A ‘cool and touristy’ downtown

Wayne MitchellStopping into The Seamstress to pick up some pants I was having altered (no, I wasn’t having the waist let out), I couldn’t help but think about how much busier downtown has become over the past five years.

First, I couldn’t find a place to park on Bankhead, so I went around the block to the lot behind New Albany City Hall. After parking in one of the last three vacant spaces there, I walked through the narrow alley.

Downtown was not always the bustling shopping destination it is today. Some of the downtown retailers, in business for more than a decade, have seen the other side of downtown – with vacant and deteriorating buildings and lots of empty parking places. I call these long-time retailers the “downtown stalwarts.”

We are featuring a good number of them in the new issue of New Albany Magazine, which will be in your Gazette this Friday. It’s sort of a tribute to sticking it out, and being part of a downtown that has become what Tommy Sappington calls “cool and touristy.” Three bicyclists, fresh from a ride on the Tanglefoot Trail, were stopped in front of his store, admiring the window display, as I strolled back up Bankhead. Or maybe they were looking at the 300 record-album covers that line the walls inside. Who knows? But they were there, part of a new crop of visitors in our midst.

Sappington, who with his wife, Martha, has run the store since 1986, is one of those featured in the magazine, along with other Bankhead shopkeepers Barbara Tyre, Chuck Cooper, Mary Jennifer Russell, Jane Myers, and Herman Windham. From farther up Bankhead, we included Bill French and from Main Street, Angie Staten, Beverly Kitchens and Travis Wiseman. Doing interviews for the story, we learned some interesting tidbits about our merchants. Did you know one of them knew Elvis Presley personally and another has a craft piece on display at the Smithsonian Institution?

Another article in the magazine, this one by reporter Angie Barmer, focuses on summer fare with an international flair, as area cooks share family recipes from five countries – El Salvador, Guam, Mexico, the Philippines and the Ukraine.

Managing Editor David Johnson takes you on a day trip to the Blues Museum in Clarksdale, and freelance writer Shwandra Russell plans a summer weekend getaway for you to the lively city of Asheville, N.C., home of the Biltmore Estate, the largest private house in the country.

And close to home, local photographer and writer Doyle Caviness gives us a peek inside the modern-style home on Main Street owned by Jeff and Donna Speck. The house was designed by Ted Porter, a New Albany native, who now is a partner is a New York City architectural firm.

Of course, we left space in the magazine for the popular feature, “Scene,” 15 pages of photographs from New Albany events.

We hope you enjoy the spring/summer issue of New Albany Magazine as much as we enjoy publishing it. And stop in and visit our downtown merchants – stalwarts or newcomers – and let them know you appreciate their role in our thriving downtown.

T. Wayne Mitchell, Gazette publisher, can be reached by phone at 662-534-6321.

About Wayne Mitchell

Publisher of the New Albany Gazette