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Business still booming, say town officials

MONTICELLO – With the impending Highway 84 bypass coming tocompletion in the next few months, Monticello business and civicleaders want to make sure their town doesn’t go unnoticed.

Joan Hartzog, chairwoman of the Lawrence County Chamber ofCommerce and chairwoman and curator of the Lawrence County RegionalHistory Museum, said she wants surrounding counties to knowLawrence County has a lot to offer.

“We have so many talented people in Lawrence County,” Hartzogsaid.

Hartzog said those who aren’t from Monticello would be surprisedby what the town has to offer.

A brief visit with a few of Monticello’s businesses shows avariety of talents by many townsfolk, such as Lynn Russell, amaster craftsman. Russell and his wife, Beverly, own Blue SpringCollectibles, a store that opened in late October in downtownMonticello. The Russells’ store carries a variety of items made bylocal craftsmen as well as collectibles.

Hartzog is not the only person concerned about the opening ofthe bypass. City officials have been working on ways to bringtraffic back to the city after the bypass opens.

Monticello Mayor David Nichols, said city officials have taken aproactive stance on the opening of the bypass. They have on thedrawing board a boulevard and frontage road that will connectHighway 84 to downtown. Nichols said he believes these roads willhelp provide continued access to the downtown area.

“It will also encourage more businesses to develop,” Nicholssaid.

Nichols said plans are also under way for downtown landscaping.Officials are waiting for the traffic to die down before giving thego ahead on that work.

Monticello has many interesting businesses that people fromaround the area come and shop at, Nichols said.

“We have shops people will drive to,” he said.

Old River Gallery recently held a grand opening in a newdowntown location, Nichols said. He said the shop is just oneexample of why people from surrounding areas come to shop inMonticello.

Old River Gallery carries a selection of candles, prints,pottery and more, the mayor said.

Joan Parkman, a Lawrence County resident, has an interest indowntown Monticello because her daughter Laura Evans owns Plain andFancy, a boutique and salon there. Parkman said Monticello hasseveral eating establishments with distinct atmospheres that drawpeople to the area.

Malta’s Downtown Market carries a variety of gourmet mixes andrelishes as well as an outdoor corner deli market and eatery.Parkman said it opened in late 2004.

Other downtown restaurants include the English Garden Tea Room,which has an ever-changing decor to match the seasons, whileHenri’s remains a local favorite after 18 years of operation,Parkman said.

Several businesses have made use of older buildings, which havesignificance to older Monticello residents.

Donna Harvey, owner of the Corner Park Salon, remodeled theresidence of Melvin and Louise Foster, who once owned a populargrocery store in Monticello, while Terry Davis, turned the oldMonticello train depot into Railroad Treasures and Vendor’s Mall.Davis said he currently provides space to 25 vendors. The depot isa Mississippi landmark, Hartzog said.

Other downtown attractions are Cooper’s Ferry Park, Hartzogssaid. The park is a favorite of many locals. It has treetop trails,a pavilion, an overshot water wheel and a picturesque view of thePearl River.

Locals frequent the park to enjoy picnic lunches and walk thetrails, Hartzog said.

The Lawrence County Civic Center, which at one time was theLawrence County High School, has been a project of the historicsociety for some time, Hartzog said. The Lawrence County RegionalHistory Museum is open to the public from 9 to 1 p.m. Tuesdays orby appointment, Hartzog said.