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Main Street stores featured on national MSNBC TV show

Justin Sellers / The Natchez Democrat — Joey Gunning displays a piece of fudge for MSNBC cameraman David Bagley inside Darby’s on Main Street Wednesday. The crew was filming for a weekly series broadcast nationally called “Your Business,” which airs every Sunday and focuses on entrepreneurs and small business owners.
Justin Sellers / The Natchez Democrat — Joey Gunning displays a piece of fudge for MSNBC cameraman David Bagley inside Darby’s on Main Street Wednesday. The crew was filming for a weekly series broadcast nationally called “Your Business,” which airs every Sunday and focuses on entrepreneurs and small business owners.

NATCHEZ You get a little bit of everything when you come to Natchez.

A downtown shop owner that sells everything from clothes and jewelry to fudge and furniture and two new entrepreneurs specializing in home décor and gifts will be a few local faces that will be featured in a segment of MSNBC’s Sunday morning show “Your Business.”

The segment, producer Frank Silverstein said, will focus on the ability of Main Street shop owners in Natchez to diversify their businesses, allowing them to thrive while other businesses succumb to tough economic times.

Justin Sellers / The Natchez Democrat — Bagley shoots an exterior shot of Darby’s while producer Frank Silverstein gives direction.
Justin Sellers / The Natchez Democrat — Bagley shoots an exterior shot of Darby’s while producer Frank Silverstein gives direction.

Silverstein said initially the show’s crew was choosing towns on which to focus based on geography.

“Then our viewers got excited about the project and started sending in messages about places we should go,” he said. “Somebody wrote in and said, ‘You should go to Natchez.’”

Silverstein said the number of Main Street business owners that offer more than one service or a variety of products intrigued him.

For example, he said, Darby Short, who with her husband Dennis own Darby’s Everything Under the Sun and Darby’s Furniture, offers a wide variety of products, including clothing, jewelry, fudge and also offers furniture and interior design services.

Short said she was asked about what she has found works during her nearly 32 years on Main Street.

“It was basically what are the things that we have done that we feel like have helped us survive against Walmart or big box stores or big heavy discounters and what are some of the things that kept us going,” she said.

Short said she feels like putting customer service first, willingness to put in extra hours or go to people’s houses and staying ahead of the curve on trends has helped make her businesses successful.

Short said she hopes to inspire a business owner perhaps on the edge of going out of business or someone afraid to make the leap into small business ownership.

“Why not follow your dream?” she said.

Justin Sellers / The Natchez Democrat — Darby’s employees set up a window display welcoming the MSNBC crew that interviewed them.
Justin Sellers / The Natchez Democrat — Darby’s employees set up a window display welcoming the MSNBC crew that interviewed them.

Not giving up is also a key to keeping a small business alive.

“Don’t close your shop at 3 on a Saturday just because you haven’t had the kind of day you wanted,” she said.

Ashley McManus Smith and Amber Rayborn, owners of the recently opened A Gallerie, will also be featured on the “Your Business” segment.

Rayborn said she talked to producers about why she and Smith chose to open a shop on Main Street.

“Natchez needed to be revitalized, and we needed a new, fresh store in the area,” she said.

Rayborn said she could relate to people who may be hesitant to open their own business.

“Were we scared? Yes, we were scared. But we both love decorating, and we believed we could do it.”

A Gallerie offers a variety of products, from accent furniture to home décor and jewelry.

But Natchez business owners are not the only ones diversifying their assets, Silverstein said.

“I feel like it is echoed and reflected by the town itself,” he said. ‘The economic base is a combination of tourism … and the town has lost a lot of industry, which is typical to a lot of small towns, but they’ve managed to bring in some of the oil industry, so they’re looking to keep an industrial base of some sort.”

Silverstein said Natchez’s use of the Natchez Convention Center and the Natchez Grand Hotel, which also spurred the construction of several other hotels, brings a lot of people to town and helps support the downtown culture.

“So I felt like the town itself was trying to diversify its economy, as well as the merchants,” he said.

The show will also feature Kimbrell’s Office Supply, M. Schon Gallery and One Of A Kind Gifts.

“Your Business” is a half-hour show that focuses on entrepreneurship and small businesses. It seeks to provide viewers with useful tips and “news you can use” to successfully own your own business. The show also profiles small business owners and showcases their experiences in an effort to show best practices and useful things that might apply to other businesses, Silverstein said.

Silverstein said Natchez’s segment does not yet have an air date, but he said it will likely air in about six weeks.

JJ Ramberg, who is a small business owner herself, hosts the show.

Silverstein said he has been overwhelmed by Natchez’s Southern hospitality.

“The people in this town are unbelievably friendly,” he said. “I’m a Northern guy from New York City, and I’m used to people in New York being extremely friendly and extremely outgoing to me, which is not the stereotype, but it’s the reality. But everybody that I met here went out of their way to introduce me to this town and show me around. The hospitality in Natchez is astounding.”