctuary, which also is used for small weddings and other events.
Both Iuka Baptist Church and Iuka United Methodist Church also are part of downtown.
A new addition to downtown landscape is a pocket park created where a business burned and left a vacant lot. Now a greenspace, the wall features a mural installed last year to commemorate the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Iuka.