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.
Itâs 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 couldnât ignore.
âThereâs always an influx of new people coming in (in Oxford),â Carmichael said. ââŠ Thereâs 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 didnât want to carry anything that someone else had. I want to be different âŠ Iâm not stepping on someone elseâs niche. I did the same thing in Oxford.â
And the signs have just pointed in the right direction, she said. While much of Carmichaelâs local traffic came from bridal registry, she said a great deal of her sales were generated through out-of-town visitors. Itâs 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 Carmichaelâs brother had built. Some time later, the gentleman âÂ a property owner in Oxford â contracted her brotherâs services for a wrought iron deck. Having a desire to see his product, Carmichael made a trip one day as he worked.
âWhile I was there, I parked and walked the square and just saw how happening it was,â 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.
âIt was a like a brick just hit me upside the head,â Carmichael said.
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