Main Street stays vibrant with streetscape, music, shops

Published 4:45 pm Monday, September 24, 2018

By NANCY WILSTACH / Community Columnist

So you live in dull, boring small town USA where nothing much ever happens and everybody is asleep not long after sundown?

Well, it’s pretty clear, then, that you most assuredly do NOT live in Montevallo. This may be a small town, but it just may be the busiest small town in the Southeast.

Much of the credit for the “busy-ness” of Montevallo goes to the city’s hookup with Main Street Alabama, an association that brought about the jazzy new “streetscape” in downtown.

Think for a minute about some of the small Alabama towns you drive through occasionally, with their boarded-up storefronts, crumbling and deserted sidewalks and a general down-at-the-heels demeanor.

I don’t know about you, but those sad places make my heart ache for their long-gone local merchants. My inner eye sees the shoe store where the dimensions and preferences of my foot were on file; and the dress shop where a sales clerk might step out onto the sidewalk to flag me down because a perfect fall outfit had arrived that “is just your color”; and the corner drug store where the pharmacist-owner knew (and kept) a whole town’s secrets and where a soda fountain’s grilled cheese tasted like heaven.

That, admittedly, was the Small-Town America of days gone by. What Montevallo has is the newer edition, still with local merchants who know their customers and convey a sense of community.

By joining up with Main Street Alabama, the city signed on for its mission of “bringing jobs, dollars and people back to Alabama’s historic communities.”

That partnership has helped to foster the energy behind a quirky unique event like the recent inaugural Tinglewood Festival, as well as evenings of Music in the Cove with live performers in the Owl’s Cove Park on Main Street.

The Montevallo Main Street organization took home a number of awards during a recent Main Street Alabama gathering in Eufaula, said the local program’s director, Courtney Bennett.

Bennett’s predecessor, Sarah Hogan, received the Community Award at the state conference.

Montevallo also carried home honors for:

  • Excellence in Planning Public Space for the downtown streetscape project;
  • Excellence in Public/Private Partnerships to the city of Montevallo;
  • Excellence in Promotion for last year’s blowout Bicentennial Bash;
  • Excellence in District Marketing for “Mugs and Kisses on Main.”

Mayor Hollie Cost said during a recent council meeting that the state program’s representatives at the Eufaula meeting had special praise for Montevallo because it tackled the redesign of Main Street and completed its streetscape much more smoothly than has been the case elsewhere.

Bennett keeps tabs on new businesses, new jobs and money invested in the downtown.  According to the Main Street Alabama website, since Montevallo joined the program in June 2014, it has a net gain of 15 new businesses, 28 new jobs, $5.68 million in public investment, $5.3 million in private investment and 5,403 volunteer hours devoted to growing the downtown, small-town economy.