BY MARY GARRISON
Valeda Carmichael has called West Point home for the last 34 years. By the end of the summer, however, that may change.
Carmichael, owner of Culin-Arts on Commerce Street in downtown West Point, said within the next two months, she will be relocating her business to Oxford. A staple in the downtown business community since 2002, Culin-Arts provides a wide array of goods and services pertaining to cooking and entertaining needs. When one walks through the doors at Culin-Arts, they are greeted with the sight of oil paintings and hand-crafted jewelry alongside unique kitchen ware and serving trays.
Itâ€™s a different blend which has carved its own niche in the Golden Triangle. However, Carmichael said she felt her time in West Point as a business owner was drawing to a close, and a booming economy, diversified university crowd and larger potential clientele provided an allure she couldnâ€™t ignore.
â€śThereâ€™s always an influx of new people coming in (in Oxford),â€ť Carmichael said. â€śâ€¦ Thereâ€™s nothing like this in Oxford. Before I opened here in West Point, I went to Columbus and Starkville and I checked out all the different stores and shops, because I didnâ€™t want to carry anything that someone else had. I want to be different â€¦ Iâ€™m not stepping on someone elseâ€™s niche. I did the same thing in Oxford.â€ť
And the signs have just pointed in the right direction, she said. While much of Carmichaelâ€™s local traffic came from bridal registry, she said a great deal of her sales were generated through out-of-town visitors. Itâ€™s a revenue stream that has been dying down for Carmichael since 2008, she said. When coupled with what she felt might be serendipity, the move to Oxford quickly became a done deal.
Carmichael said the rapid, unplanned transition had just worked out too perfectly. One day last year, she said a gentleman inquired about the wrought-iron awning on Culin-Arts facade â€” one that Carmichaelâ€™s brother had built. Some time later, the gentleman â€”Â a property owner in Oxford â€” contracted her brotherâ€™s services for a wrought iron deck. Having a desire to see his product, Carmichael made a trip one day as he worked.
â€śWhile I was there, I parked and walked the square and just saw how happening it was,â€ť she said.
The upshot, was a friendship forged with the landowner, whom offered to let Carmichael stay at the property any time she chose outside of football weekends. After a particularly rough and tiresome week in June, she and another friend took up the offer on a whim. The two spent the weekend exploring the town.
â€śIt was a like a brick just hit me upside the head,â€ť Carmichael said.
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