Miss-Lou shoppers staying local this season

Published 12:10 am Tuesday, December 23, 2014

By Olivia McClure

The Natchez Democrat

NATCHEZ With Christmas only two days away, Miss-Lou shoppers are turning to local stores to find the perfect last-minute gift.

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Natchez resident Jeff Brown said he went to Darby’s Gifts and Decorative Accessories and the Natchez Mall to buy gifts for his wife.

“I’m not a big online person,” Brown said. “I like to be able to see the item before I buy it. And I think the local shops are more unique to things (my wife) likes compared to the big stores.”

Debbie McDonough also visited Darby’s, where she purchased fudge and cheese straws to give as gifts. Although done with most of her shopping, McDonough said she was browsing other downtown stores and would buy items if they caught her eye.

“I know I can find what I want in Natchez,” she said.

Local stores usually have good options, McDonough said, but she also shopped at Belk and Walmart.

Vanessa Houck, who lives in Vidalia, said she did all of her shopping in Vidalia, Natchez and Woodville.

“Boutiques with specialty items have been a big help,” she said of her search for presents for her adult children.

Prices at local stores are usually reasonable, Houck said, so she doesn’t feel like she’s hunting for a sale all the time. The best part, however, is outstanding customer service, she said.

Houck was raised in Oklahoma, where her family ran a small retail shop, so she said she understands the importance of doing business locally when possible.

Natchez-Adams County Chamber of Commerce President Debbie Hudson said Houck’s attitude is an important one for the community on many levels.

“The dollars stay here,” Hudson said. “We need those taxes on things you buy to go back into (things like) street (repairs) and whatever the needs are of the community.”

Local businesses also make a local difference, One of a Kind gift shop owner Mary Lees Wilson pointed out.

“We’re the ones that buy the ads for the football program and donate to youth programs,” Wilson said. “We can’t do that if people shop online.”

Hudson said she knows many people shop online because they think they can’t find what they want in town, but she encouraged shoppers to at least take a look at locally owned shops.

Wilson and other downtown shop owners said they have noticed that many shoppers are aiming to spend their dollars in town. And the stores are aiming to attract the shoppers.

Local stores offer services that others don’t, Wilson said. One of a Kind, for example, provides free gift wrap and refreshments while customers shop.

“This time of year is important, but being a little brick and mortar store, it’s very important year-round that people shop and support us,” Wilson said.