• Cͨhͪrͬiͥs͛ᴛⷮmͫaͣs͛ iͥn Dͩoͦwnᴛⷮoͦwn S͛ᴛⷮaͣrͬᴋⷦvͮiͥlleͤ •

As I walked along the sidewalk with family, said hello to friends, watched the smiling faces of each small business owner, breathed in the holiday cheer, and listened to the mischievous giggles of over-spenders, I couldn’t help but ponder on how unWINE came to be

Several years before the pandemic, our Downtown began fading away, and fast. Between the increase of online shopping, and the ever dreaded “busyness”, personal shopping had became a chore

For full disclosure, I was one of the online shopper converts. I mean, really – why should I have to get dressed, put my face on, brush the unruly hair, run outside in the cold air, only to crank the car – to have COLD air blown on me, and go Downtown, to a local store – that may not even have what I want?

As fate would have it, a life-lesson was heading my way

On one cold morning, I met Joni [Fleur-de-lis] at a local gathering. If you know me, you know that I am addicted to lip balm. It used to be chapstick [which is sooooo bad for your lips long-term], but Joni introduced me to an all-natural lip balm she carried at her store, and I haven’t looked back

Joni learned quickly that I was a book lover, so she introduced me to Carolyn [Book Mart on Main]. At that time, Amazon was my best friend, and I felt guilty, standing in front of my new acquaintance, telling her that she would be hard-pressed to convert me to “shop local”. She didn’t even try. Carolyn smiled gently, and told me to let her know if she could ever help with anything

Months later, an online store had botched my holiday delivery of cake-pops, and I was left scrambling. In haste, someone on the Team mentioned a small cafe’ on Main, that had treats in their display box. Immediately, I called Carolyn, and without a second thought, she accepted my challenging timeline, beat the online supplier’s price, and even wrapped them!!

Carolyn introduced me to Rosa [The Pop Porium]. Not sure how I would ever “use” a local gourmet popcorn shop, but I could at least go in and buy some cotton-candy popcorn for myself. The more I walked in, the more Rosa’ told me of what her store could do. Before long, I called to ask her if a Teammate’s kid could have his birthday party there. With an emphatic “Yes!!”, she cleared the floor space, brought out tons of flavored popcorn, a “make-you-own” snow cone machine, and cranked up the music

As it happens, The Pop Porium is only a few doors down from Occasions. It was a pretty day, I had popcorn in hand, and I already knew Pat & Mandee, so I stopped in. As I wandered the store, I spotted their “Greek Life” gift section in the back. I skimmed right on past, because I left all of that behind when I left Mississippi State – or so I thought. It wasn’t even a week later, and a Client called in a panic because she would not be able to make it back to Mississippi for Rush. Her daughter was extremely understanding, but my Client was full of “mom guilt”. Understanding all too much of how she felt, I called Pat & Mandee, and they made sure to show this young lady that her Mom was with her on Bid Day

Joni has fun introducing me to people who can challenge my wit [or sanity…], so she pulled in Josh & Brandi [Dunkington]. And for all wondering, Brandi could never get on my nerves 😉 Ok, cool – there is a unique boutique in Starkville – what am I supposed to do with that info?! I don’t do jewelry, black is my favorite color, and I surely do not utilize colorful decor in my home. Now what???? Josh recommended “unique thank you gifts” – I rolled my eyes…. He rolled his right back, and kept going with his explanation. Why keep giving people I like “stock” thank you items, and why not create one that is individual to our Team. I’ll admit it, he had my attention. I invited the entire Team into the store, and we spent hours with Josh & Brandi, customizing the perfect scent, for our new hand-poured candles. Talk about unique!!

Now, back to Friday night…

As we walked into Joni’s store [which is always our first stop], Joni grinned, yelled out at us across the full store, and waved hello. Mom giggled, it always makes her feel special to be recognized in crowded areas 🙂 Almost immediately, Mom picked up “the wreath” that she had been looking for, checked out, and said “I just knew Joni would have it!!”. She walked out of the store with a glow of “success”

And, my lesson? I learned that it’s not about the product in the store, it is about the person behind the counter. The small business owner that supports our local community, brings holiday cheer to our streets, and connects us to those who will ultimately, become friends

What started as a creative attempt by Greater Starkville Development Partnership to bring life back to our Downtown stores, has turned into an annual social must-do

by Stephanie Arnett | November, 2022

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