Do you want to recapture lost retail dollars?

Published 4:00 pm Saturday, March 18, 2023

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There is a New Orleans band named “Benny Grunch and the Bunch” who have a song that seems to have almost yearly lyrical updates. It is an ongoing hit. Their song “Ain’t Dere No More” documents the decline of long-established retail in New Orleans.

So locally popular is the song that it has become a call and response game. One merely has to say something like, “Maison Blanche,” and for sure someone will say “Ain’t dere no more.” The same response will be heard after saying K&B or Schwegmann’s or D.H. Holmes or any long there, but now gone, and presumably once loved and supported retail business. Ain’t dere no more.

Retail ain’t easy even in the Big Easy or the Little Easy. I’m sure if Benny was in Natchez (and he’d fit right in) the song would have Ullman’s or Coles or H.F. Byrne or Feltus Brothers or Tillman’s or Peter’s or George’s or Burns Shoe or Famous and Price. Ain’t dere no more.

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And why is that? Why have the much-loved retailers gone away? The easy answer one wise older retailer told me was Walmart. That maybe a bit simplistic, but what Walmart did is change retailing. Much like Sears did a century ago.

The point is retailing evolves and some business models, like downtown department stores, have all but vanished. Savvy retailers and if you’re in business for more than 5 years, that mean most all of them, know one has to keep ahead or current with products and services changes and marketing shifts. And one never knows when a Sears or Walmart or Amazon will change the landscape seemingly overnight.

Many downtown businesses depend on the energy of one or a handful of persons. Some older businesses don’t make that generational transfer. Some owners would rather do something else after a while. Some lucky ones sell out and the business doesn’t make it without their magic. There are a whole host of reasons why long running businesses don’t exist anymore.

It is a mean world. How do we keep long term businesses that we love going? I’m the thinking about the ones I really depend on like the Malt Shop and the Corner Bar. And how do we get new businesses to begin in our downtown?

Your Downtown Natchez Alliance knows one of the keys to a healthy downtown is a diverse and vibrant retail mix. To that end, next Thursday at 8 a.m. in the St. Francisville room in the Convention Center, Dr. Rachael Carter from the Mississippi State University Extension Service will present information about recapturing escaping dollars. That’s money already here but being spent elsewhere, money already here that could stay here locally. That means buildings fixed, jobs downtown, more tax revenue and just better all-around for Natchez and downtown.

If you are in business or want to be, please make an effort to attend.


Mickey Howley is executive director of the Downtown Natchez Alliance.