Tupelo’s newly organized Midtown District of independently owned and mostly locally headquartered retail shops and professional services offers a prime example of how growth changes the way businesses operate to establish a strong identity and retain loyal customers.
Forty years ago the area defining the Midtown District – West Main Street-Industrial Road-Varsity Drive – was not on the western city limits but it was the final large concentration of commercial enterprises before West Main Street more clearly became the other part of its official designation – Mississippi Highway 6 leading to Pontotoc and Oxford.
The past four decades have seen Tupelo’s urban and suburban development push all the way to the Pontotoc County line, with huge expansion of residential neighborhoods.
Today, the owners in Midtown District Business Association know they are at an arguable mid-point of the city, similar to the names of neighborhoods and districts that have become well-known in other, larger southern cities.
Their initiative in taking their ideas for self-promotion to the city – and winning its cooperation – is itself good marketing. The city’s assistance is fully appropriate and much of it long overdue: improvements to an unsightly drainage ditch, replacement of overgrown Bradford pear trees used in original landscaping (trees that are beginning to break and die from their own spread), and replacement with trees appropriate for an “urban canopy” – reforestation and new forestation for the long-term environmental health of the city as much as appearance.
The Midtown District’s membership is largely comprised of long-experienced and successful business owners seeking to give their space, in a broad sense, a strong brand conveying who and where they are.
An open house and ribbon cutting event Thursday at 2 p.m. will inaugurate the district, with city officials presiding and everyone invited.
Then the emphasis will be on shopping: clothes for at least part of a household, restaurants, food for parties and special occasions, gifts in great variety, elegant flowers, decor and interior design and decoration, and even a working museum – Healthworks for children, and a bank. Parking is plentiful, and the whole district is walkable.
Midtown District is a new identity but it’s not starting from scratch. One model doesn’t fit all of Tupelo; these business owners have designed their own.