By Sarah Fowler
The Commercial Dispatch
WEST POINT – After 12 years as a downtown staple, Culin-Arts, a culinary supply store, will be closing by the end of the month.
The store’s owner, Valeda Carmichael, said she will relocate her business to Oxford. Carmichael said the move was a business decision based on the local economy.
“It’s hard for a small town to support a local business unless you’re a pharmacy or a florist or something like that,” Carmichael said. “You have to draw people from other towns to come into your town and the majority of my walk-in from off the street everyday business was from out of town. My local business was more bridal registry. With the local economy, since 2009, my business has been going down a little bit every year.”
Carmichael said for the past several years, customers have been telling her that Culin-Arts would be a hit in Oxford. So, on a whim, she drove into the college town last month. Carmichael said she feels like God took it from there.
“The notion got in my head and I started praying about it and boom, boom, boom, the doors just opened up there and it was almost something I couldn’t turn down. I couldn’t refuse.
“Every change in my business has always been made through extreme prayer. It’s almost circumstances beyond my control that made it happen. It’s the same way with this move up there. This has all happened within a month. This is not something that was planned. If somebody had told me two months ago I was going to be moving my business to Oxford I would have told them they were crazy.
“The door was opening there and the door seemed to be closing here. The door was open there so I stepped into it.”
While Carmichael said she expects West Point’s economy to improve with the new Yokohama plant, it’s almost too little, too late for her store.
“I’ve been trying to give something back to West Point. I’ve purchased these buildings, I’ve renovated them, I’ve put the awnings back like they were originally, I’ve been trying to make a pretty area here, a nice space for West Point and something to draw people to West Point but I almost sometimes feel like a tourist attraction.
“Whenever people have relatives or friends come to town, they always bring them here, ‘Oh, we want to come show you what we’ve got in West Point.’ So they bring them in, and they walk around the store like ‘Oh, this is so pretty, I just love it,’ and then they walk out the front door. So, you know, it’s like they’re proud that I’m here but … I can’t live on ‘this shop is great.’”
Carmichael said she feels her business cannot survive in West Point solely on local traffic.
“We’ve got five antique malls. We’ve got Mossy Oak. We’ve got the Howlin’ Wolf museum. How many towns would die to have that?” she said. “But yet there’s nothing being done as a whole to promote those things and bring people to West Point. The cute shops that everyone wants in town are not going to survive. You’ve got to have more than local traffic. You’ve got to bring in traffic from out of town.”
Once she is in Oxford, Carmichael feels she will have that steady stream of foot traffic that she has been missing in the West Point location.
“Their economy is crazy booming right now,” she said. “It’s as if the economy up there hasn’t been affected at all with what the rest of the country is going through. If you go to Oxford and you see the economy and you see the construction that’s going on, it’s a no-brainer.”