A Downtown perspective: Penleys downsize on space, upsize on life

Published 9:55 am Wednesday, October 5, 2022

When Betty and James Penley decided to downsize from their family home to a smaller dwelling, they were spinning their wheels over what to do.

“We couldn’t make a decision,” Betty Penley said. “We looked around. We really couldn’t figure out what we were doing. The children were grown, and James had his law practice. We couldn’t figure out where we wanted to be.”

That was when they contacted developer Mary Jane Fant and found a condominium on Washington Street.

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“We liked it a lot. We just decided that might be where we wanted to be. We thought we would be there a minute but it’s been three years now,” Penley said.

She said the reason for the move downtown was change. Vicksburg, she said, “has been our home; we’ve lived here forever. We just decided to try downtown. That was before COVID. It’s been so different living downtown than it is living anywhere out in any subdivision.

“We just thought it was a different take. It’s fun, it’s different and you see a lot of people. It’s almost like you’re not in Vicksburg. It’s so weird because you see so many tourists and people and a lot going on all the time.”

The arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced downtown businesses to close, changed the area, Penley said, but also brought something new when her sons returned home to open Relish Bistro across the street from their new home.

“We’ve really loved being downtown. We’ve enjoyed it,” Penley said. “We were at the age where we were not looking for a family home. Of course, once we moved into a two-bedroom condo all the kids wanted to come home for Christmas but we worked it out.”

Living in the condo, she said, means she and her husband do not have to worry about yard work or other household repairs.

“We don’t have any of those things so it frees you up,” she said. “All the kids are grown, you’re empty nesters, and it’s kind of good. It’s a good deal and we’ve enjoyed that part of it.

“We do enjoy our condo. We love the location. We’re kind of in the middle of everything. I have a definite new respect for downtown Vicksburg that probably I didn’t have before because I have a better take on it. The boats are coming in and you see people from all over the world who come here and hear all kinds of languages spoken on the street.

“It’s interesting and we both love people so that’s probably a part of it, too, because we enjoy meeting the people,” Penley said.

One thing they’ve enjoyed in the condo, she said, is the open living area.

“It’s open space to the living room, kitchen and dining area,” she said. “We like it a lot. In our other home, we had an older home and those older homes aren’t built like that. We’ve enjoyed it for family living and it’s been very comfortable for our family.

“We’re happy where we are right now,” she said. “I can’t say what the future holds but we’re fine right now.”

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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