HATTIESBURG — Nothing gets people talking more than a good rumor. The same is true with economic development.
The good citizens of Hattiesburg can’t stop talking about new places they can spend their money. Rumors about new hotels, restaurants and retail stores are verbal crack around business after hours.
Like the Bananarama lyric that forms the title of this article, despite all their best efforts to be right, people tend to get the words wrong.
“Chickadee China the Chinese chicken. You have a drumstick and your brain starts clickin’.”
However, unlike the quizzical looks we give our friends in the car as they brutalize a song at the top of their lungs, we tend to celebrate these rumors, even reveling in the more outrageous and untrue.
Take the Olive Garden for instance. The rumor that Olive Garden will open has had a longer half-life than nuclear waste material. Greater still are the pieces of “evidence” people use to substantiate their claims.
“I saw an Olive Garden commercial on TV. Therefore, they must be on their way,” or “They’re repainting the Red Lobster because they’re going to reopen it as an Olive Garden,” or “My friend works in the restaurant business and he heard an Olive Garden was coming.”
So we’re back to square one, using rumors to substantiate the rumors themselves.
You’d figure after all this time people would discount anything they hear about olives of any shape, size or color, still the rumors persist. If World War Three destroyed every building in Hattiesburg but left at least two people standing, it would only be a matter of minutes before one said, “I think they cleared enough land to put in an Olive Garden.”
The latest, greatest rumor has as many twists and turns as a Grisham novel, and surely as many lawyers. It centers around Old Navy. Old Navy apparently “wants” to come to Hattiesburg, but the property they wanted on West 98 was far too expensive. They looked at the former Jitney Premier location, but Kroger is coming there, so, they’ve decided to wait until the Home Depot center is developed near Shadow Ridge.
Logic states that there is probably some validity to this rumor. Yes, property on West 98 is far too expensive. Witness the lack of substantial development in the past two years along the corridor near the mall.
Secondly, if Meridian can have an Old Navy, why can’t we? Thirdly, what would be better to go into a former grocery than another grocer?
The least likely aspect is Home Depot, however, knowing Murphy’s Law, their entrance into the Hattiesburg market could be the only true aspect to this theoretical mirage.
Whatever the rumor, none is ever right on Target. Target is another retail establishment that has been rumored to be coming to the Hub City for years but has never materialized.
I could call all the headquarters of these rumored “new to Hattiesburg” businesses, but where’s the fun in that? I used to call, but got tired of the typical response: “Our company has no plans for expanding into Hattiesburg at this time.”
No matter the company, the PR flacks even enunciate the same words: “no plans” and “at this time.” I believe this line is taught to PR professionals as the standard response and can imagine professors leading their students in group repetitions much like one would find in a Latin class.
There have been some exceptions, ones that sound like calls for dates gone awry…
“I heard you have interest in me.”
“What ever gave you that idea?”
When the probability says it’s more than likely you’ll be shot down, why call? Especially when there’s also a likely possibility they might ask, “Who were you again?”
Even on the off-chance a rumor is confirmed, one still runs a great risk of still being wrong.
“I thought you said we were getting a Super Expensive National Superstore?”
“I did, but they’re having stock problems so they had to scale back their expansion plans.”
And the cycle begins anew.
Got a good rumor? E-mail me it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hopefully I’ll get enough response to create a “Rumor of the Month” or at least something to be a side dish to this Olive Garden nonsense.
Matt Martin is advertising director for Cellular One in Hattiesburg and is a regular contributor to the Mississippi Business Journal.
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