MSNBC crew finds Brundidge full of ‘characters’ and spirit

Published 11:00 pm Friday, June 21, 2013

Frank Silverstein, producer of MSNBC’s “Your Business” weekly morning show, learned what Brundidge folks have known all along, that Brundidge is rich in “characters.”

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JJ Ramberg talks with a MSNBC crew member on Main Street in Brundidge Tuesday.

Silverstein, JJ Ramberg, show host, and their camera crew were in Brundidge Monday through Wednesday taping a segment on small town, Main Street businesses and how they are surviving during difficult economic times.

What Silverstein found was more empty stores than he had expected, struggling businesses and some really remarkable people.

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“Brundidge is having difficulty,” he said. “Most of the businesses are struggling, and the owners are very much concerned about their survival. However, there is a tremendous desire by the people to weather the storm and they are doing their best to do it.”

Silverstein said one thing that surprised him was the number of business owners who do not work at their businesses full time.

“Most of the time, businesses that are just getting started devote all of their efforts, almost 24 hours a day, to building and growing their businesses,” he said.

Silverstein said studio 116 has great potential but, as a performance place, it’s going to need a supporting cast.

“There’s no coffee shop or ice cream shop for people to visit before or after performances,” he said.

“There needs to be shops for people to wander though while they are in town. Other things have to be going on.”

What is going on, Silverstein said is the “charactership” of the town.

“The Godwin brothers (metal sculptors).” he said. “I was just amazed by them. And, Oscar (McDowell) at City Antiques is remarkable. He has clientele all over the country. The Sit ’N Sip restaurant has personality. If it were open on performance nights, that would be a draw.”

Silverstein said Brundidge is not just a community of hard working people; it’s a community of people with artistic thoughts.

“Jimmy Hollis owned a furniture store,” he said. “I was not expecting that building amazing birdhouses would be on his radar. His stuff is well done and could easily be sold in boutiques in New York.”

Silverstein said that his thought is that traditional art – the folk arts – coupled with studio 116’s focus on the more modern, urban arts would be a niche for the small, rural Main Street town.

“I could see Brundidge hosting maybe a banjo competition or a folk music festival,” he said. “And I wonder, too, about those who work in the tech industry and can live anywhere. Wouldn’t they like to live in a small town like Brundidge.”

Silverstein said finding a way to rise above the lure of the big-box stores is “a tough nut to crack.”

“I don’t know the answer but my heart goes out to business owners like Bill Grafton (Grafton’s Furniture), who are working their behinds off, in this uphill fight. They have so much creative energy and so much pride. I want to see it work for them.”

Silverstein does not know yet when MSNBC’s piece containing scenes from Brundidge will air.