Downtown Landmark

The Petal Shoe Shop has been around since the 1950s – 1958, to be exact – making it the city’s oldest business.  Owner Hilton Holmes, who also calls himself the “zipper man,” has repaired shoes for as long as he can remember. In fact, he is among only a few shoe repair shops left in this day and age. Hilton doesn’t just repair shoes; he can also make a nice new belt out of that snake you just shot and skinned. He can repair your wife’s purse strap – or the high heel on her favorite Sunday church shoes.

Hilton also sells a wide variety of brand-name workwear, including Carhartt, Wrangler, Justin and anything else that could be considered essential for a Mississippi blue-collared man.The Petal Shoe Shop is located in the heart of the city of Petal, at 122 Highway 42. If you look at a map of the city, you’ll see a distinct cross in the center of the town – that’s where the shop first established its home.

The main business district was built around the intersection of Main Street and Central avenue. Remember that cross I was talking about earlier? This is where the very first businesses in Petal were located. This is where the people of Petal came to eat, socialize, attend a ballgame, watch a movie, pick up their prescription drugs, fuel up their tractors. In general, this was where Petal was born.

In 1995, Hilton’s wife, Jerene Holmes, established the Boardwalk Boutique at the shop, specializing in women’s clothing, boots, jewelry and accessories. Notable brands include Laredo, Ginger Snaps, Arena Bum and Ronnie Salloway.  The shop can be reached by phone at (601) 582-9682, and online shopping is available at

Q: What made you set up shop in Petal?

Jerene Holmes: Hilton is from Tylertown, and his father-in-law at that time was a shoe cobbler, and Hilton worked for him. Finally, it dawned on him that they were too crowded as a shoe shop for three men, because his brother-in-law was working there too. So he asked a sales rep where would be a good place to set up shop; he wanted to move. The rep told him Petal, so Hilton came over here, rented a place – I think it was a cleaners – and he’s been here ever since.

Q: How does it feel to be the oldest business in Petal?

A: I never considered it; I don’t consider myself old. I really don’t think about it because I’m about to maybe go into even another business. That’s all I do, is just want to grow. It makes me proud, maybe. But I don’t think they really known what we’ve done. We had one person tell us that we couldn’t do that – to be in business this long and to be the only person to ever run that business, and that’s what Hilton’s done. He came out of the hospital with a broken hip and came right down here. Sat in a wheelchair right at that door, and if I was gone, he was watching for me.

Q: The Petal Shoe Shop & Boardwalk Boutique was forced to shut down for five weeks because of the COVID-19 pandemic. How did you pull through that as a business?

A: Well, for one thing, we don’t waste our money. We’re very frugal with it – we’re not really stingy, we just don’t blow our money. And you’ve got to take care of your business like it was your child, because that business doesn’t know where to go or what to do. You’ve got to guide it.

Q: Where do you see Petal’s business sector in the upcoming years?

A: I think all the towns close by are growing a little bit. And maybe the pandemic has scared people to say, “I better do something, or our town’s going to disappear.” They’ve been crawling, but they’re going to need to start walking now, and not just sit back and wait for somebody else to do it. They need to go out and trade with the businesses that are already here. It’s alright to get something new, but when your baby starts walking, just because they started walking doesn’t mean you don’t want another baby. That baby walked; the next baby’s going to walk. So you’ve got this town that’s already crawled; it needs to walk now. The people need to hold its hand and help it walk, and that’s by trading with them. That’s the main thing – they can’t stay in business if people don’t trade with them. That’s why they’re in business, is to sell.

Story & Photos by Cayla Camp Burns.  Q & A. by Haskell Burns


I Cried!

COVID shut down the 2020 Star-Spangled Celebration on the River.  Finally, in January of 2021, it appeared that we might be able to have the 2021 Celebration.  Event planners know that we were already behind schedule planning an event the size and scope of this 4th of July celebration.  But, thanks to our fabulous sponsors and the cities of Petal, Hattiesburg, and the Forrest County Board of Supervisors, we were able to get our plans into fast motion.  Let’s see, check off the list.  Fireworks contract secured, stage production and entertainment secured, sponsors secured, vendors secured, volunteers secured, police and fire protection secured, liability insurance secured, parks prepared, etc.  What are we missing?

There is no securing good weather.  Beginning 10 days in advance, it was evident that weather may be a problem.  On Wednesday, June 30, two days before the celebration, the chance of rain was up to 60%.  On Thursday, it looked worse.  We were up to an 80-90% chance of thunderstorms.  On Friday, it was no better.   The calls asking whether the event would be postponed or canceled were non-stop.   Organizers had predetermined that Forrest County Emergency Management would ultimately decide whether the weather would pose a serious risk to attendees and would make the final call to cancel the event.  At Chain Park and the Petal River Park, organizers, vendors, and volunteers monitored the weather reports on their phones.

By 2:00, the chance of rain was diminishing.  By 4:00, the skies were clearing, and our optimism was soaring.  Finally, Mississippi Moonlight took the Petal stage, and we were off on another fantastic 4th of July celebration.  Maybe, it seemed to be the best SSC because it came so close to not happening at all!  Hundreds of families and friends joined together in Southern fashion for an evening that reminded us all of how much we love this country and the freedoms we enjoy.  Yes, when the first of the fireworks burst in the sky, I cried for joy.  See you next year.