WIGGINS, MS (WLOX) - Merchants in downtown Wiggins are celebrating. That's because on Friday the city dedicated a long awaited improvement project on Pine Hill Avenue.
Just in time for the Christmas shopping season, there are new sidewalks, streets and lighting. Pine Hill Avenue is the anchor for a downtown business district that's faced its share of struggles, but continues to survive.
Before cutting the ribbon, Mayor Jerry Alexander couldn't help but reminisce about Pine Hill Avenue, "back in the day".
"Hinton's Drug Store. And Tommy Kotch told me that was the first job he had, working in the soda fountain. Miss Minnie Stamps has a dress shop," said Mayor Jerry Alexander.
A new street, sidewalks and old fashioned lights are among the improvements.
"It's very, very important. It's been in a process for a number of years. And I'm finally glad to see it completed," said longtime resident, Bobby Faye Wilson.
Cydnee Scarborough is happy the work is finished. She opened a gift shop downtown about five years ago, then added a coffee shop.
"I feel like the heart is downtown. I've had many offers to go on the highway and I've not taken them. I believe in Pine Hill and I really love the community aspect of it," said Scarborough.
That same sense of community convinced Brent Tice to open a new business downtown. He's keeping quiet about what the business will be, but is convinced it will succeed on Pine Hill.
"We feel good about reinvesting in our community. That's what we're all about. We want to hire some young folks to go to work like we had the opportunity to do when we lived in Wiggins. And that's what we're all about," said Brent Tice.
The red bricks are really the signature touch on Pine Hill, but it hasn't always been that way. One former merchant said that several years ago, there was a celebration when they paved over the bricks with asphalt.
"We had potholes and so we all decided we'd cover it up with asphalt. And we covered the whole brick street up. And we were so happy, we danced all the way down the hill," said Virginia Burchfield.
The bricks are back and so is the celebration.
"Everybody ready? Everybody in their places, with a smile on their faces?" said Mayor Alexander, "And let's cut the ribbon. There you go!" he said, as the crowd applauded.
The downtown revitalization project cost around $1,400,000. It was funded with a grant from the Mississippi Development Authority.