I expected the 109-year-old Williams Brothers General Store near Philadelphia, Mississippi, to be a museum with a few token items for sale.
And with its ties to the Manning football family, I expected a little memorabilia. In fact, when we rode up to the store last Friday, you would have thought Archie, Peyton and Eli were all inside signing autographs.
Unfortunately for me, they weren’t. What was happening, besides the annual Neshoba County Fair nearby, was tax-free weekend where families could save a little on their back-to-school purchases.
This store is not simply a relic of the past or a shrine to the Mannings. It is a vibrant business with real customers and real customer service.
In 1907, Eli, Peyton and Cooper Manning’s great grandfather (on their mother’s side of the family) opened Williams Brothers General Store.
In the grocery section, it’s a tight squeeze as shopping buggies maneuver around the aisles filled with things you would expect in a Southern store–Bryan cold cuts and Sunflower flour, sorghum molasses and Red Man chewing tobacco.
That part of Williams Brothers General Store is much like it was during the 1930s when it was featured in National Geographic magazine. But today’s merchandise mix includes Spanx and women’s designer clothing, local pottery, horse saddles and tack, and a shoe and boot inventory somewhere between Shoe Department and DSW with more customer service.
There’s someone slicing red rind hoop cheese and another slicing slab bacon to order. Mule collars, country hams and Peyton & Eli’s NFL jerseys hang from the ceiling.
The Manning boys helped at the store when they were teenagers, and their memorabilia is scattered throughout the store, but it’s fairly low key. No Peyton bobbleheads or tacky touristy things for sale–just merchandise everyday people need at reasonable prices.