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OPINION: What McCarty pottery means to Mississippi

In working on the story this week about the passing of pottery royalty Pup McCarty, I chatted with someone who told me, “I’ll bet 60 percent of all of the households in Mississippi have at least one piece of McCarty pottery in it.”

I’m not so sure about those numbers, but the mere fact that people are willing to throw around that number is proof of how wildly popular the McCarty’s product has been to Mississippians the last 50 years.

In an interview for the MBJ’s Q&A this week (See Page 30), Malcolm White, the director of the Mississippi Arts Commission talked about why the arts are so important to the fabric of Mississippi.

“… the concept of combining the creative economy — jobs tied to creativity, innovation and imagination — with basic storytelling gives the entire community we live in, including businesses, a competitive advantage. The act of embracing one’s story, history and lineage enriches and adds fabric to community life,” he said.

If you have read our front-page story on Lee and Pup McCarty, it is pretty obvious what that family has meant to their town (Merigold) and their part of the state (the Delta).

They have been great for their town, their region and contributed far more than money will ever mean to the stature and folklore of the Delta and to Mississippi.

What could get lost in all of the stories about Pup, Lee, the Merigold compound and the clay that came from William Faulker’s yard, is the economic impact McCarty pottery has made on this state.

We quoted Sandra Weber, whose Jackson-area stores Olde Tyme Commissary and Inside Out carry McCarty’s unique creations. “One, they are functional. You can use them. And two, obviously, they are just gorgeous. Pup and Lee never compromised their standards,” she told us.

But McCarty’s place in Merigold and the Jackson locations are hardly the only places to buy the pottery with the Mississippi River carefully crafted into each piece.

Go to Tupelo, Oxford, Meridian, Natchez, Biloxi or any number of towns and cities around the state and you can find businesses with the McCarty product on the shelves.

“There are times that we are able to make our budget for the month just because of what McCarty pottery means to our bottom line,” one business owner who did not want to be identified told us.

Similarly, Gail Pittman’s products have turned art into economic impact for Mississippi and Mississippians over the years.

The best thing about the McCarty’s pottery as well as Pittman’s is their affordability. You can spend as much as you want on a piece of McCarty pottery, but a vast majority of pieces can be purchased by most folks in Mississippi, leading to the reason why that one person believes, “… 60 percent of all of the households in Mississippi have at least one piece of McCarty pottery in it.”

The passing of Pup does not mean the end of McCarty pottery. Lee is still there and Stephen and Jamie Smith, who were raised in the McCarty home, will eventually take over the business.
But certainly, an era has passed in Pup’s passing.

Mildred Dearman

Mildred Dearman, longtime executive editor of The Carthaginian, died last week in Carthage following a lengthy illness. She was 85. She was an integral part of Mississippi journalism for many decades. She was inducted into the Mississippi Press Association Hall of Fame in 2005.

Contact MBJ managing editor Ross Reily at ross.reily@msbusiness.com.

About Ross Reily

Ross Reily is editor of the Mississippi Business Journal. He is a husband to an amazing wife, dad to 3 crazy kids and 2 dogs. He is also a fan of the Delta State Fighting Okra and the Boston Red Sox.

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