News Main Street Alabama Brings Heart to Communities 

Main Street Alabama Brings Heart to Communities 

Main Street Alabama Brings Heart to Communities 
March 1, 2024 |

By Maggie Edwards 

Creating jobs and preserving character is at the heart of Main Street Alabama. 

“We raise awareness of downtown markets, help businesses stay profitable and strive to keep the feeling of a commercial district,” said Main Street Alabama State Coordinator Mary Wirth. “Downtown is a place where everyone feels like it’s their own. Our job is to bring that back to life.” 

Since 2009, the nonprofit has helped over 30 communities or “Main Streets” restore the core of downtowns through grants and formal community support. Communities like Enterprise in Coffee County are embracing deep roots through revitalization. 

“Main Street Enterprise is centered around the boll weevil and what it means to us,” said Main Street Enterprise Executive Director Mariah Montgomery. “The boll weevil represents overcoming adversity.” 

Main Street Enterprise’s motto — Deeply Rooted, Ever Rising — is a callback to the early 1900s when the boll weevil devastated Wiregrass cotton. 

“Our shop joined the city’s 100th celebration of the Boll Weevil Monument in 2019,” said Kendra Wester, who owns Boll Weevil Soap Co. “We renamed our South Alabama Cotton scent ‘UnBollweevible.’ It’s a story of how a challenge turned into a win.”

Wester credits Main Street Alabama for giving Enterprise a new perspective. Community over competition is the mentality, she said.

Another victory came when Enterprise received a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This provided a shipping container that becomes a temporary shop until owners find brick-and-mortar locations downtown, Montgomery said. 

“Being in the Small Box Shop has given people a better opportunity to see all that I offer,” said Chuck Clark of Clark’s Leather Works. “This entire area has made subtle changes that draw people in.”

Coffee County Farmers Federation (CCFF) President Carl Sanders said the revitalization reminds him of his childhood when businesses boomed.

“Almost everything moved out, but now things are coming back,” he said.

The community is centered around its agricultural heritage, said CCFF Vice President Max Bozeman. 

“They are selling the products we produce right here,” he said while holding up peanuts from Weevil Nut Co.

Agriculture is on the mind of Athens Main Street, too. 

“Athens is a quaint town, but if you go back in history, it’s an agricultural town,” said Limestone County Farmers Federation (LCFF) President Jeff Peek, who also serves on the Alabama Farmers Federation state board.

LCFF recently stepped in to help Athens Main Street revamp the Athens Farmers Market.

“We want people to understand how important agriculture is to this area,” Peek said. “With a growing population and more infrastructure, farmers have pushed toward agritourism. This is somewhere people can bring things to sell but also advocate for the industry.” 

Revitalization downtown benefits farmers because everything is connected to agriculture, said Athens Main Street board member Michelle Williamson. 

“Farmers’ products are in restaurants and stores like U.G. White,” Williamson said. “We’re also enhancing things that have already been established.”

After 107 years in business, U.G. White Mercantile gives Athens a historical presence.

“We’re critical in saving the old way of life,” said U.G. White owner Derrick Young. “We try to create an atmosphere with unique products you don’t find anywhere else. The entire downtown is authentic.” 

Over the past seven months, five restaurants have moved into downtown Athens. A record number of attendees have shown up for events, too.

“The business owners have done a huge amount of work to stay open, but Main Street has focused attention on bringing more people downtown and making them aware of the things happening,” Young said. “When people see growth patterns, they are willing to take the risk and come be a part of it.” 

Back south in Monroe County, Monroeville Main Street centers attention on its literary legacy. It’s the hometown of famed author Harper Lee.

“We are the Literary Capital of Alabama,” said Anne Marie Deas Bryan, executive director of Monroeville Main Street. “We always have a tourism element because our courthouse is a national landmark. Everything we do in our historic district supports that.”

Restaurants, massage therapists, luxurious Airbnbs, gift shops, a literary trail and the iconic “To Kill a Mockingbird” play make up that downtown experience.

The city’s investment in itself is paying off. In May, Monroeville Main Street will be honored as Alabama’s first semifinalist for the Great American Main Street Award. The winner will be announced during the national conference Birmingham. 

“This could not be more special for us,” Bryan said. “It’s a big deal to be considered one of the top eight programs in the nation. We’re ready to show off our state.”

Visit to find a Main Street program nearby. 

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