Natchez National Historical Park recognized for work with new gift shop

Published 12:40 am Sunday, March 19, 2017


NATCHEZ — The Natchez National Historical Park was recently honored for its collaborative effort with the City of Natchez and Eastern National to create the new Natchez Shop in the Natchez Visitor Reception Center.

NNHP Superintendent Kathleen Bond was recognized by Eastern National with a Superior Performance Award

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Eastern National is a nonprofit cooperating association, supporting the interpretive, educational and scientific programs and services of the National Park Service and other public trust partners.

Eastern National operates the newly designed Natchez Shop in the visitor center with the cooperation of NNHP and the City of Natchez.

Eastern National’s Superior Performance Award recognizes the top five outstanding partner personnel, EN Director of Retail Megan Cartwright said.

“The awards program was designed to acknowledge outstanding individual achievements and contributions that have had a positive impact on an EN operation or an individual park, thus furthering and promoting EN’s unique relationship with its partners,” Cartwright said. “(Bond was honored) for her instrumental support in the collaborative effort between the park, EN, and the City of Natchez for the new Natchez Shop.”

Karen O’Neal, site manager at NNHP, was also given a Special Achievement Award “for her hard work ensuring that the renovation and opening of the new Natchez Shop was a success.”

The beginnings of the Natchez Shop started a couple of years ago, Bond said. At that time, the NPS had the Eastern National Bookstore and the city was operating a logo shop in the visitor center.

In February 2014, EN President and CEO Kevin Kissling was touring EN locations and stopped in Natchez.

Bond invited former tourism director Kevin Kirby to sit in on a meeting that eventually resulted in the idea of closing the city’s logo shop and creating a new shop that would sell merchandise for the park, the city and other aspects of Natchez history and tourism.

The store, Bond said, is not just a gift shop.

“Everything in that shop has an interpretive meaning,” she said.

Additionally, the redesign of retail space, which was led by EN Design Manager Karen Peters, was the beginning of an overall redesign of the visitor center lobby that has made for a better experience for visitors, Bond said.

The extra space has allowed for an area for visitors to sit and enjoy coffee, and has also created an opportunity to rearrange the lobby.

The lighted diorama map previously at the entrance of the center has been mounted on the mall near the Natchez Shop, allowing the pilothouse to be moved to the entrance so that employees can be stationed at the entrance to greet visitors.

The result, Tourism Director Jennifer Ogden Combs said, has been a better overall space for visitors at the center.

“The shop is beautiful and well laid out, and people are really utilizing much more of the entire visitor center,” Combs said. “I think it has been a great opportunity. We are so proud, and hats off to Kathleen and Kevin Kirby who worked hard over a number of months to work through the design and how it would work.”

Bond said the success of the Natchez Shop is an illustration that progress in Natchez is best achieved through partnerships and working together.

“The city doesn’t work without partnerships,” she said. “This was a great example … that it does take a village to get stuff done. It also takes people who are willing to have a new vision for how something could be better, and that’s where I give credit to Kevin Kirby.”