The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

Students should make an effort to support Starkville’s small businesses

Jayce Freeman
Prioritizing local businesses is a great way to support them, according to TJ Manna of Proof Bakery.

I grew up in small-town Mississippi. My hometown has no red light and no Walmart, but we do have a Piggly Wiggly and a few small businesses. However, for as long as I can remember, many of the small businesses in my hometown have struggled to stay afloat.

I can name many boutiques that have opened for a year or two only to close. I fear that with their prices and limited selection, my hometown just does not have enough people to sustain small businesses long-term. Starkville, however, should not have this problem.

Because it is a college town, Starkville has a much larger number of potential customers than my little town. With over 20,000 students in attendance last year, Mississippi State University certainly adds to Starkville’s revenue and culture.

Whenever I describe life in Starkville to someone who goes to another college, I always say that Starkville feels like a small town with a college dumped on top of it. Starkville certainly has the charming feel of the quintessential small Southern town with lots of small businesses and lifelong citizens, but the town constantly has new people and new ideas cycling through as well. 

I think that this combination makes Starkville special, and so do other people, considering that USA Today named Starkville this year’s Best Small Town in the South

The small businesses in Starkville play a role in creating the sense of community that makes the town worthy of this award. I want to encourage college students but also people in general to recognize their responsibility to treasure and support the small businesses in Starkville.

I am not saying that people should boycott Starbucks or Cook Out or Marshalls, but I do think that people should pay attention to where they spend their money. Starkville has so much to give and has welcomed so many people to spend one of the most important stages of their lives here — the small businesses deserve and need our support.

I try to buy my friends’ birthday gifts at local boutique. When I decide to treat myself to a sweet treat, I try to go to a local bakery instead of choosing a milkshake from a fast-food chain. These small choices make a bigger difference than most people realize, according to small-business owners like Morgan Stonecypher.

Local businesses often have trouble overcoming stiff competition. (Jayce Freeman)

Morgan Stonecypher, one of the owners of Two Flamingos Gift Shop, opened her business on November 1, 2022 with business partner Alicia Harwell. Stonecypher grew up in Eupora, but now lives in Starkville. She praised the town’s support and offered some reasons why people need to support small businesses. 

“Starkville as a community does a lot to get people involved, like the unWINE event, for example, which we participate in. It is a great town,” Stonecypher said.

Stonecypher suggested that people need to support small businesses if they want to continue having places to purchase last-minute gifts and outfits. 

“Also, if you do not support small-town, you are not going to have anything in the town. A lot of people depend on small businesses,” Stonecypher said. “Lots of families here own businesses. We have to keep the town alive.”

Tj Manna, originally from Kingston, Massachusetts, and owner of Starkville’s Proof Bakery, also spoke about her experiences in Starkville as a small-business owner.

Her bakery, which has been open for five years, has struggled because of construction downtown. She recently reopened with a new business model where customers order their sweet treats ahead of time and then pick them up at the bakery. 

Unlike Stonecypher, Manna views Starkville as a bit of a challenge, but they both agree on the importance of supporting small businesses. 

“Starkville as a location is not an easy feat for me,” Manna said. “I live to keep to myself in a lot of ways, and it is hard to be looked at and judged as a business owner. Small towns seem to have that aspect a bit more than the cities I have lived in. I know I am not from here, and I may not fit that image. But I would like that to be the reason people come to Proof to experience something different and support a local business almost as if they are going to Europe for a brief moment in their day because of the food and the vibe.”

Manna’s testimony proves that small businesses create their own little cultures. People can purchase fancy croissants and desserts right in the middle of small-town Mississippi from someone who has lived in other parts of the US and uses her experiences to make delicious food and contribute to the community. People like Manna and their unique businesses need support. 

Manna also talked about the importance of small businesses supporting each other. She believes that owners as well as customers have to work together to prioritize buying local. 

“At my shop I try really hard to support other local small businesses. For example, I sell locally roasted coffee from the E-Center, hot sauce from Restaurant Tyler and grits and cornmeal from Delta Grind. I use meat from Old Waverly and the TBT Butcher Shop and fresh produce from Bountiful Harvest. This is supporting local, and the other small businesses should do the same. Have a cafe? Sell some of my croissants or bagels. Then it starts a cycle, and we all benefit. It gets people thinking about it in a different way,” Manna said.

Overall, whether you are a college freshman ready to experience Starkville’s small-town charm for the first time or a lifelong citizen of Starkville, you should look for ways to buy local and support small-business owners like Manna and Stonecypher who contribute so much to the community. 

About the Contributor
Rowan Feasel
Rowan Feasel, Staff Writer
Rowan Feasel is a junior English major. Rowan is currently a staff writer for The Reflector.
Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All The Reflector Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *