Shop Owners are Cautiously Testing the Waters

GOLDEN TRIANGLE REGION, MS – Courtesy of the Dispatch

State Governor Tate Reeves’ order to allow “non-essential” retail businesses to re-open their doors came with caveats that they enforce social distancing and a 50% capacity limit; this has apparently not yet been an issue

Rebecca Kraker, owner/operator of R. Tabb & Co. in Starkville, has been doing business via the internet and curbside pickup at her boutique up until now. Now that her doors are formally open again, customers are still not quite coming in droves just yet: “I haven’t had anyone come in off the street yet today,” she said. “I’m going to see how it goes this week and next week. When people are broke, I’m not going to sit up here seven hours a day and wait for somebody to just walk in off the street.” Other clothiers, such as George-Mary’s and George Sherman’s, have had similar experiences. As a result, many are contemplating reduced hours until business picks up enough to justify their normal hours and bringing their employees back in.

Rebecca Kraker, owner of a women’s apparel and gift shop on Main Street in Starkville – “I’ll see how it goes . . . and figure out what makes sense”
Photo by Slim Smith, Dispatch Staff

Alesia Lucas, owner of George-Mary’s, looks forward to being able to put her staff back to work: “I applied for all the funding under the programs out there for small businesses, but we were behind a little bit getting that going,” she said. “As soon as we get the funding, I’ll be bringing some of my staff back . . . We’re ready for things to get back to normal a little bit,” she said. “We have our hand sanitizers and we’re telling everybody they have to wear masks. Other than that, all I need are customers.”

Check in with your favorite businesses big and small (especially small!), and give ’em some of your business — from six feet away, of course!

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You Win Some, You Lose Some

GOLDEN TRIANGLE AREA, MS – Courtesy of the Dispatch


An Italian eatery in the Cotton District has, unfortunately, shut its doors for good. A bit short of its second year in business, building owner Mark Castleberry has confirmed that Gondolier on Mill St has closed for good. The location has been put on the market, in hopes that another shop wil lbe able to take over the place soon.

In lighter news, Starkvegas Snowballs has reopened; they had been temporarily closed due to virus concerns. They are back in business at 113 MLK Dr West. They ask that customers continue to observe social distancing via a six-feet spacing. They accept plastic but not cash, and they will be open from 2 to 7 PM every day for window service only.


Speaking of sweets, Three Sisters Pie Company at 422 Main St. has reopened their doors and is offering to-go and curbside service. They will be open Tuesday thru Friday from 10 AM to 3 PM. Call them at 662-798-0872 to place an order; no cash accepted at this time. They will be offering all of their usual hot drinks and a selection of pies.

The local Starbucks has also reopened; hours are from 6 a.m.-noon every day.

Applebee’s is back, as well, offering curbside pick-up from 11 a.m.-8 p.m.

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Cafe on Main Bringing Sweets to the People of Columbus

COLUMBUS, MS – Courtesy of the Dispatch

At Cafe on Main in Columbus (at the corner of Main and 5th St S), Manager Kelsie Hoover is just one of many who have been adjusting to the way things are now, to the benefit of their customers. They have added limited dinner service via pickup, drive-thru, and delivery, in addition to their existing lunchtime and sweet shop offerings: “We were just getting used to it, being open some nights, having a live band, offering a different atmosphere than lunchtime — and then COVID-19,” said Hoover, 22. “We had to change our normal routine and adapt to this new environment.”
Their offerings include plate lunches, sweets, frozen casseroles, and more. Give them a call at 662-241-4401 to order (11AM to 4PM Mon~Fri). For the time being, they also have a limited supply of hand sanitizer, protective gloves, antiseptic spray and a few other items.

Kelsie Hoover, manager of Cafe on Main and The Sweet Shop in downtown Columbus, holds two chocolate chip pies ready to go in the oven Tuesday morning. Hoover shares the pie recipe today with readers who are currently cooking more at home.
Photo by: Jan Swoope/Dispatch Staff

“We were making casseroles on a limited basis, but when dine-in ceased, we wanted to make as many as we could with what we already had on hand,” Hoover said. “We had almost an overwhelming response, which was very nice of our customers. So, we expanded on our casseroles and soups.”
Specific dishes on offer include frozen poppyseed chicken, chicken spaghetti, lasagna, meatloaf, cream-style corn, mac ‘n cheese, sweet potato casserole, squash casserole and more. Also available are taco soup, vegetable soup, red beans and rice, corn salad and chicken salad, among others.

She even took some time out to demonstrate how to make a chocolate chip pie — recipe at the link below. “I love to serve people. I love to take care of people,” she went on to say. “I always wanted people to feel like they were taken care of, even if it’s just to make sure their drink was always full and their food was nice and hot.”

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Strange Brew — Look What They’ve Done for You

STARKVILLE, MS — Courtesy of the Dispatch Strange Brew has been changing with the times in order to make sure their patrons can get their piping hot java even in these strange times. Owner Katelyn Reed says that they have begun to carry items such as paper towels, flour, eggs, TP, and hand sanitizer (subject to availability) — and coffee too! — all via their drive thrus. Their stores are located on Hwy 12 and on University Drive. She went on to say that “[They] wanted to offer a safer way for our customers to grab what they need by swinging through the drive-thru instead of having to walk into a big store…We are [thankful] our customers have worked with our changes and allow us to still provide them with a moment of happiness in their days. We are constantly adapting to the newest safety guidelines and while it can be challenging, we are willing to do whatever it takes to safely serve strangers every day.”

Also in town, Flavors Cuisine of India on Martin Luther King Jr. has reopened. They will be offering both pickup and carry-out orders.
There’s also a burger contest happening. Mitchell Distributing will be holding its Bud & Burgers virtual competition this Friday from 5~8PM on their Facebook page. Grill up your best burger, take some snapshots, and upload your best pic to their page by 8PM this Friday in order to enter. You will also need to include a team name and the name of your unique burger creation.

“We’re really excited to bring Bud & Burgers virtual during this unknown time,” said Mitchell Companies Communications Manager Anna Grace Tanner. “We thought this event would be a positive opportunity for our communities to feel a sense of togetherness even while participating from homes.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has some tips to help keep all of us safe in these uncertain times:

– Many stores are offering curbside pickup and delivery services, including Walmart, Kroger, and Vowell’s Marketplace, among others.
– If you do need to go out, please wear a mask of some sort over your mouth and nose — even if it’s just a t-shirt, that’s better than nothing. Vendors on sites such as eBay, Etsy, and more are selling cloth masks, many of which have a slot to insert a filter (ask first before buying!). If possible, use a HEPA filter (e.g. certain types of vacuum bags, cut to fit) for this purpose.
– Please maintain a six-foot distance from others around you, use hand sanitizer after touching ATM’s, credit card machines, gas pumps, doors, etc. Also, avoid touching your face before cleaning your hands.
– Please respect the six-foot-apart tape lines in stores.

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Local business voices: Help when you need it

Courtesy of the Dispatch and the GTR LINK

The COVID-19 crisis has left many in our community without all or some of their source of income. Federal relief programs under the CARES Act will provide support to individuals and businesses, but these programs are still being delivered and, in some cases, details worked out. Stimulus checks began rolling out this week, but many will continue to wait for help. Yesterday, Governor Tate Reeves announced two programs to provide additional assistance to those in need.

Mississippi Home Help is a program that will allow funds to be distributed to individuals to assist with their mortgages. Homeowners can apply online at to submit a request. This program can provide up to six months of mortgage assistance.

The MS Department of Human Services and the MS Department of Health rolled out the MS Childcare Crisis Assistance in Isolation Response Plan. Emergency childcare centers will be opening around the state for essential workers if their traditional childcare operators are not open. Emergency assistance to pay for childcare through this program is available through the state. Details of this program can be found at


If you have not already, now is the time to apply for unemployment benefits. If you haven’t been able to get through, keep trying.
We’ve been communicating with our partners in Jackson to try and implement strategies to reduce the bottleneck and get individuals processed quickly. We’ve heard stories of people submitting their applications online in the early morning hours, getting multiple people to attempt to call the hotline, coworkers helping each other walk through the online application, and other strategies to get it. Keep trying.

Individuals may qualify for benefits if:

■ you have been laid off or your employer has shut down due to COVID-19
■ your hours have been reduced as part of the COVID-19 pandemic; you may be eligible for partial unemployment.
■ you have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus, or have been quarantined by a medical professional or government agency because of contact with COVID-19
■ are caring for an immediate family member who is diagnosed with COVID-19

It is important to file your unemployment claim as soon as possible. The weekly waiting period has been waived, and benefits can be delivered to you as quickly as they are processed, often within 7 days.

If you do not qualify for unemployment, you still qualify for assistance under the CARES Act.

Assistance for filing for unemployment can be accessed anytime via phone at 888-844-3577 or visiting These claims can be filled out online on a phone, tablet or computer.

Locally, the following offices are available by phone or email to individuals looking for assistance:

Mayhew Job or 662-243-1801
West Point Job or 662-243-1802
These offices are not open to the public currently and are following shelter in place guidelines.

Remember, following the economic recession in 2008, the Golden Triangle saw one of the most significant periods of new job growth and wealth creation in the region’s history. This isn’t our first rodeo. We are going to recover and get back to work as soon as we can.
Take care and continue to shelter in place.

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Customers Have Mixed Reactions to Enhanced Grocery Safety Restrictions

Steve Gao holds a bag of hamburger buns as he leaves Sunflower Food Store on Military Road Tuesday afternoon – Photo by Yue Stella Yu, Dispatch Staff

Columbus, MS — Courtesy of the Dispatch

This past Monday, Columbus Mayor Robert Smith sent out letters to many food stores in the city explaining some new, tighter safety regulations that have been put in place in order to slow the spread of the Coronavirus. All food store employees must now wear masks and other protection gear while working within six feet of customers. Stores also need to set up measuring markers and signage to remind customers to keep six feet from each other. While many stores were already doing these things, others had to scramble to comply by the end of Tuesday’s deadline.

“It was refreshing to hear that … the store is taking serious measures in following the federal guidelines as well as the city of Columbus,” said Joe Murphy, a shopper at Sunflower.

“They are around more people than we (are),” shopper Paula Fuller said. “It makes you feel safer.”

“I feel just a little bit safer,” shopper Donna Gainer said.

On the other hand, not all customers are happy about the more stringent precautions. One customer remarked that he felt that “(The government is) making a big deal and they are scaring people.”

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Photo: Steve Gao holds a bag of hamburger buns as he leaves Sunflower Food Store on Military Road Tuesday afternoon – Photo by Yue Stella Yu, Dispatch Staff

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Food Trucks and Fast Food and Groceries, Oh My!

GOLDEN TRIANGLE REGION, MS – Courtesy of the Dispatch


A new food truck is coming to Starkville, by the name of “Mon and Pop.” It will be run by MUW culinary program graduate Hunter Bell and his wife. They want to provide convenient breakfast and lunch to locals, perhaps with more to come once things start getting back to normal. Once they’re up and running, they will advertise their location each day of operation via their Facebook page. They will be opening this coming Monday morning. 6AM to 2PM.

Also in Starkville, Fleur-de-Lis Flowers will be moving over by one spot, from 222 to 220 E. Main Street. They are currently open for curbside and delivery. Consider getting some flowers to brighten up a relative’s day, or even just a centerpiece for your own dinner table. Brighten up the room a bit while you’re hanging out at your (literal) home office.


Hamburger joint Jack’s is coming to West Point. They are scheduled to open up shop by the end of May at 6795 Hwy 45 S. The Alabama-based fast food purveyor has been around since 1960.


Many places have been rolling with the times, and that includes rolling back their hours and number of customers allowed in-store in the interests of public safety. Limits have also been placed on certain high-demand items so that everyone gets a chance to get what they need.

Kroger is limiting customers to 50% of normal capacity — one customer for every 120 sq. ft. of store space. When this limit has been reached, customers will line up outside, with 6 feet between each of them, to be allowed in on a one out, one in basis. Columbus and Starkville stores will be open from 7AM to 9PM, with the first hour reserved for patrons 60 and older from Mondays through Thursdays.

Wal-Mart will have similar restrictions in effect: five customers per 1,000 sq. ft. of store space before limiting entry. 60 and up pnly for the first hour on Tuesdays.

Tractor Supply will also be implementing some limits; customer limits are in place, and they will be open from 8AM to 9PM. with 60+ for the first hour every Wednesday. They are also implementing same-day and next-day delivery.

Please understand that, while these arrangements might cause you some stress, they are only temporary, and the workers are feeling the stress just the same as anyone else. They’re likely not fans of these restrictions and lower hours anymore than you are, so please be patient with them.

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Fiber Broadband Access Coming to Monroe County

Monroe County, MS – Courtesy of WCBI

In a promising first step, Monroe County has laid the groundwork to allow residents to gain access to proper high-speed internet in the county. MC Electric Power Assn and Conexon have announced an agreement which will provide the service; it is anticipated to be 100% complete within about four years. “This is a $30 million project, and we want to make sure it’s designed correctly,” said Barry Rowland, who is general manager of MCEPA, which was the county’s first electric co-op. The service will be administered by a subsidiary to be called “M-Pulse Fiber.”

Georgia-based OSMOS will be handling the initial infrastructure setup. “What they will be doing, you may see them come to your home, on side of the road, at poles, they will go to every single pole, check clearances, permits, crossings, railroads, waterways, state highways,” Rowland said. “I think it will be great for the whole communities we serve,” he went on to say.

Construction on the network is anticipated to begin by the fall or winter, with some customers coming online as soon as early next year.

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New Locations Coming for McAlister’s, CarMart

Golden Triangle Region, MS – Courtesy of the Dispatch

Openings and Re-openings Galore

McAlister’s has announced that they will be opening up their third GTR location; this time, in West Point on Hwy 45, next to Burger King. They anticipate opening this summer.

CarMart is building a second location in northern Columbus on Hwy 45 a bit north of the Carl Hogan dealership.

Palmer Home Thrift Store on S. Main St is back, but they are limiting traffic to ten customers at a time. Columbus: 9-5. Starkville: 9-7.

Gordman’s has replaced the old Goody’s ztore in Starkville. They offer higher-end goods at discount prices. Mon~thurs Noon to 6, Sundays 1-9.

Food, Glorious Food!

Essential businesses are adapting to the way things are right now, and are working on ways to serve their customers.

The Butcher Shop in Columbus, 108 13th St. N., has been doing well, but have managed to keep much of their high-quality meat selection in stock. “We’re doing great,” owner Bill Mason said. “We still have plenty of product to sell… Everybody is buying heavier than they normally would because everything is so uncertain.” 8-5:30 Mon~Sat. Call ahead to make sure what you’re looking for is available.

Starkville’s United Produce, a wholesaler, has shifted to allow for retail sales for the time being, as many of their usual restaurants are closed or ordering much less than usual. 900 Louisville St, Mon~Fri 7 to 4 and Saturday 7 to noon. 662-323-8578. “We’re making the (delivery) option available to the customers,” General Manager John McKissack said. “We’re doing it for them and for us. I’ve gotta find a way to support our guys too. … My guys all came together with this idea. From here on, we’re all in this together.”

East Mississippi Wholesale Foods, 5897 Hwy 182, is doing the same. They offer bulk purchases of meats, paper products, cleaning supplies, and similar items, as well, so make room in your freezer! “We understand that Kroger and Walmart are selling out of stuff quickly, or limiting what you can purchase,” store rep Cristen Crantham said. “Even when we’re out, we are hoping to get another truck in the next day. Customers can call and we can hold items for you or call you when they are in.” Monday through Thursday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Moe’s Original BBQ in Starkville on Main St is offering workers who are laid off or otherwise out of work $5 pulled pork sandwiches and two sides Monday through Friday 2-4 p.m.

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Customers Stocking up on Gardening Supplies, Guns, Ammo

COLUMBUS & STARKVILLE, MS – Courtesy of the Dispatch

With local cities and counties both imposing curfews, closing non-essential businesses, and asking people to stay home whenever possible, many residents are planning ahead for whatever may come. This has resulted in runs on certain items in stores, forcing the shops to take precautions to protect its customers and workers, even as their shelves get raided.

Signs outside the Oktibbeha County Co-op in Starkville denote city laws regarding gatherings. Photo by Theo DeRosa, Dispatch Staff

General Manager Jeff Hays of Lowndes Farm Supply reports that his business has increased due to the concerns over potential shortages: “I think they don’t know what might happen to the supply chain.” Many folks are buying more feed, seeds, and more, within the restrictions stores have had to implement in order to make sure everyone can get what they need.

Owner Gary Dedeaux of Gary’s Pawn Shop on Hwy 45 in Columbus says that handguns and 9mm ammo have become hard to keep in stock despite a 2-box/person limit; the manufacturers themselves no longer have any to send them. As with many other businesses, they have implemented a locked-door policy in the name of safety, along with a tight restriction on what types of transactions may be processed and how many customers are allowed in-store at any given time. They also specified that ammo must be pre-ordered.

“What we’ve noticed the most is the way people shop,” owner Ken Campbell of The Spirit Shoppe on Bluecutt said. “It’s ‘give me a case of that,’ instead of a bottle. I guess they plan on self-quarantining until this is over. I had one gentleman buy six half-gallons of gin and 21 liters of tonic, and he says, ‘I’ll see y’all in a couple or three months.’ That’s kind of the mentality that’s going on.” He also noted that, while bars are now closed to inside business, many of them still allow drive-thru or curbside item pickup.
Scott Gault, owner of Starkville’s Scotty’s Wine and Spirits on Hwy 12, reports higher sales over last year, despite the reduced hours.

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