Downtown businesses gearing up for Gran Prix bicycle race

Published 5:34 pm Monday, April 5, 2010

Janie Stogner has seen Brookhaven’s annual bike race come andgo, but she never really paid much attention to the MississippiGran Prix until last year.

She closed up Janie’s Pastry and went home in the late afternoon asusual, but she left something at her little shop on WhitworthAvenue had to come back to town. When she got back and saw the sizeof the crowd watching the downtown race, she realized she wasmissing an opportunity to serve a few more customers and pick up alittle extra cash.

“I was amazed at the number of people downtown,” Stogner said. “Iwould encourage downtown businesses to stay open.”

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This year, she won’t miss out.

Stogner is one of several downtown business owners who will keeptheir stores open a little later, mark prices down a little furtherand try to capitalize on the crowd that comes into Brookhaven everyyear for the Mississippi Gran Prix. Hundreds of cyclists and theirfamilies are expected to spend Friday, Saturday and Sunday in thecity to compete for thousands of dollars in prizes in what hasbecome the biggest bike race in the South, and spectators frominside and out of Lincoln County will be on hand to watch.

Those people have to eat, have to sleep and some of them just haveto shop while they’re here, said Cliff Brumfield, executivevice-president of the Brookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber ofCommerce.

“It’s a good opportunity for our merchants to perhaps catch a fewnew customers they otherwise wouldn’t see,” he said. “It should bea nice little boost to April’s sales tax income.”

Barry Shedd, owner of the Locker Room, plans to keep his men’sclothing store open a little later Friday when the most popular ofthe races – the Downtown Criterium – takes place at 7 p.m. The menwill be racing around downtown for one hour, but it’s the womenShedd is counting on.

“I know we’ll have a lot of people in downtown, and the wives liketo stay around and shop a little bit,” he said. “I think we mightput a little sale on.”

Another new business, Melinda’s, will stay open later on Fridaynight, but owner Melinda Said is putting her money on Saturday,when the cyclists move out into the county to compete in thelengthy road race at 8:30 p.m. There’s no good place to stand forthat race, and that’s good news for Said, who will decorate herstore and mark down prices on her remnant trim and fabrics.

“That race Saturday is not one you watch. It goes all through thecounty and those families will be back here shopping,” she said.”We’ll make sure we are noticed. We’ll make it fun.”

Logan Portrey is going to run some specials at his clothing store,Michael Logan, and keep the doors open a few extra hours Fridaynight.

“I’m interested in seeing the turnout,” he said. “It’s definitely agood thing for downtown Brookhaven.”

The race’s biggest downtown supporters are Joe and Christy Fleming,owner of the toy store Just Kiddin’ of Brookhaven. They’re not onlykeeping the store open into the night, but hosting their secondannual Mississippi Gran Prix Race Festival at 6 p.m., complete withentertainment, food, children’s activities and drawings for prizesfor $5 admission.

“Every time we’re open during this bike race, we always do prettygood,” Joe Fleming said. “We definitely do well enough to keep thedoors open after 5 p.m. on that day. The families who come in withthe bike racers love to come into the store.”