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Small town a big draw for retirees

Prentiss County seat a ‘terrific place to live,’ retiree says

BOONEVILLE — Located in the northeastern corner of Mississippi in Prentiss County, Booneville won the first award ever presented in Mississippi as a City of Hospitality in 1958.

That tradition of Southern hospitality continues to flourish in Booneville, attracting retirees from far and wide who say they like the neighborhood feel of this city. Booneville is one of just 20 certified retirement communities in Mississippi.

Bob Parker is one of those retirees drawn to Booneville. He moved to the city in 1999 after considering such places as Arkansas and Alabama and even Mexico and Belize. A native of Connecticut, Parker had been looking for a place to retire and sought out a more relaxed, warmer climate and affordability.

“I never had been to Mississippi before in my life,” Parker said.

Regardless of that, after just one look at Booneville, he decided to go back to Connecticut, grab his things and move in. Lucy, Parker’s red-nosed pit bull, accompanied Parker on his long journey to Mississippi from Connecticut and is today well known in Booneville. She sits in the passenger seat of Parker’s car when he drives and has even been known to accompany him to the bank.

Tanya Finch, executive director of the Booneville Area Chamber of Commerce, said retirees tell her they enjoy the small town atmosphere that Booneville offers.

“It’s like one big neighborhood,” Finch said. “People feel really welcome here.”

Another draw for retirees, Finch said, is the fact that the city is close to larger cities like Tupelo, Memphis and Birmingham.

“If they want to do things in a bigger city they can, but they can come back here at night,” Finch said.

And while Booneville is close to larger cities, the city has its own medical facilities.

“The fact that we have Baptist Memorial in town is a real plus,” Finch said.

Then there is the cost of living, which has also become a major draw for the area. A 1,200- to 1,500-square foot house costs about $65,000 to $75,000, Finch said. And contractors and builders are working hard to build retirees what they want — new subdivision developments are currently going up in Booneville.

John Rowland, the owner of Joe’s Burger Shop, has had his business in Booneville for almost nine years. It’s a place the local retirees go for coffee and conversation, and, Rowland said, “It’s a pretty pleasant surrounding.”

The reason many retirees move to the area, Rowland said, is a combination of access to medical care, police and fire protection and basic economics.

“The rentals and things like that here are fairly reasonable,” Rowland said. And, he said, “Personally speaking, I think our prices on our meals are fairly reasonable for people with low incomes.”

Booneville has two city parks that include ball fields, tennis courts, community centers and swimming pools. Hunting and fishing are all within a short drive from the city.

Another draw for retirees are the many active civic organizations the city offers, including American Legion Post 123, Business and Professional Women, Civitan Cub, Prentiss County Professional Women’s League, Junior Auxiliary, Kiwanis Club, Lions Club, Pilot Club, Rotary Club, Booneville Woman’s Club and VFW Post No. 4877.

No matter the underlying reason that retirees move to the area though, Parker said the city is a terrific place to live.

“I’d recommend it to anyone, but I hope we don’t get too many people so it doesn’t get too big,” Parker said.

Contact MBJ staff writer Elizabeth Kirkland at ekirkland@msbusiness.com or (601) 364-1042.

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