Merle Norman

Natalie Floyd, co-owner of Merle Norman in New Albany, hangs fall decorations in the front window of her store. 

After a tough year with the coronavirus, New Albany merchants say they are optimistic that fourth quarter sales will be strong.

Likewise, local business owners said the Tallahatchie Riverfest and a new downtown event called Shop the Block for Charity provided a much-needed financial boost.

Natalie Floyd, co-owner of Merle Norman in New Albany, said business was great during riverfest weekend. Merle Norman did about the same amount of business at this year’s riverfest as it did during last year’s riverfest, she added.

Floyd believes business is bouncing back from the coronavirus and thinks people are excited to start shopping for Christmas.

“I think a lot of people are really wanting to shop for fall clothing,” said Floyd, who was decorating her store for autumn recently.

Denise Owen, owner of Two Doors Down, said her business did well financially during riverfest.

“We had a great riverfest,” Owen said. “I thought we had good traffic.”

Riverfest was well organized, said Owen, who also enjoyed the new Shop the Block for Charity event, which featured vendors and live music. Stores also stayed open later than usual during Shop the Block.

Shop the Block for Charity is scheduled to take place the last Friday of every month. A portion of sales made at local businesses will be donated to a charity. This month’s recipient was Sanctuary Hospice, and for October it will be the New Albany Boys & Girls Club.

“I think that’s a great idea Main Street’s come up with,” Owen said.

She noted that Shop the Block allows people to support local businesses and a charity at the same time.

Owen and other business owners said they are glad organizers decided to go forward with riverfest rather than cancelling it due to the coronavirus.

It is helpful to have events such as riverfest and Shop the Block for Charity to provide an added boost to local merchants who have had a rough time this year, Owen said. She thinks the New Albany Main Street Association has done a great job organizing events.

“The more events we can have I think the better off we’ll all be,” Owen said.

She is hopeful that her business will have good sales during the fall and Christmas seasons.

“We’re very optimistic that we’ll have a good fourth quarter,” she said. “I think people are ready to get out.”

Considering what local merchants went through with the coronavirus this year, it is now more important than ever to support local businesses, she said.

“When you support local business your tax money stays here to help other things,” Owen said.

Local businesses offer great customer service and hospitality, said Owen, adding that she is thankful for all the people who have supported her business.

“We’ve got some great customers,” she said.

This year has been a “rollercoaster” financially and emotionally, Owen said.

“It’s a year like none other,” she said. “It’s leveling back out, and I feel very optimistic that we’re going to come out of this.”

Joni Mclarty, owner of Muddy Mallard Boutique, said her business had a successful riverfest weekend.

“I thought the sales were great,” Mclarty said. “It was a very successful weekend for us.”

The Muddy Mallard has only been open about four months, so this was the first riverfest for the business. Mclarty opened The Muddy Mallard Boutique in the midst of the coronavirus and says business has been going well.

“I’m happy with everything,” Mclarty said. “I’m always optimistic. I don’t ever get down or discouraged.”

Now she is looking forward to the holiday season.

“I’ve heard it does get busy downtown at Christmas, so I’m excited about it,” she said.

Beverly Hall, owner of Main Street Linen Company, said she thought riverfest was “fantastic.”

“We had a great turnout—two really good days,” Hall said.

Main Street Linen Company had a tent set up outside with a “great sale,” she added. Inside the store there were new arrivals for customers to look at.

“The whole weekend was a success from start to end,” said Hall, adding that “it was a great boost” after what the merchants have been through with the coronavirus.

Bringing so many people downtown “greatly helped the merchants,” she said.

Hall said people did a great job wearing their masks and social distancing. Everybody seemed to be happy to get out and have something special to do, she said.

This was Main Street Linen Company’s second riverfest, and Hall feels as though she did the same amount of business at this year’s event as she did last year.

New Albany Main Street did a great job organizing the event, which felt like a kickoff to the upcoming holiday season, Hall noted.

She also enjoyed the Shop the Block for Charity event, saying, “I think it’s fantastic to have the opportunity to give back. It just shows what a great little town we have.”

Hall hopes she and the other business owners are over the hump with the coronavirus, saying it has been a very difficult time.

“I’m going to remain optimistic,” said Hall, adding that she thinks everyone is going to see a return to better days in the fourth quarter.

Kelley Brunetti, owner of Bead Shack Boutique, said business was “really good” during riverfest weekend. She said Friday night’s Shop the Block for Charity was also a “great addition.”

“I’m excited to get to have that every month,” Brunetti said.

She hopes people will support Shop the Block for Charity since it is for a great cause each month. She is optimistic about the fourth quarter, saying she has had a lot of online shoppers. People are now wanting to get out and shop and buy kids clothes to go somewhere, she said.

Magen Bynum, owner of Magnolia Soap and Bath Co., said “we were super busy” during riverfest

“We had a lot of traffic, a lot of new customers,” Bynum said.

She is happy organizers went forward with riverfest and thinks people are ready to get out again. As long as safety measures are taken, business should get back to normal and people should get back to their daily lives, she said.

Bynum is glad the Shop the Block for Charity event was added. Anything that brings people downtown to support merchants is a good thing, she added.

Bynum said Magnolia Soap and Bath and Co. is ready for the fourth quarter and is expecting huge Christmas sales. Magnolia Soap and Bath Co. has added more stores recently. Currently, the company has stores in Tupelo, Oxford, New Albany, Jackson, Fulton, Starkville, Southaven, Germantown and Cullman, Ala.

“We’re growing rapidly,” said Bynum.

Christie Jumper, owner of Jumpin Jax Boutique, said business during riverfest weekend was “phenomenal.”

Shop the Block for Charity was also “wonderful” and is a good way to bring more people downtown, Jumper added.

In terms of her outlook for the fourth quarter, Jumper said, “Part of me is a little scared. I’ve just had to pray about it to be quite honest.”

Jumper’s business was closed for eight weeks during the coronavirus, and she said it was a scary time. But she said everything worked out, and the Lord “provided for us.” It has been a history-making year, and she hopes 2021 will be better.

Vintage Rose Boutique owner Kelsey Phillips said business was better than she expected during riverfest. She did not know if people would still be reluctant to come out due to the coronavirus.

“It went really well,” Phillips said, adding that her business had a $5 to $10 sales rack outside the store. There were also a lot of people coming inside the store to shop, she said.

Vintage Rose Boutique also took part in Shop the Block for Charity, and Phillips said, “I really enjoyed it.”  It meant a lot to her to be able to give back to charity.

“I think it’s a great opportunity,” Phillips said, adding that it shows New Albany cares and supports the community.

Vintage Rose Boutique was closed for about three months during the coronavirus but still had its website where people could make purchases.

Business has been great overall since the coronavirus, said Phillips. Now she is excited for Christmas, and her business has a lot of fall merchandise arriving. The year 2020 has been rough, and Phillips hopes 2021 will have a better start.

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