Small Town's Big Growth

The city of Lucedale is one of the fastest growing cities in South Mississippi. In the last decade, the once sleepy little town has grown by leaps and bounds.

Dozens of large retailers, chain stores and fast food franchises have decided to open shop there. All the new businesses have helped bring in millions of consumer dollars. But many people are wondering if all this growth will take away the city's small town charm.

"They come here looking for services like the jewelry stores and, of course, the Walmarts and all the things you see on the strip," Lucedale Resident Jim Yonge says.

Yonge is a Lucedale native who operates an investment in the city's historic downtown area.

The downtown area is comprised of rows of flat front buildings with balconies and canopies. The sidewalks feature a combination of smooth stone surfaces and weathered masonry.

"Downtown here you still got the flavor of the old town and the atmosphere of being kinda like in Mayberry, you know," said Yonge. "It's just a neat place to be."

The Lucedale native says no matter how much the city grows it will keep its small town charm as long as the downtown area is thriving.

Most of the downtown shop owners believe the city will continue to grow around them and most are optimistic Lucedale will keep its small town sense of community despite the rapid growth.

"I think it's mainly because it has the small downtown look of years gone by," florist Marie Bufkin says. "I think it will be here for a number of more years."

Others say it's just a matter of time before the ideas of Lucedale being a sleepy little fade away.

"We see growth all over," store owner Milton Lamb says. "We see hotels moving in, service stations and restaurants coming in and the small town may be a big town before too much longer."

Many people in Lucedale believe future growth is inevitable especially once the Highway 63 expansion is complete. The expansion will place Lucedale right beside a four lane highway that runs the length of the state and into Tennessee. It will be another four years before the expansion is completed.