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There was some good news

By Stephen McDill and Amy McCullough

ONE: ‘Tutwiler: Mississippi’s boomtown?’ Oct. 21, 2009

Despite the economic downturn, Tutwiler’s sales tax revenues doubled, thanks to a new Double Quick that replaced the town’s Shell station. The Delta town with a population of 1,364, according to the 2000 census, is one of a handful of Mississippi communities that has seen a financial positive in the current recession.

Mayor Genether Spurlock said the Double Quick on Highway 49 replaced the Shell station early in the summer and residents have since stopped traveling out of town to buy gas. Double Quick prices are than the Shell’s were and consistent with the chain’s prices in other locations.

Tutwiler’s main businesses are two gas stations with convenience stores, a restaurant and a juke joint.

Total Tutwiler sales tax revenue for fiscal year 2009, which includes the months of July through September, was more than $13,000. For the same period in 2008, total collection was more than $9,000. Subsequent quarters produced similar revenues.

TWO: ‘Physician: Botox doing well because of recession’  October 26,2009

To trim their budgets, consumers are cutting out “extras,” but surprisingly, many aren’t putting Botox injections into that category. In this recession, business for some plastic surgeons has significantly increased.

One Jackson doctor has added to his business by holding Botox parties at a salon in Greenwood, a town without a plastic surgeon offering that service.

Dr. Adair Blackledge of the Blackledge Face Center said 70 to 100 people attend each quarterly Botox clinic at Legends salon. About 70 percent of attendants spend between $200 and $500 on injections that take minutes to perform. While patients from different areas prefer confidentiality, “Delta ladies are a little bit different; they like to get together and have a good time,” Blackledge said. To his knowledge, he is the only doctor in the state who holds satellite Botox parties.

“In this economy, my practice has actually gone up 22 percent,” Blackledge said. He attributes the increase to patient concerns about returning to work in a more demanding job market. A 55-year-old woman competing with a 30-year-old woman for a job wants a competitive edge, he said. 

THREE:  ‘Art booming in down economy’  November 2,2009

The two Jackson area Easely Amused art studios are packed five nights a week with customers eager for proprietor Bridget Tisdale’s step-by-step instructions for painting their own masterpieces.

Tisdale never thought people would be so hungry for art lessons in a recession: “It’s absurd.” She calls class “the happy zone” and thinks that’s the appeal. It’s “therapy for recovering perfectionists.” Painting just can’t be perfect, she said.

“I never thought I would start an art business. Never in a million years would I have guessed I’d end up an art teacher… I think it’s important for people to have an outlet.  We work, work, work,” she said. “Even in tough economic times, it’s a release for people,” Tisdale said.

Classes are $25 each and made through online reservations only. The Ridgeland studio opened in January and seats more than 30. The Flowood location opened in September and holds more than 40. Both are booked five nights a week. Students come from Meridian, Brookhaven and Delta towns as well as the Jackson metro area.

Easely Amused is preparing to franchise. Similar chains are Alabama-based Sips N Strokes, which has nine locations spread through three states.

FOUR: Other positives

Some of the other positive and eclectic stories of 2009 included the reopening of a state historic landmark, the visit of British rock royalty to the Mississippi Blues Trail and the bristly stand one Delta community is taking against the looming recession.

The Old Capitol Museum in Jackson was reopened to the general public in February, bringing an end to a four-year hiatus that had left its doors locked and its galleries dark. Originally completed in 1839, the state’s first legislative assembly house survived the Civil War only to suffer significant roof damage following Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Architects and designers from across the country made efforts to restore the building to its older exterior look with faux limestone replacing the familiar brick exterior. The original museum, which covered the history of the entire state, was also retooled to focus more on the building itself and the many political developments that transpired in its historic past.

FIVE: Touring Mississippi

Grammy Award-winning artist Robert Plant made a surprise visit to in December to Tutwiler for the unveiling of a historic marker honoring composer and musician W.C. Handy and his contribution to blues music. The former lead vocalist for Led Zeppelin praised Tallahatchie County and the Mississippi Delta for its continued contributions to the blues both as an art form and a tourist attraction. The Mississippi Blues Trail unveiled its first marker to blues legend Charley Patton in 2007. The Trail will include more than 120 historical markers and interpretive sites throughout the state and will continue to be developed in phases as funding becomes available.


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