Story from Chris Davis.
Some businesses were hit hard by the pandemic. But, overall shops in central Mississippi have not been hurt that bad and some are thriving, according to three economic development leaders.
“I think COVID-19 certainly brought more awareness to buying local and supporting businesses that are invested in our community and continue to make it strong, something we should be doing all the time and not just during a pandemic,” said Darren Milner, with the Kosciusko-Attala Partnership.
Milner and his colleagues in Carthage and Philadelphia have all observed that when people stayed close to home, they also shopped close to home.
“Overall I’d say many of our retailers have increased dramatically, with some stating they have tripled their business during COVID. Our sales tax reflects some of that increase.”
Milner acknowledged that some restaurants and boutiques that were shut down during the early days of the pandemic had a hard time, but said they are bouncing back as numbers decline and people are shopping and eating out more.
“Retail is up. COVID helped,” said Mala Ray, with the Leake County Chamber of Commerce. “Our restaurants that could stay open stayed open. It kept people from leaving town and people were here shopping instead of going somewhere else and spending their money.”
In Neshoba County, Tim Moore, with the Community Development Partnership, said people were glad to help businesses that had helped them.
“Our community banded together and really went out of their way to help all of these retailers that were having to close their doors for a while,” he said. They bought gift certificates. They bought stuff that they necessarily didn’t need.”
Moore said that effort helped businesses and helped build reciprocal relationships.
“They’ve gone out of their way for the community and the community saw this pandemic as a way to go out of their way for these small business owners.”