Thursday, January 27, 2011
I listened to several people reminiscing over the weekend about their fond memories of a vibrant downtown Holly Springs.
Their thoughts were stirred by the loss of a downtown icon. Graham Miller died Friday at the age of 88. His funeral service was held Sunday afternoon at First Presbyterian Church.
He was a fixture in Holly Springs’ main business district for a long, long time. He is a big part of this city’s rich history.
I told family members Sunday at visitation that even though I did not know Mr. Miller as well as others because of my “late arrival” in Holly Springs, I quickly realized that he was one of the main beats in the city’s heart.
Mr. Miller’s contributions to our community over the years are immeasurable - more than just supplying clothes for people’s backs and shoes for their feet.
The closures of Miller’s and Linwood’s in recent years left a void in the city that will likely never be filled. But Mr. Miller’s legacy will live forever. Memories of him and those built through his businesses will be talked about for ages to come.
I will always remember walking over to the shoe store after moving to Holly Springs. It was wonderful - a special small town place.
He didn’t know me, but at the same time he did. I was the new guy at the newspaper. I was a bit intimidated but he made me feel welcome.
I learned a lot about Mr. Miller from the late Fred DeBardeleben, a co-worker at The South Reporter. Mr. Fred once owned a popular downtown business of his own. They were fellow merchants, good friends and I believe in lots of ways similar - a bit grumpy on the core but kind and caring on the inside.
I recall Mr. Fred getting on the phone at the newspaper and it being Mr. Miller on the other end. Then Mr. Miller was one of Mr. Fred’s advertising clients, and they still enjoyed giving each other grief, jokingly of course. They each loved and appreciated the other very much.
Downtown Holly Springs will probably never be like it once was, when Mr. Miller’s and Mr. Fred’s businesses were thriving.
There are several vacant buildings. But at the same time, there are still important anchors in the downtown area.
We can all play a role in keeping downtown alive.
We can support the downtown businesses. Shop at home.
We can get involved in our community, through organizations like Holly Springs Main Street, the Tourism Bureau and Holly Springs Chamber of Commerce.
We can help recruit new businesses. We can consider starting a new business.
We can play a part in keeping our city beautiful. Please, don’t litter.
We can talk positively. Build Holly Springs up; don’t tear it down.
It’s our hometown, and it’s up to us to make it better tomorrow than it is today.
Downtowns everywhere are experiencing the same difficulties. I shopped at home-owned, home-operated stores growing up in Alabama. They’re all closed and have been for many years, longer than Miller’s and Linwood’s.
But at the same time, it’s an opportunity.
Downtown revitalization must be a priority. Downtown is our heartbeat. And let’s all help keep it ticking.
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