“My granddaddy was doing a big business here before Sam Walton was even born,” said Sid Williams, who owns the store with his Aunt Peggy Dees and her daughter, Jane Crosswhite. “The store has been here since 1907 in the same building. A lot of people have the idea that an old country store like this would just have a few folks sitting around playing checkers. We have 50 to 60 employees, and I think people are surprised at the quality of merchandise we have and that is priced competitively. When people walk in and look around, they see horse collars and smoked hams hanging from the ceiling. Older people often say, ‘I haven’t seen a store like this since I was just a little kid.’”
A lot of merchandise moves through the store. For example, the store sells about two tons of bacon a week. Crosswhite said some of its other most popular items include red rind Wisconsin hoop cheese, shoes, lots of cowboy boots, and tons of men’s blue denim overalls.
“But we also have some very nice designer clothes,” Crosswhite said. “We are diversified in the fact we have something for everyone. We sell children’s shoes, mule collars, a lot of hardware and fencing materials, tack, saddles, horse gear and feed for dogs, chicken and horses. We sell a little of everything.”
While the lines of merchandise they carry are modernized, the atmosphere is not. It still looks like it did back in 1939 when it was featured as a source of anything from “needles to horse collars” in National Geographic. Peggy Dees, at the time a little girl, was featured in one of the photos wearing overalls. At the particular time, one thing that got the attention of National Geographic was how much snuff they sold. Snuff is still sold, but isn’t nearly as popular as it used to be.
Customers are primarily tourists. Sometimes on Saturdays Crosswhite will look up and not know any customers in the store.
“I have a lot of out-of-town business,” she said. “This time of year the water park is open, and it does attract a lot of families. They come here for family-oriented activities. We have a lot of golfers. Women come to shop. We get a lot of repeat shoppers. They came a year ago and bought bacon, cheese and shoes. When they come back, they may buy the same things again. A lot of people who used to live here like to come to Williams Brothers when they return to visit.”
A lot of people stop by the store on the way to the famous Neshoba County Fair, “Mississippi’s Giant House Party,” which will be held this year from July 9-21.
“The Neshoba County Fair is a big deal,” Crosswhite said. “Some people only come to Mississippi once a year for the fair. They enjoy coming and we enjoy seeing them. We only see them once a year.”
The store was founded by the grandfather of Williams and Crosswhite, Amzie Williams, and his brother, Brown Williams, who became a highway commissioner for Mississippi. Many of the stores 60 employees have been with the store more than ten years. Five have been there 30 plus years.
“We have been fortunate we don’t really have a big turnover,” Crosswhite said.
The store located at 10360 County Road 375 is open 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
>>More on Williams Brothers
Name of Business: Williams Brothers General Store, Philadelphia
Date Founded: 1907
Owner(s): Sid Williams, his Aunt Peggy Dees and her daughter, Jane Crosswhite
Website: On Facebook
Coolest thing about business: “The building looks the same as when it was featured in a National Geographic magazine article in 1939.”