Natchez merchants are working together to re-energize downtown

Published 12:58 am Sunday, April 16, 2017


NATCHEZ — A recently formed coalition of merchants is bringing a new energy to downtown hoping to enliven the district for tourists and locals alike.

The Natchez-Adams County Chamber of Commerce has partnered with the group of approximately 15 merchants with the goal of encouraging locals to shop and eat local and create events for tourists to enjoy downtown, Chamber President Debbie Hudson said.

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In late 2016 when the chamber was working on its “shop local” campaign, Hudson learned from downtown merchants that some businesses were struggling.

“The chamber tried to take it on ourselves to help them help themselves,” Hudson said. “We talked about things that bothered them, like signage, what needs they had and other things we could do to help encourage people to shop downtown.”

The group began meeting in January and now meets weekly to discuss ways to improve downtown business.

In just a few months, the merchants have created downtown business and entertainment maps and expanded offerings for Second Saturday events, among other initiatives.

The maps were created by Crafted Gallery owner Carolyn Weir and were paid for by the Convention and Visitors Bureau.

“I am thrilled I had the opportunity to do something meaningful for our community with the shopping and dining guides,” Weir said.

The Nest owner John Grady Burns said the maps are convenient tools for downtown visitors designed to help them around the area.

“They’re foldable and can easily go into someone’s pocket, and they’re easily navigable,” he said.

Second Saturday has also been expanded to include all-day events that recently featured living history programs, live music and artist showcases.

Each month, Burns said, the Natchez Grand Hotel donates $100 for a cash giveaway and the Natchez Bed-and-Breakfast Association donates a free one-night stay at one of their member bed-and-breakfasts.

For years, Burns said, downtown merchants worked tirelessly to make downtown a thriving area in the city.

“People really worked hard to make downtown thrive, especially when the shopping centers and malls opened,” he said. “The merchants really ought to see it continue to be a vital part of Natchez.

“It’s very important to Natchez as a whole, because our industry is tourism. We need to be inviting for tourists, but also for our local people who want to shop local.”

Burns said local shops are facing increasing competition from online retailers and hopes that organized efforts from downtown merchants will remind area shoppers to buy local.

“If you order online, so often online retailers don’t have to (collect sales) tax, and it’s really hard to compete with that,” Burns said. “If you can’t find what you need, we understand you will go elsewhere, but we would just encourage everyone to try to shop local first.”

Downtown merchants interested in joining the efforts of the other business owners can attend the 8:30 a.m. meetings every Wednesday in the Director’s Room at the Natchez Convention Center.