Anyone entering Serendipity Antiques & Deli in Wiggins would never think it’s a chain business. In fact, the charming shop is the antithesis of a chain establishment. Located on Pine Avenue in an old movie theater, this combination eatery and antique shop has ambiance galore along with home cooking.
Owners Karen and Sonny Wallsmith went into business in 1991 when they needed storage for the antiques he was always buying. “We noticed the old theater building and thought it would give us the storage space we needed,” Karen recalls. “People kept wanting to come in and look, so one day we just opened up, and there we were — in business.”
Sonny retired from 30 years in the construction business and eased into acquiring and selling antiques. Karen chose the name, Serendipity, because it’s a noun meaning “a phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for,” and hopes visitors indeed find the shop a happy surprise.
The deli began in 1995 when Karen decided Wiggins needed a place to dine on designer sandwiches, along with salads, homemade desserts and specials from the grill.
“I was also hunting something else to do because I was tired of stripping furniture and smelling the chemicals used for that,” she said. “I always say finding this business is serendipity for customers. That’s what my aim has always been.”
The Wallsmiths and their 11 employees also serve breakfast, dinner on Friday evenings and cater special events that have them often working long hours. Catered events include weddings, class reunions, receptions, business openings, cattle sales, showers and business and private parties.
She credits employee Joel Simpson with leading the catering effort, but says everyone works together. “All the employees are good and work hard,” she said. “They’re a good bunch of folks. They can all sell antiques and serve food. It’s not just me; everyone is pulling together, and we get it done.”
The food line is changed once or twice a year at Serendipity. Sonny, who handles 95% of the antique side of the business, brings in new finds on a regular basis. The selection includes collectibles, silver, books, furniture, Depression glass, linens, clocks, china and more.
It’s not surprising that Serendipity is popular with visitors to the area as well as residents. Charlotte Koestler, executive director of the Stone County Economic Development Partnership, says that’s because the establishment provides visitors with a charming, unique experience that people in today’s homogenized society crave.
“They want a connection with the community,” she said. “You walk in Serendipity and know it’s a local mom-and-pop business. Everyone feels appreciated there, and Karen makes you feel very welcome. It feels like family there.”
Koestler likes sitting among the assortment of old items that evoke nostalgia, seeing pieces that could have been in her grandparents’ homes. “Things may be sold out from under you, because the table you eat on and the chairs you sit on are for sale,” she said.
Serendipity won the Stone County Business of the Year Award for 2007, something that caught Karen by surprise. “It was awesome and a real honor,” she said.
The award is not given every year, Koestler said, making it more of an honor when it is awarded.
“The Wallsmiths won because they give great service to the community and they do plenty for non-profit organizations,” she said. “They are respected in the community and really work with people.”
Koestler is especially pleased that Serendipity was the scene for a photo shoot for Stone County’s first advertisement in the “Mississippi Tourism Guide,” a $10,000-investment that will appear in 300,000 copies.
Wallsmith says she’s learned a lot about food since beginning the deli in 1995. “I enjoy what I do. It’s a serendipitous experience for me, and I want it to be that for customers too,” she said.
Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynn Lofton at firstname.lastname@example.org.