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COVID-19 dealt Vicksburg a difficult economic hand

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Sports Force Parks on the Mississippi was closed for 11 weeks, with a projected revenue loss to the city of $5 million.

When COVID-19 struck Mississippi in mid-March, Vicksburg was on track to a have a banner year economically. The pandemic and the restrictions that came with it derailed the train.

March tourism and hospitality revenue was down 16% from fiscal year 2019 while April was down 30.7%. With so much of the city’s budget tied to tourism, including food and lodging taxes, the effects will be felt for many months to come.

According to Main Street America, 69% of Vicksburg businesses reported a loss of 75% or more from March 15 to June 1.

Laura Beth Strickland, executive director of the Vicksburg Tourism and Visitors Bureau, says 65% of her staff has been furloughed due to a 30% budget cut. The Vicksburg Information Center remains closed to walk-in traffic; however, the phones are answered seven days a week at 601-636-9421.

“Vicksburg’s hospitality industry has been hit hard during this time, but I am optimistic that tourism will also be a major driver for economic recovery,” Strickland said. “Vicksburg has always been a top tourism destination, and our community depends on visitors contributing to our local economy. Putting our resources into tourism will help drive our recovery.”

The Vicksburg Convention Center has had 27 cancellations to date including the Miss Mississippi pageant with a projected economic loss to the city of more than $2.8 million.

Sports Force Parks on the Mississippi was closed for 11 weeks with a projected loss of $5 million in economic impact to the city. The complex reopened this past weekend

One key factor that helped the hotel industry locally were the annual and bi-annual maintenance work done at Ergon, Grand Gulf and International Paper during March and April. But hotel revenue for March, April and May was still down 28%, resulting in an economic loss of $2.97 million compared to 2019. April and May alone were down 54.8% from 2019.

Many restaurants and small businesses are struggling to adapt to the 50% occupancy requirements and added restrictions.

Attractions are gradually reopening, and organizers are beginning to reschedule events.

There has never been a more important time to shop locally whenever possible and support homegrown businesses. Your neighbors need and deserve the support.

Business

Harbor Freight Tools bringing 30 to 35 jobs to Vicksburg

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(photo source: Harbor Freight Tools)

California-based Harbor Freight Tools has announced a new store opening in Vicksburg in 2021.

The exact opening date will be announced closer to the event; however, construction has already begun at 1601 North Frontage Road, WJTV reports.

The store, which sells a large variety of tools and equipment at discount prices, is expected to employ between 30 and 35 people from the Vicksburg area in management and retail sales positions.

“We’ve been looking to open a location in Vicksburg for a number of years so that we can provide the tools and equipment at tremendous values to the community,” Trey Feiler, senior vice president, real estate and construction for Harbor Freight Tools, told the station. “In addition to finding a great location, we were attracted by the availability of great associates in the Vicksburg area, and we look forward to having them join the Harbor Freight team.”

Applicants should apply online.

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Vicksburg’s China Buffet reopens for dine-in service Nov. 4

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(photo via Facebook, used with permission)

The China Buffet of Vicksburg will be back open for dine-in service Wednesday, Nov. 4.

The restaurant, located at 4150 S. Frontage Road, announced the reopening Monday on its Facebook page.

China Buffet closed its doors earlier this year when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and a short time later reopened for carry-out service only.

As of next week, customers will be able to sit down and eat inside again and enjoy the buffet for the first time in months at the popular restaurant.

Customers can still call in their orders to pick up food (601-630-0331) until the dine-in service begins.

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Kevin Roberts opens his second Fit Chef store in Madison

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Kevin Roberts and his new Fit Chef store in Madison. (photos courtesy Kevin Roberts)

Vicksburg resident Kevin Roberts is opening a new Fit Chef location in Madison, Mississippi, next week.

The new Fit Chef is Roberts’ second location. The store promotes a healthy eating lifestyle and offers healthy prepared meals and catering. The grand opening of the new Fit Chef is Wednesday, Oct. 28, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at 111 Dees Drive in Madison.

The first Fit Chef is located at 3401 Halls Ferry Road in Roberts hometown of Vicksburg and is popular among local residents.

Roberts has plenty to keep him busy. He is also the owner of The Chopping Block, an axe throwing arcade located at 1504 Washington St. in downtown Vicksburg, which he opened earlier this year.

Roberts is hoping that his second Fit Chef location will have as much success as the first one as he continues to expand the Fit Chef brand.

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