Ocean Springs – The City of Discovery


Part 1

Ocean Springs, Mississippi

If you’ve ever been to this quaint little Gulf Coast town tucked along the eastern shore of Biloxi Bay then you know it has a lot to offer. Visitors come from far and wide, and many will either decide to stay and never return back home, relocate there, or decide to make it their retirement place.  Every town has its own personality, and this one lives and breathes a unique atmosphere, perhaps because of its nearness to New Orleans or its eccentric arts past.

A city that is increasingly growing in diversity, nestled within its space are lots of quirky boutiques, little shops, and great food places (more than 100!). A new favorite spot can be found around every corner. Ancient oak trees line many of the streets, stretching across the road and whispering tales of long ago. It’s a town with its own character, and a love for the arts. Numerous art festivals draw people from all over the US and Canada throughout the year, the most well-known being the Peter Anderson Festival.

Here is a baker’s dozen of popular favorites that you should not miss when you visit The City of Discovery:

  1. Tato-Nuts Donuts: The Mohler family has been making the world’s BEST donuts here since 1960. Donuts are made fresh every day, and you can also get a great cup of java (a.k.a coffee) and other pastries. These donuts are special because they’re made from potato flour- which kind of makes them healthier…at least that’s what I tell myself! Go early because there’s usually a line out the door! And if you go during the Mardi Gras season (Feb/March), be sure to try the King Cake donut. But the classic chocolate glazed is a popular favorite, especially because they make their chocolate glaze from scratch.

  2. Government Street Grocery: The best hamburger that you will seriously ever eat can be found at this restaurant. It’s not fancy, and it’s small but you can’t go wrong with any of the menu selections. Get the home-made fries and see if you can guess the secret ingredient. Be sure to look for their famous wall sign that reads, “Keep OS weird!” If you go in the evening, you can catch some great local bands (Texas Pete & Rooster Blues are just two examples). Local craft beers, like Blue Moon, are here, too.

  3. The new indie book shop, Southern Bound Book Shop: Finally, OS has an indie book shop! Bring on the 21st century! In its early stages before becoming a full-fledged butterfly, it’s currently tucked inside a cozy corner of the Adele & Grace Consignment Boutique…which is just mere footsteps from Gov’t Street Grocery. Events like Story Time for kids and a Book Club are encouraging folks to read more. They have a second location in Biloxi, and are great supporters of the local writers in the area. Many books written by local authors can be found here, as well as lots of new releases. Be sure to sign up for the rewards program to earn points for purchases toward future books. Go indies! Shop local!

  4. The Mary C. – officially the Mary C. O’Keefe Cultural Center for Arts and Education: If you want to catch a small theatre production or music venue, this is the place. Their annual calendar is filled each year with great artists and all good things for art lovers. This place is a nerve center for local arts. There’s a revolving art gallery that always features thought-provoking artwork or photography that very much pertains to local history and all things Southern. If you go, be sure to visit the gift shop for local designs and artwork. Don’t miss the Ocean Springs History Museum upstairs; if you can catch the Curator, he will tell you some very interesting things about the history of this place and how it developed, as well as the people who played roles in its development. The Mary C. always has a great many things going on. Besides all of these things already mentioned, it offers a wide variety of art classes for all ages… everything from calligraphy, sewing, painting, sculpture, and stained glass to drawing, jewelry making to culinary arts. Once a month they also offer a Saturday market on their lawn; local arts and crafts vendors set up stands and sell their wares.

  5. Walter Anderson Museum of Art: Ah, Walter Anderson…the eccentric man for which this town is famously known. His artwork is famously unique with flowing lines, ink drawings, wood carvings, and jewel-like watercolors. Most of his art relates heavily to the local area and its forms found in nature, such as the sea and local birds or fish. He was known for his 14-mile rowboat trips to Horn Island where he would spend weeks painting and becoming one with the sea and its creatures. If you visit the museum, you will find a unique collection of pieces that will inspire you to enter a magical world of imagination. And best of all, there is a huge room at the museum, tucked in the corner and used for meetings or gatherings; in this room you will find every inch of space filled with nature scenes and whimsical creatures or designs. There is also a Little Room, as it is known. It was discovered at his cottage after his death, and is a giant mural inspired by Psalm 104. The Little Room has been added as an extension to the museum, and stepping inside of it womb is like stepping into a magical and whimsical world filled with dreamlike imagination.

  6. Lovelace Drugstore & Soda Fountain: Nostalgia owns this place. It was originally the medical practice of Dr. O.L. Bailey, but was burned in 1915. It was rebuilt as Ocean Springs Drugs in 1926, and became Lovelace Drugs in the 1950’s. Still dressed in its retro-ish 50’s décor, Lovelace Drugs will take you back to yesteryear. It’s a must on your list of sites to see. They even still have the original soda fountain counter with bar stools. They still sell a small selection of typical drugstore items, but grilled Reuben’s are their specialty, along with milkshakes and root beer floats. A visit here is especially nostalgic during Cruzin’ on the Coast, when vintage vehicles take over the town.

  7. THE BEACH! – No stop to O.S. would be sufficient without a jaunt to the beach. There are a couple of popular spots. If you have a boat, you may want to check out the marina. Front Beach is conveniently located across from Fort Maurepas, which has playing areas for the kids and picnic tables, grills, and restrooms for the whole family. If you have your walking shoes, you can walk along a nicely paved sidewalk along the shore, and can even walk all the way to the Biloxi Bay Bridge which connects O.S. and Biloxi via highway 90. But East Beach is a personal favorite because it’s much quieter, and also allows dogs. This is also the best spot to watch fireworks on the 4th of July. No matter which spot in the sand you choose, watch for shrimp boats heading toward deeper waters, crabs along the beach, and pelicans diving for fish. If you linger to watch the sunsets, you’ll see a glorious show of colors and may catch fish jumping in the water. Breathe in the salt air, wiggle your toes, and relax…then write your name in the sand and get in touch with your inner child!

  8. Shearwater Pottery: Every town must have an off-the-beaten path place to check out. The first time that I went here, I seriously thought that I was headed to the boonies and would surely get lost in the woods and trampled by wild beavers or would end up driving headfirst into the ocean. Just past the marina, there’s a tiny, narrow dirt road- if you blink then you’ll miss it. There is a sign, but it blends in with the camouflage of the green bushes and clay road. Once you find this road, which is very narrow and curvy I might add, you pass several artist cabins before reaching a final cabin. You’ll know this is the place because of all the cars parked outside. Only in the South do we have driving directions like this! On any account, once inside you’ll be transported into another world…the world of marvelous pottery. Originally founded by Peter Anderson (brother of Walter) in 1928, it is still family-owned today. Needless to say, this is considered local hallowed ground. All three Anderson brothers- Peter, Walter, and James- are its most well-known pottery designers. Today they have a variety of potters who design and sell ceramics, decorative and utilitarian pieces as well as figurines. Truly unique in design and reasonably-priced, their pottery is magnificent. If you are into pottery and collections, this is one place you can’t miss. (Even if you’re not, just go!)

  9. French Kiss Pastries: Welcome to Paris! That’s exactly how you will feel upon entering this special little place. Take some time to ooh and aah over the beautiful and delectably inviting pastries, cakes, cookies and pies while you try to decide what to get. Personally, I always love their blueberry scones. The berries are so fresh that they explode in your mouth, bursting with flavor. But there’s also cute little gourmet cakes- get one and you can proudly claim that you ate a whole entire cake!

  10. Greenhouse on Porter: You will love this great little coffee shop that walks to the beat of its own drum. Jess & Katie, the owners, make the best gourmet biscuits this side of the Mason-Dixon Line. Housed in an actual former greenhouse, colorful artwork adorns the front entrance area, and the table seating area greets patrons with a small organic garden. There’s a special spot for parking your bicycle, and you’ll get treated like an old friend from the moment you step foot inside. They also host Opp Shop events for local artists, movie nights, musical afternoons, yoga, and writer’s table events. This is really a place that has quickly become embedded into the local community, and its positive vibe will infect you. Mondays are usually Free Coffee days, and be sure to visit the Little Free Library…it’s co-sponsored by Southern Bound Book Shop!

  11. Quakes Ice Creamery: From the outside, you would never know what a treasure can be found within the walls of this place! If you are a true adventurer, then you will take a chance and soon discover. Once inside, you can sit down and eat a great hamburger or hot dog and grab a homemade malt, ice cream or sundae specialty. The food is great, and the ice cream is the best and creamiest in town- and features daily flavor specials. But the best part of all is that you can write your name on the wall! Grab a sharpie, and find a spot if you can, and leave your mark. Folks have been doing this for years. Literally every inch is almost filled- walls, ceilings, tabletops, chairs and benches…even most of the bathroom spaces!

  12. Historic L & N Train Depot, and Fresh Market Saturdays: During the bustling train days of long ago, this station ran a line from Mobile to New Orleans, and it made stops in Ocean Springs. It was built in 1870, and has been lovingly renovated. Today it houses the Chamber of Commerce and a Visitor’s Center, as well as a small gift shop that features local artwork- particularly that of Walter Anderson. This is a great place to stop and get brochures and loot to plan your itinerary. On most Saturdays, depending on the season, you can check out the Fresh Market from 9am-noon. Local farmers bring their fresh crops, and you can also get local honey, fresh organic milk and eggs, cheese, beef jerky, handmade soaps, hand-spun yarn and a menagerie of other items.

  13. Belgicans Fries: Last but not least, this is really the BEST place to get fries. You can eat them for breakfast, lunch, or supper! The name is a blending of play on words, Belgium and America…it’s the Belgian and American way of eating fries. They have a second location a stone’s throw away in D’Iberville. Fresh-peeled potatoes are fried twice to a crispy golden and crunchy texture. When you order, you get to decide topping choices. The menu is diversely unique, and they really do make a meal.

As you can see from this list, Ocean Springs has a lot to offer visitors.

This list is just a short example. In a town with over 100 restaurants and loads of other great places, you will have no trouble finding great spots to shop, eat, or play. Plan your visit today!

The City of Discovery, Part I by Kristina Mullenix


Southern Bound to Reading

What is a book shop?

Is it just a place to buy books or to take your old books for store credit? Independent book shops stretch far beyond this box, if they are true to their purpose and nature; for they are meant to be a hub of ideas, discussions, imagination and thinking, nerve centers of the community regarding literature and ideas, and encouragement toward literacy and reading. Every community should have an indie book shop.

Our community is blessed to have an indie book shop in Biloxi, MS.

Since 2013, Southern Bound Book Shop has been the only indie book shop in Biloxi (and also Ocean Springs). Shereen Markowitz Kostmayer dreamed of opening a community book shop and after 17 years in her chosen profession and a personal tragedy three years ago, she took her life into a different direction – to create space for real books to thrive in a digital world.

The book shop opened with nearly empty shelves, but it quickly grew and now spills over with books. In fact, a second location will soon open as the only book shop in Ocean Springs, Miss.

The Mississippi Gulf Coast is filled with talented writers and authors.

From the ocean, words seem to drip upon the shores and hang from the palm trees, inspiring the many who write. It’s a place known for artists, creativity and writers. Southern Bound Book Shop features the work of local and regional authors, from the well-known like Greg Iles and Carolyn Haines to the new and novice authors. Regional authors frequently visit the book shop to host Book Signings, readings, and receptions sometimes coined as “Wine & Signs.”

Southern Bound Book Shop has many loyal customers who order books and frequently stop by to peruse the menagerie of genres lining the bookshelves in the cozy boutique atmosphere. It’s the kind of place that overwhelms your desire to pull up a chair, grab a cup of coffee and read all day. You can also chat with Shereen about books as you meet new and interesting  people. In the children’s area is a reading rug and bean bag for the kiddos; in the back of the shop, Mom & Dad can plop into one of the funky and cushioned chairs.

The book shop also carries a large collection of used books,

many of which come from patrons who receive a store credit. The used books are in such great condition, one never guesses that most are used. Prices are reasonable and when in doubt about which book to choose, Shereen is happy to recommend one or two.

In addition to books, Southern Bound Book Shop offers vintage jewelry and recycled art by local artists. There is a small collectible books section for the true book collectors. Don’t forget to check out the Okra Picks Books, which are nominated by the Southern Independent Bookstores Alliance (SIBA). Members of SIBA nominate new books quarterly. Their motto is “Great Southern books, fresh off the vine.” Trisha Yearwood’s cookbook has been nominated, as well as many other great books for all ages.

Every Tuesday is New Release Day.

Lucy (from the “I Love Lucy” show) has become the unofficial mascot of New Release Day, and her image – a face of surprise and wonder- announces what new books have been released.

Southern Bound Book Shop encourages the community to read

by sponsoring a Little Free Library located at The Greenhouse on Porter in Ocean Springs, which has gotten great feedback from visitors who take a book and leave a book. This past summer, Southern Bound held several story time events for children.  They also offered a free activity for children at the Downtown Ocean Springs Artwalk at which kids could draw, write and make their own book to take home. Other recent events relate to local history, container gardening, and a benefit concert.

This corner book shop is truly a treasure for the community! Stop by and check it out… and bring a friend!

Southern Bound Book Shop
280 Eisenhower Drive (Biloxi, MS) in the Hobby Lobby Shopping Center
(second location coming soon to Ocean Springs, MS)

Visit Webpage

Visit Facebook:

Instagram & Twitter @ReadLocalBiloxi

By Kristina Mullenix

Slow Waltz with Southern Oak

While Kentucky is traditionally considered the master of bourbon,

when old timers began distilling it, the Bluegrass State was a county in Virginia. So it’s no surprise that just outside Fredericksburg, Virginia, a small distillery practices the time-honored art and science of making fine bourbon. Each barrel aged at A. Smith Bowman responds to the seasons, while the spirit inside acquires tenor and taste in a slow waltz with charred oak.

Bowman’s small batch bourbons are currently distributed in 19 states and London, England, yet are still bottled by hand and they never combine more than eight barrels. For comparison, Maker’s Mark, another award-winning bourbon, combines about 19 barrels for each batch. A. Smith Bowman enjoys a growing reputation. “We’re attracting visitors to Fredericksburg from as far away as Maine and Florida and we get international visitors,” says tour guide Mary Ahrens.

In 2013, both John J. Bowman Single Barrel Virginia Straight Bourbon and Bowman Brothers Small Batch Bourbon were awarded gold medals at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition, a blind tasting by industry experts of more than 1400 entrants.

George Final 2American Spirit

The history of the Bowman family is uniquely American. After serving in the Revolutionary War, Abraham Bowman and his four brothers settled in Kentucky. Abram Smith Bowman was born there in the late 1800s and moved to Indianapolis as an adult, finding fortune with a transportation company. When the city bought him out in 1927, he purchased a farm in Northern Virginia called Sunset Hills. He used leftover grain to distill spirits. After Prohibition was repealed, he built a modern distillery in Fairfax and named it after his farm. In 1988, the distillery moved to its current location in a former manufacturing plant just off route 2 across from the Fredericksburg Fairgrounds. It’s a small operation with a handful of employees. Although they sold their share in 2003 to Sazerac of Metairie, Louisiana, the family that gave this distillery its name serves as a reminder of a tradition generations in the making.

They distill twice a year, in the fall and the spring.

“That’s how the old timers had to do it,” Ahrens explains. “They had to cool their still before there was refrigeration so they had to do it when the streams were running. They could count on it.”

While continuing to make the spirits that built its reputation, Bowman looks to innovate. Master Distiller Brian Prewitt worked with Vendome Copper and Brass Works, in Louisville, Kentucky, to design a custom-made still. This month, a 24 foot tall, 500 gallon hybrid pot made to Prewitt’s specifications was assembled at the distillery. Its features will allow Bowman to experiment with flavor profiles and to take over the entire process of distilling vodka and gin, which until now have been distilled off site and bottled in Fredericksburg. Named “George” for the father of the Bowman brothers, it will make its inaugural run in March. George sits alongside “Mary,” the longtime still named for the Bowman matriarch. “We want to have the capability to try anything and everything, and with George, we should be able to do just that,” Prewitt said in a press release. “We’re excited to do some experimenting, try new things and continue to make great spirits here at A. Smith Bowman Distillery.”

Honorable Tradition

Federal law requires that bourbon be made of at least 51 percent corn, distilled to no more than 160 proof, with no additives other than water and yeast. A. Smith Bowman’s recipe includes malted barley and rye. After several days of fermentation, the solids and the liquids are separated and the solids are fed to cattle.

The liquid mixture is then pumped into the still. After distillation, only the “center cut” – what the distiller determines is the highest quality – is used. Each barrel is filled with 53 gallons and hammered shut with a wooden mallet.

For a whiskey to be called “bourbon,” it has to be aged in new charred oak barrels. “We want an oak that’s going to be pliable enough to make into a barrel and porous enough that it’s going to interact with the whiskey,” Ahrens says.

Bowman gets their barrels from Independent Stave Company in Lebanon, Kentucky, a company that has supplied makers of bourbon and wine with hand-crafted barrels since 1912. ISC company sends buyers into Arkansas to select white oak from the Ozark Mountains. The wood is milled into staves which are then dried for 18 to 24 months in open air. After that, the cooper constructs the barrel using techniques first developed in feudal England. Finally, the interior is “toasted” with a 1300 degree propane flame to give them four degrees of char.

The spirit goes in crystal clear.

During aging, the oak relaxes in summer months and contracts in winter. This interaction with the wood develops the spirit’s color and taste. John J. Bowman single barrel bourbon is aged 10 years; Bowman Brothers is aged seven years.

Durindistilleryg aging, some of the alcohol seeps out of the barrel bringing wood deposits with it. This “barrel candy” seals the barrel. While each barrel is different, up to 65 percent is lost in the aging process to evaporation, what is known as “the angel’s share.”

There are more than 5000 barrels currently aging on the property. Finally, after being brought from the aging room, makers extract the bung and empty the barrel into a tank for filtration. Every four to six months, they release bourbon limited editions named after the patriarch Abraha

Bowman’s oaky, concentrated flavors are earning a growing reputation that may force the company to revise their bottling process. They still bottle one at a time.

Cinderpoo by Cesca Janece Waterfield

Cesca Janece Waterfield is a writer originally from the Northern Neck of Virginia. She is fascinated by the history of the rural south and is currently earning her MFA in Creative Writing in southwest Louisiana. Contact her via http://cescawaterfield.wordpress.com






Top Ten Reasons to Support Locally Owned Businesses

Join Southern Roots Magazine in supporting locally owned businesses to create and build economic development in East Mississippi and West Alabama.

The following comes from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, a national nonprofit organization working to strengthen independent businesses and local economies, and is reprinted here with permission.

  • Local Character and Prosperity

In an increasingly homogenized world, communities that preserve their one-of-a-kind businesses and distinctive character have an economic advantage.

  • Community Well-Being

Locally owned businesses build strong communities by sustaining vibrant town centers, linking neighbors in a web of economic and social relationships, and contributing to local causes.

  • Local Decision-Making

Local ownership ensures that important decisions are made locally by people who live in the community and who will feel the impacts of those decisions.

  • Keeping Dollars in the Local Economy

Compared to chain stores, locally owned businesses recycle a much larger share of their revenue back into the local economy, enriching the whole community.

  • Job and Wages

Locally owned businesses create more jobs locally and, in some sectors, provide better wages and benefits than chains do.

  • Entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurship fuels America’s economic innovation and prosperity, and serves as a key means for families to move out of low-wage jobs and into the middle class.

  • Public Benefits and Costs

Local stores in town centers require comparatively little infrastructure and make more efficient use of public services relative to big box stores and strip shopping malls.

  • Environmental Sustainability

Local stores help to sustain vibrant, compact, walkable town centers-which in turn are essential to reducing sprawl, automobile use, habitat loss, and air and water pollution.

  • Competition

A marketplace of tens of thousands of small businesses is the best way to ensure innovation and low prices over the long-term.

  • Product Diversity

A multitude of small businesses, each selecting products based, not on a national sales plan, but on their own interests and the needs of their local customers, guarantees a much broader range of product choices.

© Institute for Local Self-Reliance.

EMBDC President Wade Jones Resigns

In a Press Release, the EMBDC Board of Directors

stated that the Board has accepted the resignation of Wade Jones as President of the East Mississippi Business Development Corporation, the Chamber of Commerce/economic development organization for Meridian and Lauderdale County. Bob Luke, Chairman of the EMBDC Board made the announcement and said the Board believed it was a good decision for Wade, EMBDC and the community.

A native of Greenville, Mississippi, Wade graduated from the University of Mississippi and since February 2001 has served as EMBDC president. During his tenure, EMBDC’s regional economic growth initiatives included Young Professionals of Meridian, a Small Business Development program, and Leadership Lauderdale. He stated at this time, it was appropriate for him to pursue alternative career tracks.


To empower a diverse leadership culture to achieve economic wealth through excellence in education, new investment and the nurturing of existing business and industry.

The East Mississippi Business Development Corporation is a not-for-profit organization that serves as the Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development agency for Meridian and Lauderdale County. Formed in late 1996 by a group of visionary business leaders, the EMBDC serves the City of Meridian, City of Marion, Lauderdale County, and over 1,400 dues-paying members.

 Southern Roots Magazine wishes the best for Wade Jones in his new endeavors and EMBDC in its search for a new president.

Buying Locally Builds Locally

Susan Grayson, the wife of Demopolis Mayor Mike Grayson, opened her business Spectacular on August 1, 1986 in downtown Demopolis. The shop is as diverse as the city, with the front being an optical dispensary filling all your optical needs and the back filled with selections of fine wine, craft beer and gourmet foods.



“We also have giftware in our Eccentric Treasures Room,” said Susan. “In the front we repair your vision in the back we impair your vision.”

The greatest challenge as a local business, said Susan, is building the customer base and getting products the public is interested in.

“We cater to all of our customers and hopefully have the product they want,” she said. “We always ask is there something we can order for you.”


A Wine Tasting


Susan has learned how to cut every corner possible, while at the same time providing products that are worthwhile to her customer base. Being successful takes hard work and consistency.

According to Andersonville Study of Retail Economics,

local businesses generate 70 percent more local economic activity per square foot than big box retail. Plus, shopping locally helps cut down on the processing, packaging and transportation waste that leads to pollution. That’s not all.  Shopping locally also means encouraging and supporting our craftsmen and artists and the businesses selling their products. Another 2012 Study supported the conclusions of the 2004 Andersonville Study of Retail Economics confirming that  locally-owned businesses generate substantially more economic benefit to the local economy than chain businesses. For every $100 in consumer spending with a local firm, $68 remains in the local economy. For every $100 in consumer spending with a chain firm, only $43 remains in the local economy. For every square foot occupied by a local firm, local economic impact is $179. For every square foot occupied by a chain firm, local economic impact is $105. Find out more about the Andersonville Study of Retail Economics, its findings, and methodology.

In “Buying into the Local Food Movement”, February 2013, A. T. Kearney said

grocery shoppers largely embrace the increase in local food options because they believe it helps local economies (66 percent), delivers a broader and better assortment of products (60 percent), provides healthier alternatives (45 percent), improves the carbon footprint (19 percent), and increases natural or organic production (19 percent). And

In the National Restaurant Association’s 2014 Restaurant Industry Forecast (December 2013)

Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of the National Restaurant Association’s Research and Knowledge Group said that today’s consumers are more interested than ever in what they eat and where their food comes from, and that is reflected in our menu trends research as opposed to temporary fads. It also revealed the evolution of the wider shifts of our modern society over time, and focused on:

  • The provenance of various food and beverage items
  • Unique aspects of how they are prepared and presented
  • The dietary profiles of those meals

National Restaurant Association “What’s Hot” Chef Survey – Top 10 Menu Trends for 2014

  • Locally sourced meats and seafood
  • Locally grown produce
  • Environmental sustainability
  • Healthful kids’ meals
  • Gluten-free cuisine
  • Hyper-local sources (e.g., restaurant gardens)
  • Children’s nutrition
  • Non-wheat noodles/pasta
  • Sustainable seafood
  • Farm/estate branded items

See more statistics at the USDA

CustomMade is an online marketplace

for custom goods and a great resource for buying unique, handcrafted items that pump funds back into the American economy as well as local economies.  The Vision of CustomMade is simple: Buying custom from local Makers is a viable alternative to buying from big box retailers.

“We believe there is a better way to buy: Getting quality, one-of-a-kind goods directly from expert makers. We’re making custom furniture, jewelry and more an option for all: we help you get anything made.” Mike Salguero and Seth Rosen, CustomMade Co-Founders

According to the American Independent Business Alliance (AMIBA), consumers choose to do business where they think they will get the best best value for their time and money.  However, Jeff Michen states in his AMIBA article that The disappearance of local businesses leaves a social and economic void that is palpable and real — even when it goes unmeasured, and a community’s quality of life changes in ways that macroeconomics is slow to measure (or ignores completely).  In addition, he said, a chain “superstore” may boast of creating 300 new jobs, but numerous studies indicate they displace as many jobs as they create. (Read the rest of Michen’s article here.)

With these statistics and findings, why do consumers still choose chains over locally owned and operated?  What can communities do to educate the population about the importance of supporting local businesses?  These are questions that should be asked and answered by every community, large and small. The truth is chain stores are and will always be clones.  Locally owned businesses are unique and individual and cater to the community in which they serve.  Local business owners develop relationships with their customers and stock their store according to the customer’s needs and wants.











What local consumers are saying:


I avoid Walmart as much as I can but I do shop there. It depends on what it is you’re looking for. In the locally owned stores you can pull up close to the door, get help, not wait in long lines and feel appreciated for your business. Supporting locals is critical for their survival as well as Meridian and Lauderdale County. You can just look at the cash registers in Walmart and see only so many people can work there. Community is constant; folks that live there. We all lose or gain by the activity of the group. That’s not to say we will all agree but you have to see the cause and effect. Get out and get involved in something or sit on the sideline. Both have a consequence. If you play music, paint, etc., it’s critical to have a local audience. Let’s face it, not many of us become famous. Having someone appreciate your talent by coming to see / hear you is the whole point. You remember or get to know those people by name and often develop a relationship you never would have otherwise. It’s not really any different than owning a business. When I walk into Mississippi Music for example, I know someone there is going to know my name and try to do whatever they can to earn my support while simultaneously supporting me. I don’t take people for granted that listen to me play and I don’t take a business for granted that goes out of their way to show their appreciation. In fact, I bought my son a guitar this past Christmas. I got it at Mississippi Music. A couple of weeks later, I received a letter in the mail from the President of Mississippi Music thanking me for my purchase. I won’t forget that. Locally focused…..Just pay attention to what’s going on around you. Make an effort to think about that cause and effect. Locally focused part 2….Go to the Meridian Little Theater, go to the Temple, go to the Riley Center, go to your church activities. Try something new. We can’t support everything, but at least support something. Otherwise, there is nothing out there.


It is important to keep in mind when buying local a significant amount of the money you spend finds its way back to local businesses, adding strength to our economy and tax base. Local organizations receive around 250% more support from small businesses than big box business. When you by local you are supporting community job creation. While places like Wal-Mart con be convenient on certain levels, buying there undermines the success of locally owned businesses, and in the long run coast tax payers more due to the fact employees need federal and state assistance due to low wages. Medicaid, food stamps etc. Small businesses employ more jobs nationally and locally and provide more jobs to residents. As we know cheaper is not always better. Our community is where we dwell, our family, friends support what we care about, and sense of place starts here. Our community is in large, our life line. As an artist I am sometimes over whelmed from the support my town and community have shown me. It has been local business that have provided a place to ply my trade and share my music. As I have stated throughout the years, my community has been very good to me. Think locally, buy locally, consider People, family, friends, and local prosperity.


Sustainable Connections

Institute for Local Self-Reliance



Nursing A Healthier Mississippi

A recent study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (JOEM)

revealed that employers who provide programs and facilities to insure good healthcare management and healthy living assistance for their employees saw reduced absenteeism from work and improved productivity. Therefore, in Mississippi, which is considered the unhealthiest state in the union, these type programs could create a healthier and stronger environment that in return improves and grows the state’s economic structure.

DSC_0106 (2)

Bruce Martin

“The biggest cost most business owners are concerned about is the cost of the health of their employees, workers compensation, and group claims,” said Bruce Martin of Meyer and Rosenbaum Insurance located in Meridian. Finding effective ways to treat people’s health conditions to get them back into a normal life gets them back productive in life. If you take care of someone and stop problems before they become so great and expensive, Bruce added, you’ve helped that person and the employer and the cost to both. This realization spurred Bruce to think differently and take another approach to healthcare insurance.

He met Amy Elliott through the Meridian Freedom Project and seeing her passion for people, he came to her and said, “I’d really like to think outside the box on group health insurance. I’d like for you to come in and learn and see what you can do.”

Amy entered the field of nursing because she wanted to be an advocate for people. But when you’re in the medical profession as a nurse, as a caregiver, she said, it’s really hard to be an advocate for people because you hit walls. “You sort of want to be a social worker, but you have patients that need something and you don’t know how to go about getting it for them.” Many times Amy felt like a peg on a board, present only to change beds and pop meds. Plus, the more educated Amy became, the less patient contact she had. As a CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant), Amy fed and bathed patients, helped them to the restroom, and changed their sheets. “That was what I loved doing most.” Then Amy attended Southern University and received a four year degree in science and nursing. By the time she finished, she was more into paperwork than doing patient care.

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Amy Elliott

“I was charge nurse at 23 of a nursing home in Meridian. I had 24 staff members under me and 64 grandparents.”

One patient was Amy’s biological grandmother. “On my lunch hour I would go in and feed a patient because I missed that contact,” said Amy.  “My CNAs were shocked because I’d actually help someone to the restroom.” According to Amy, there was an air about nurses who were there to service the administration and not the patients. A past supervisor once told Amy to focus on the patient first and everything else will fall into place. That stayed with Amy and that’s what she always did. But the more health insurance monopolized healthcare, the more she realized that no one can truly be an advocate. “I got very frustrated and burned out. “

Finally, Amy took a break from nursing to be a stay-at-home mother. When her children started school, she was ready to enter the workforce again.

Bruce discovered Amy was a very successful person in the medical field as well as the founder of the Freedom Project. He felt anybody with that much passion in life could make a real impact. “A lot of what we are doing in the wellness is attributable to Amy.”

For the first time in 15 years, Amy feels like a patient advocate.  “We do not focus on wellness in Mississippi,” she said. “We focus on obesity and high blood pressure, but we don’t’ focus on wellness.” The Southeast has higher rates of ADHD, obesity, and the lowest life expectancy rate. “It’s all correlated,” said Amy. “If an employee is healthy, he or she is more productive and happier.”

The first Meyer and Rosenbaum wellness meeting was at the Southern Pipe plant located in Meridian’s North Industrial Park.

Amy had considered doing a juice bar and discussing healthy eating habits. When the employer said, “Could you do me a favor and explain what a trip to the doctor looks like? Some of my employees have never even been to the doctor. They are terrified to go,” Amy knew what that first meeting needed to be.She brought a doctor to the first workshop and had the employees go through question and answer periods about health while Amy’s team demonstrated how to take blood pressure and oxygen levels. One employee’s blood pressure was 244/120. “We got him to the doctor that day and now he’s on medicine,” said Amy. “Just that wellness checkup could have saved that employer hundreds of thousands of dollars because you’re talking about a possible stroke.”

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Southern Pipe Employee Gathering

To Bruce the mission goes even deeper.

“Meridian is home so we want to have a major impact at home as quick as we can.” If an employee you care about is not treated, their blood sugar, blood pressure, all these things become very expensive to treat when they could have been handled very inexpensively.

Rising healthcare costs are out of control. To keep your costs low, you have to make sure your employees are healthy, said Amy. Many employees won’t go to the doctor because it takes three hours to get in and out of a doctor’s office. Meyer and Rosenbaum found an answer to this as well.

“We’ll sign up the employees on this fast pass card and they’ll get in and out of the doctor’s office in 45 minutes because their insurance information will already be there,” said Amy. Employees get a paid day off for their wellness check-up, they see the doctor within a reasonable amount of time, and then have the rest of the day off.

Meyer and Rosenbaum is branding this program and developing group health access to a fast track wellness plan.

In addition, employers have in-service wellness planning, an on-sight nurse that goes in and does blood pressure and whatever else is needed.  That’s not all! Amy will also check and verify everything on the employee’s medical bill and if they have questions or problems, she’ll answer and help solve those as well. “I contact insurance companies, finalize their bills and make sure their bills are paid,” she said.

Programs like this will build stronger relationships between the employer and employee.  “The most important relationship beyond the employer/employee relationship is the relationship they have with the healthcare provider,” said Bruce. “Think about someone who is intimidated by a medical visit and they’re not intimidated anymore because there is someone to help them. Healthcare shouldn’t be something you’re afraid of. It should be something you want.”

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Taking notes

The fear of doctors keeps you from your only lifeline to wellness “Your health is your responsibility,” said Amy. “It is amazing how people get references for childcare sitters or employees or even who’s going to clean out their car, but people will see a doctor blindly.”  You need to know if your doctor is an MD or board certified or not. Don’t be afraid to ask for references or check out available resources. There’s a difference in a DO and a MD, said Amy. A DO is more holistic and an MD is more medicine driven.  “Both are necessary and very much needed.” Bottom line: you need to know the difference.

What’s important to Meyer and Rosenbaum is helping people understand healthcare, that preventative care is a lot less expensive, and that they have choices.

“We have great resources and healthcare in Meridian, we just need to take better advantage of them,” said Bruce.  “We want to help heal Meridian and Mississippi. If we do that, then we bring value to our customers. If we bring value to our customers, then we’ve done our job.”




What Southern Pipe & Supply Chief Financial Officer Marc Ransier has to say:

“Today was important for us because this is our first year for our health and wellness program at Southern Pipe and we recognize that this is the very first step in moving toward making sure that our family members have a relationship with their primary care physician and an engaged relationship with their physician. First, we wanted to make sure they had one. We wanted to show them that doctors aren’t scary and that they are really just like you or me. We wanted to show them how easy it was to find a physician and then second once they find one we wanted to remind them that they have a day off for that visit and that it’s free. We’re really trying to remove all those barriers in having that initial health and wellness visit with their primary care physician and having that every year. The other thing we wanted to do was, for those who already had a primary care physician, be sure that they are engaging with that physician actively.  So just don’t tell me my cholesterol is high, tell me about the components of my cholesterol.  You educate your folks on how to do their job, you educate your folks around financial issues, what it means to save money, we wanted to educate around health risk factors so they can be engaged in that relationship.”

(See and hear more from CFO Marc Ransier in accompanying video)


Findings from the JOEM Study:

• Workers who ate healthy the entire day were 25 percent more likely to have higher job performance.
• Workers who ate five or more servings of fruit and vegetables on four or more days in the past week were 20 percent more likely to have higher job performance.
• Workers who exercised for 30 or more minutes on three or more days a week were 15 percent more likely to have higher job performance.

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Learning Healthy Habits

The impact of obesity:

• Job performance was 11 percent higher among those workers who were not obese.
• Workers with well-managed chronic diseases experienced higher productivity than individuals without chronic disease who are obese and do not exercise.
• Obese workers and those with a history of chronic disease and conditions related to pain and activity limitations were also more likely to have recurring absenteeism.
• Obese workers experienced lower job performance and higher absenteeism, compared to workers with depression and other chronic diseases or conditions.

Source: Healthways