Your parking does some talking

Published 1:04 pm Wednesday, September 13, 2023

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When I started writing this column at the beginning of this year, one of the first suggestions for a topic came from folks who I call “downtown regulars.” I don’t go fishing around or asking for topics, people often volunteer suggestions. The suggestion was to write on parking downtown.

Mickey Howley

I’m not the sharpest tool in the box, but I am smart enough to know several subjects will get you in hot water very fast. Paint and color choices being the hottest and parking is close to that. I thought I’d wait before opining on what seems to be a permanently touchy subject.

Let me preface this with a story about a pharmacist who’s still working at 88. His name is Binnie Turnage and I learned much from him about how businesses work on a Main Street.

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He’s the third generation of what are now five generations operating a drugstore in a downtown. His family’s been in that business for 116 years and they have had essentially had the same operation in one location. People who have that kind of tenacity, well, just seeing how they operate is a lesson.

His family store has a front entrance on Main Street and rear one, on a back street behind the business. His customers use the front and rear entrances about equally. In the many years that I’ve known him I have never seen him park anywhere close to his business. He picks spots well away from his place and other businesses and walks, rain or shine.

It is the funny thing about small towns is that you soon figure out who drives what vehicle, and you can tell where they are by where that vehicle is. Mr. Turnage drives a white F-150 Ford. Being a big city boy, I never really paid that much attention to cars in that way but having lived in small towns now for 30 years, identification by vehicle is a thing.

Lord forbid, if you see a vehicle that you know driven by a friend and you don’t wave at them as they pass you by, they’ll think you’re stuck up or something.

By now in Natchez, I know what people drive and I see their cars whether it’s a Ford or a Subaru or a Benz. I suppose by now people have figured out that I drive a 32-year-old Chevy truck. It is not my only wheels, just saying.

Here comes the opinion: A lot of people that have downtown buildings and businesses park right in front of their businesses and buildings. Parking there during business hours, that’s not good for business. Not good especially for their business or other neighboring businesses.

Any Main Street retail economist will tell you that spot in front of a business has real value. I have heard different amounts, but a consensus number is $18,000 a year. That spot a personal car just sits in blocks that much commerce from you or others in a year. Sends a strong message also about how much you care about your neighbors or how business savvy you are.

I’m saying just consider where you park and the walk will do you good, like Mr. Turnage.

Click here to read the city’s master plan, which addresses parking in downtown Natchez.

Mickey Howley is the executive director of the Downtown Natchez Alliance and can be reached at or 601 443-3350.