NEW ALBANY — The Mississippi Main Street Merchant of the Year for 2001 exemplifies what the Main Street program is all about.
The thinking of the Main Street program is that if efforts are made to revitalize and beautify downtowns, then good merchants will be attracted and those merchants will be successful.
That’s exactly what happened with Barbara Tyre, who grew up in New Albany and moved to Palm Beach County, Fla., about 30 years ago. She ran a clothing store there for about 20 years before returning home where she opened Barbara Tyre, a women’s clothing and accessories store, in an renovated historic building downtown.
“It was wonderful to come and find that so much had been done in the downtown area,” Tyre said. “And the building that my store occupies is gorgeous. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places and renovated by the owners, Wiseman & Sappington, LLC, it has wonderful, high ceilings with antique tin, a beautiful faux marble floor and a skylight. The plantation shutters, live plants, leopard rug, ceiling fans and gauzy draped fitting rooms with palm prints give the store a Caribbean feeling.”
Tyre opened the store about a year ago, and has been very gratified by the response. The store has attracted large numbers of shoppers not only from New Albany, but Tupelo, Oxford and even as far away as Jackson and Memphis. And she still ships to customers in Florida that she dressed for so many years.
The first month she was open she actually had thank you letters from women who said how much they enjoyed their shopping experience. She believes that giving good customer service is a key to success.
“A lot of my customers are real fashion-conscious women who know exactly what they want and need,” Tyre said. “For them, the only help they need is the convenience of not having to hang up the clothing they have tried on. Customers get a lot of personal attention, the kind of thing that is lacking in mall shopping. The main thing is to make it easy and fun and not a lot of effort. We’ll give you as much honest advice as you desire. But the main thing is the service that we offer.”
Cary Weeden, manager of the New Albany Main Street Association, said Tyre became a member of the association even before the store opened, and has been active in special events and a cooperative advertising campaign. Tyre is also a member of the association’s promotion committee.
“I feel Barbara is deserving of the recognition as Mississippi Main Street Merchant of the Year because she is a professional retailer and is a wonderful example to all our downtown merchants as a business person and Main Street volunteer,” Weeden said. “She has created a true shopping destination and both her expertise and business have been a tremendous asset to downtown New Albany.”
Contact MBJ staff writer Becky Gillette at email@example.com or (228) 872-3457.