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Four people stand on Main Street in Saltillo, MS.

Saltillo Adds Restaurant, Retail Options

Story by Nathan Gregory • Photos by Kevin Hudson

When civic leaders in Saltillo made the move in 2016 to pursue Mississippi Main Street Association membership for their town, they wanted to see their business community become more connected to its residents.

Guidance from the Mississippi State University Extension Service’s Center for Government and Community Development has helped leaders of the small city just north of Tupelo reach some of their goals and plan for future growth.

A woman stands on Main Street, beside a street lamp, holding a #Saltillo sign.

Saltillo Main Street, which is overseen by director Lindsey Hines, has adopted several changes Extension recommended in a vision planning study facilitated by the association.

“We’re still brand new as a Mississippi Main Street member, but we already have a road map of where we are going and how to get there. Having that guide makes our success easier to achieve,” Hines says.

Rachael Carter, Extension community development specialist, served as an economist and market analyst for the vision planning team. The group, which consisted of architects, graphic designers, marketing experts, historic preservationists, and planners, toured the community to meet with civic leaders, local merchants, and residents.

“The Main Street program wanted to find out if there was potential for business growth in the downtown and what infrastructure changes were needed for success,” Carter explains. “We did a tour of the community and learned about potential resources.”

Carter also provided data that the Saltillo Main Street board of directors used to determine what kinds of businesses the town’s residents were most likely to support.

“Rachael was able to gather, through demographic data, the retail leakage Saltillo was experiencing,” Hines explains. “She found that Saltillo residents spend a lot of money on their pets, and that the town could support a restaurant and additional retail businesses. One of the biggest objectives in forming this board was identifying the most appropriate businesses to recruit, and her work has been instrumental in answering that question.”

The vision team helped the Saltillo Main Street board develop a 5-year business-recruitment plan with long- and short-term benchmarks. Two steps the board quickly completed were implementing a banner system and starting a town website, http://saltillolife.com. The downtown area now welcomes visitors with 11 banners featuring the “Welcome Home” logo the vision team designed.

“The team did overlays of our existing buildings to show enhancements that could be made to them to enhance the downtown’s design,” Hines says. “I like having examples to show business owners what they can do with their storefronts to make them more visually appealing.”

With the assistance of Saltillo Mayor Rex Smith, the local Main Street board is working toward full occupancy of the town’s storefronts. He built a relationship with an absentee owner of several downtown buildings and worked with him to have a locally established business owner purchase half of them. The owner donated the other four parcels and a vacant lot, where a 70-car parking lot is now under construction.

Since obtaining the buildings, business owners are opening shops. A florist expanded his business space, while other entrepreneurs have opened a salon, a restaurant, an antique store, and a motorcycle-repair shop.

“Getting those nine pieces of property was huge for us,” Hines emphasizes. “Right now, we’re 75 percent full with our downtown commercial spaces, and we addressed a longstanding parking issue.”

The vision team also suggested Hines establish a Junior Main Street program, which she hopes will convince teenagers in Saltillo today to return as adults and help the community thrive.

“I think it’s important for our young people to see the importance of getting involved with our community,” she says. “I want our kids to go to college, but I also want them to be proud of where they grew up and come back here to raise their kids.”

Filed Under:
MSU Extension Service
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