By R. R. Reasoner
Two businesses on the prime commercial block of Bankhead Street between the Tanglefoot Plaza and the Tallahatchie River closed last week. It’s the first time in recent memory that two prime retail spaces in downtown New Albany have been vacated at the same time. One of the downtown stores that closed last week was Imago Dei, at the southeast corner of Bankhead Street and the Tanglefoot Trailhead Plaza.
Thursday evening, February 2, it was sad to see the fixtures and stock of Imago Dei being carried out of their retail space and loaded by workmen into a truck
The store opened last spring, with a well-decorated space and large inventory of quality merchandise. The owner spent considerable money and much time and energy creating an attractive retail operation. Expectations were high that it would enjoy great success in such a prime location.
Not surprisingly, proprietress Angie Garrett wanted to put up a sign so people would know she was there and open for business. As required by the 2006 New Albany city ordinance about “signs and outdoor advertising,” Ms. Garrett submitted drawings of her proposed Imago Dei sign to the city code officer, who sent them on to the “design committee” of the New Albany Main Street Association, a private organization supported by tax dollars.
The design committee meets
This reporter arrived at the meeting a little before 5 p.m. and visited for a few minutes with Carly Wilbanks, then the Main Street manager. Glenda Conlee, who was to preside at the design committee meeting, arrived a short time later. Ms Conlee handed me a picture of the proposed sign. I looked at it briefly, took a picture of it with my cell phone, but a few seconds later Ms. Conlee tried, very aggressively, to grab the design illustration from my hand. I handed it back to her.
I told Ms. Conlee I would stay for the design committee meeting, and possibly write a story about it for NAnewsweb.com. With considerable heat, Ms. Conlee informed me that I could not stay for the design committee meeting.
I explained to her that the meeting was being held in a public building, that Main Street is largely supported by tax dollars, that they were conducting business under provisions of a public law, and that I intended to stay. I did stay.
Other design committee members arrived and the meeting commenced. A question arose as to whether the city sign ordinance allowed for a vertical sign such as the one proposed for Imago Dei. None of the committee members knew. Design committee member Jane Ford then said, “We need to have a person that reads the sign ordinance real close so we know what it says.” That seemed to me an excellent idea, and I was impressed that it should come up after the design committee had been in business for only ten short years.
Main Street’s work diminished by controversy
In any event, Imago Dei is now closed.
This is not to suggest that the time-wasting, inhospitable attitude the city took toward Ms. Garrett’s sign is the only reason she closed her store. She’s a smart young lady, has been successful in business, and no doubt made her decision after analyzing many factors. However, the whole sign business was an inhospitable slap in the face.
People who invest tens of thousands of dollars in inventory, more thousands for fixtures, moving expenses, deposits, marketing, etc. will inevitably consider whether they are going into business in a friendly place or a hostile one.
I reckon we showed her.