Billye Jean Stroud

New Albany Main Street Director Billye Jean Stroud holds up the cover of the Southern Living magazine. New Albany was recognized as a best small town in the South by the publication.

New Albany was named this month by Southern Living magazine as one of the best small towns in the South.

In addition, Sugaree’s Bakery in downtown New Albany was recognized as one of the South’s best bakeries.

New Albany was the only Mississippi town to be recognized by the magazine, and Sugaree’s was the only Mississippi bakery on the list.

New Albany Main Street Director Billye Jean Stroud said she thinks it’s a “huge honor” to be named one of the best small towns in the South by such a widely circulated magazine.

She said the city did not apply to receive the honor and is not putting a lot of money into digital marketing right now.

The article in Southern Living noted that New Albany is the birthplace of author William Faulkner, home of the 44-mile Tanglefoot Trail and boasts a walkable downtown. The article also suggested that people should stop into The Vintage Market for an ice cream sundae.

Other small towns to make the list included Bell Buckle, Tenn.; Boerne, Texas; Guthrie, Okla.; New Bern, N.C.; Paducah, Ky.; Wetumpka, Ala.; Wheeling, W.V.; Covington, La.; and Wilson, Ark.

Stroud said the Tanglefoot Trail in New Albany draws people from “coast to coast.” New Albany has many advantages, such as not being too big, Stroud said. The city is also strategically located between some hotspots such as Memphis, Oxford and Tupelo and is an affordable place, she added.

“I cannot give the Tanglefoot Trail enough credit,” Stroud said. “I think that is absolutely the catalyst that has jumpstarted all of this.”

Moreover, New Albany has a bustling downtown. Not all Mississippi small towns have two streets full of businesses, Stroud said.

“Our downtown is full,” she said. “New Albany’s a hot place right now.”

Stroud was excited when she heard the news that Southern Living had named New Albany one of the best small towns in the South and said, “It’s great publicity.” She expects the article in Southern Living to draw more visitors to the community.

She thinks people got tired of the metro areas in 2020 and want quiet, easygoing, affordable places to go. She has submitted an application to the Mississippi Development Authority for New Albany to be designated as a retirement community. Once the city achieves that designation it will open up more opportunities, she said.

“Just having that designation opens up a whole other realm of people wanting to come here,” Stroud said.

Stroud said it is a tight real estate market in New Albany with a need for more housing inventory. Rental properties are also hard to find, she said.

“Something’s going on in this community,” she said, adding that all of it is positive. “We just have to maintain it now . . .”

Van Atkins Jewelers is another business, in addition to Sugaree’s Bakery in New Albany, that is known around the nation, she said.

“Word of mouth spreads quickly,” Stroud said. “Quality of product spreads quickly.”

USA Today has previously recognized New Albany as the Best Southern Small Town.

“Outsiders coming in are just blown away with New Albany,” Stroud said.

She hopes to convince local people what a “great gem” New Albany is.

“It’s up to us to keep it clean, shop local, keep merchants in business . . .,” she said. “We’re all in it together as one community.”

People are going to visit beautiful places, not ugly, trashed communities, she said, adding that citizens should do all they can to keep the city picked up and groomed.

Stroud said she thinks New Albany has been so successful because over the years there have been people who have had a vision. A lot of it has to do with leadership as well as citizens who care, she added.

New Albany also has great civic clubs, which help make the community strong, Stroud noted.

“We’ve got three very active garden clubs,” Stroud said. “I just think people care. We’ve got good citizens who care.”

Southern Living covers a large area in the Southeast, and this type of publicity can’t be beat, Stroud said. Now it is time to step it up even further and make this honor work to the community’s advantage, she said.

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