In this week’s Meridian Press, you’ll find a special insert called Momentum.

We publish this section each year with a different theme. Last year, we dug into a 24/7 Wall St. study that named Meridian the top place in the nation to live.

Our focus this year is my favorite yet. We are featuring a handful of iconic and longtime businesses in Meridian. You may drive by these businesses every day — Modern Printers on Main Street, for example — without knowing the story behind them.

In Momentum, you can read about the people, memories, quirks and interesting stories behind eight local companies. Working on this project has been one of the highlights of my time here at the Meridian Press. I loved meeting business owners and hearing their stories — some of which date back five or six decades in Meridian.

Modern Printers owner Greg Walker moved to Meridian as a toddler in the 1960s. He said from where he sits at his desk, he can look out the shop’s front window and see the old house down the alley where he went to kindergarten. He kept me laughing during the interview with a string of jokes, while his longtime business colleague would just shake her head and say, “Such a goofball.”

I loved visiting the Meridian Speedway and looking through dozens of old photographs and hearing stories from the operators, Adam Nelson and Al Russell. Russell started racing at the Speedway in 1965. Fifty years later, he became the oldest man to win a major event at the track at age 81.

Nelson used to race, as did his father and grandfather before him. Now his son is a fourth-generation racer.

For another Momentum feature, I stopped by Meridian Lanes to interview the siblings who own the bowling alley, co-founded by their late father. I did not expect to find the place so busy on a Monday afternoon, but about 120 competitors in the Royal Seniors league were out in force.

One of those impressive bowlers was Jo Wilmot, 77. She said when her dad told her in 1959 he wanted to open a bowling alley in Meridian, she asked why he would want to build in the middle of a desert. The bowling lanes are still going strong, now surrounded by a bustling city where fields used to be.

At Meridian Meat & Sausage, I learned about the spices and the methods used for making European-style sausage. The owner, Rene Schoop, bought the business from his dad, Albert, who as a young man moved to the U.S. from Switzerland. Rene’s son now works at the plant, too.

On a quiet Sunday afternoon, I got to sit across a table from Chris Ansotegui, co-owner of Epi’s Basque Restaurant, and hear her stories, filled with warmth and gratitude, about her family and her journey to opening a restaurant.

Momentum also features three stories from the talented writer Philip A. Janquart. He explores the history behind the Hungry Onion Drive-Inn, explains how Morse-Starrett Products Company helped with World War II efforts, and highlights the family heritage and changing technologies at Lytle Signs.

Behind the desks and counters of businesses all over this city are some wonderful people with fascinating stories. I hope you enjoy reading this year’s Momentum almost as much as I enjoyed working on it.

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