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July 16, 2024

A Banner Year for Business

Retail, restaurant, and hotel market strong in Cleveland

By Becky Gillette, The Bolivar Bullet

Cleveland experienced a banner year for business in 2023 as indicated by sales tax revenues that are expected to be up by about 15 %. Those kinds of revenue increases provide more money for city and state programs while indicating that local merchants, restaurants and hotels are thriving.

Business has been great, said Ward 3 Alderman Danny Abraham, owner of Abraham’s Clothiers.

“The increase in customers from out of town has been tremendous and not only towns a short distance away like Greenwood, Clarksdale and Grenada,” said Abraham. “We’re pulling a lot of customers from Jackson, Madison, Ridgeland, Southaven and Memphis. And it is amazing how many Arkansas and Louisiana customers we are seeing. We haven’t finished counting the figures for the end of the year. So, we don’t know exactly where we stand, but we have had a very good year. When I opened my shop, I could have gone anywhere. I’m so glad I picked Cleveland. There are wonderful people here.”

Abraham gives a lot of credit to the downtown that has an ideal selection of outlets including men’s, women’s, jewelry, antique and book stores.

“The catalyst is the downtown that is clean, safe, vibrant, and a great place to stay and eat,” he said. “You have to give credit to the downtown merchants who have the selections to attract people here. In combination with a wonderful downtown hotel, the Cotton House, it is a perfect venue for people to come and spend a couple nights, shop, go out and eat. We have wonderful restaurants.”

Abraham also thinks the city’s 50 Nights of Lights gets better each year providing a beautiful array of light sculptures. The final three months of the year drive more retail sales, and good shops and fine restaurants combined with attractions like the 50 Nights of Lights give people plenty of reasons to visit.

“I think we have the perfect storm for good retail,” said Abraham.  “Cleveland is establishing itself as the hub of the Delta. We are the shining star of the Delta and we want to continue to be that. We’ve got a really strong city board and mayor, hardworking department heads, and a great police chief and police force. Things are working well. We all work together. That is the main advantage. Cleveland is just a wonderful community.”

Some downtowns in small towns struggle keeping merchants. But, Cleveland has benefited from a lot of longevity with its stores. Some downtown stores in Cleveland have been there for decades. Abraham’s has been in Cleveland since 1979—operating for 44 years. Neysa’s Fireside Shop has been there since 1988, and the children’s store Punkin Patch is another long-time retail favorite downtown.

“With word of mouth, our stores get a lot of repeat customers,” said Abraham. “We’re growing exponentially with people from other states coming in to visit and to shop. Consistency works in retail and it certainly works at City Hall.”

The GRAMMY Museum Mississippi also plays a part; people enjoy visiting the GRAMMY Museum. And the Deep Roots Initiative is underway where music is supported every night of the week except Wednesdays and Sunday.

“We are the home of America’s music which means all types of music,” said Abraham.  “Everything is just coming together. It is good to be in Cleveland.”

Business has also been on the upswing for local Delta Lodging Group hotels, said owner Dinesh Chawla.

“My business is very healthy,” said Chawla.  “We are coming off two years of being blasted by Covid so the recovery is very welcome. The Covid shutdowns were the most horrible experience a hotel person could go through. Some restaurants never recovered. Some hotels went under. We were lucky to survive and appreciate that we are very healthy now.  People were cooped up for so long and they are happy to be out there. They appreciate travel more than they could have imagined before Covid happened. We hope to build positively on this past year. If we could match the past year, we would be happy. If we do better, we will be thrilled.”

Business was up over 2022 at the three Delta Lodging Group hotels in Cleveland, the Lyric Hotel, the Hampton Inn and the Holiday Inn. Chawla said they work very hard on hosting groups and conferences. 

“I think we have a unique offering at the Lyric especially as a host site for multi-day conferences,” said Chawla.  “Before we weren’t able to do that in Cleveland as easily because you had to deal with so many different operators, restaurants and meeting venues. Now, you can get everything in one location, which is very helpful to conference, meeting and wedding planners. The Lyric is entering its third year of business.”

Chawla agrees Cleveland has the draw of having a clean, safe and vibrant downtown, and the GRAMMY Mississippi Museum is another major attraction. But he sees the biggest attraction in town is Delta State University because of the sporting activities and the different types of academic meetings it attracts.