Add a Little Savvy to your life

About 20 years ago, Kimberly and Heather Millsteads’ mother had a dream of opening a business in the shopping center on Mississippi 42 in Petal.
That idea was put off for a little while because of the high price of real estate at the time, but the two sisters have now made that idea a reality with Savvy Sisters, a gift shop located at 1229 Mississippi 42, behind Leatha’s Barbeque. Kimberly and Heather started on the process back in 2017, when they began making their own crafts to sell at locations such as Grand Central Outfitters in Petal and Live at Five at Town Square Park in Hattiesburg.
Before long, that concept began to grow, at which point the sisters opened their storefront.
Kimberly recently took some time over the phone to discuss the benefits of opening a business in Petal, as well as being a member of the Petal Area Chamber of Commerce.

Q: Tell us a little about how you guys got started when you opened the storefront.
A: We had gotten a boost at Painted Treasures (in Petal), and then that became Treasure Cove. And then we branched out a little bit. We started getting some handbags and things, and we thought we might could open a storefront, and it’s kind of grown from there. So it’s taken us almost 20 years (since our mom had the idea) to get here, but we’ve (realized) our goal. We have our own little shop in the shopping center that she had wanted all those years ago.

Q: What kind of offerings do you have at the store?
A: We’re primarily a gift shop. We’ve got candles and handbags, and we have a baby section with diaper bags and bibs and things there. We’ve got a section that has some artist prints, and we have some olivewood from Germany, and some of the candles are from Mississippi Candle Company that’s made locally on the coast. We offer some pillows that are from a company in Mississippi that make those.

Q: What has the reception been like from the Petal community since you opened your storefront?
A: I’d say it’s been pretty good. We had a little bit of a slow summer, but Mother’s Day weekend was a really big sell-out for us; we sold a bunch of inventory. We’ve had a lot of repeat customers, so that’s really been a great thing. Our goal is to maybe keep people from having to go to Hattiesburg to get gifts for somebody, or if they just want to do a little bit of shopping for themselves. We do offer free gift wrapping, and during the holidays we do want to offer gift wrapping for anybody that may want to bring their gifts, to drop them off to be wrapped, as a service to the community.

Q: Savvy Sisters joined the Petal Area Chamber of Commerce back in July. What kind of benefits have you seen from that, and would you recommend that measure to other businesses as well?
A: It took us a little while to join, because starting out, everything just goes a little slow. Absolutely (I would recommend it). Just doing our ribbon cutting and getting our name in their newsletter that goes out to all the area businesses, I think that’s been beneficial. We’ve had some people that saw the sticker posted on the door and said “Oh, y’all are members of the chamber.” So I do think it’s beneficial. We plan to utilize their opportunities for advertising as much as possible. We want to do Shop Petal First; I’ve already spoke with (chamber director Valerie Wilson) about signing up for that. And we also just signed up to do the Petal First gift card, so we accept that at our location. I think that any business in the community here … they should join.

Q: You mentioned that the store will be undergoing a name change?
A: Yes. We’ve had a lot of people that say, ‘Oh, Savvy Sisters is a gift shop.’ So what we’ve come up with is “Beyond Blessed Gifts: A Savvy Sister Company.” So Savvy Sisters is still here, here to stay, but we are changing the name. (That will take place) September 1.

Hello, I would like to introduce myself I am Jimmy Delery a seasoned community columnist from the New Orleans area. I have been doing the community column for the St Bernard Voice for 11plus years along with several feature articles. I began my journey to Mississippi during the 2020 Covid shutdown. It started with a trip to visit my friend’s evacuation house in Lumberton and to see his property in Hattiesburg. As you may know an evacuation house is a place to retreat to before a hurricane strikes the lower coast. I stayed in New Orleans for Katrina in my home near the Mississippi River levee in Carrollton and it did not flood. I saw the destruction and did the boat recues in uptown New Orleans. After the storm I worked for several months for CNN. We even covered the Gulf Coast of Mississippi for several stories with the team I was on. Too many memories to ever experience again.
My one-day tour of Lumberton and Hattiesburg made me realize fresh air, high and dry land, a well-developed region with a flair of southern charm was a magnet. I began looking for a house to fix up to have for my evacuation house. I found a fixer upper in the eastern side of Hattiesburg in an older neighborhood in January 2021. It needed a good wash and wax as I call it. As I worked painting and cleaning up anticipating a potential rent house. I could feel a sense of a new home and wholesome community. Finally, after an evening at the downtown open house in Laurel I knew the Pine Belt was my new home. I enjoy knowing the people in the region are good honest hardworking individuals with old world southern manners. I tell my friends in Louisiana, my new home is like New Orleans years ago before politics destroyed it charm and safety. I am here to stay and want to be part of this community.
A few weeks ago, I met Valerie Wilson at the farmer’s market. We had a delightful conversation about Petal and her job with the Chamber of Commerce. I offered to write some features on local events, the businesses, and the people who make the community a great place to live.
In time, I hope to meet some of you and learn more about the history of Petal.
Jimmy Delery

jimmy delery
Connecting the dots
504 606 7436
new orleans,la

New Dogs in Downtown

Ryan and Carla Tate recently brought a unique concept to Petal on May 9, when they opened South Miss Hot Dogs and Hand Pies at 107 Morris Street.
The eatery offers several varieties of gourmet hot dogs, including the Cuban Dog, Western BBQ, N.Y. Street Dog and the Plain Dog. On the hand pies side, the Tates switch up between sweet and savory pies, such as Granny Smith Apple, Pot Roast, Sausage Jalapeno Popper and Blueberry Cream Cheese.
The shop is open from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays. The Tates are currently working out of a food trailer in front of the store, with plans to have the store completely remodeled and ready to go in the very near future.
Ryan Tate recently took some time over the phone to talk about setting up shop in Petal.

Q: What made you want to open this kind of business in Petal?
A: I’m actually from California and my wife’s from Mississipppi … and I left my job to come here. I’m a veteran, so I have a working disability from the Army. We bought a food truck and started traveling around, and as we were driving by I saw the building for sale. I said, ‘well, why don’t we just buy the building and sell the food truck?’ So we did, and in the meantime we bought us a little food trailer. We used the money from the food truck for the trailer and the building, and for the last eight or nine months, I’ve remodeled (the building). So we’re making money with the food trailer while we’re (getting the building ready).

Q: What has the customer feedback/response been like so far?
A: It’s been really good. We open at 11 o’clock, and people start showing up at 10 o’clock in the morning, and we’re not turning them down. We just sell them the pies and the hot dogs, and we’ve been selling out like 15 minutes before we open. On the one hand it’s good, because we’re selling out, but I don’t want to turn people away (after we sell out) because I feel bad about that. But once we’re in the shop, we’ll be able to cook all day, so hopefully that problem will be solved.

Q: How do you feel about the community in Petal?
A: Everyone has been awesome and so positive. They’re posting on Facebook and Instagram about us and saying good things. I’m meeting a lot of friends who are business acquaintances, and they’re helping me and I’m helping them. So it’s been really good. I haven’t had any negativity whatsoever, so it’s been really cool.

Q: You recently became a member of the Petal Area Chamber of Commerce. What made you want to do that, and what benefits have you seen from it?
A: The Greenhills at Babe’s BBQ have been real helpful in giving me advice, and they kind of told me it’s a good idea to join. I went online and joined, and immediately Mrs. Valerie (Wilson, executive director of the chamber) sent some info on a festival, so I got in on that, and that’s helping. We’re mentioned on the website and everything, so it’s been giving us good promotion so far.

By: Haskell Burns
Photo:Cayla Camp Burns

Let’s Celebrate!

The Petal Area Chamber of Commerce and the Downtown Hattiesburg Association are partnering together to host the fourth annual Coca-Cola Star-Spangled Celebration on the River.
This year’s event will be held from 6-10 p.m. July 1 on both sides of the Leaf River – Petal River Park and Chain Park – with a fireworks show at 9 p.m. The celebration is free and open to the public.

“First off, it’s just a lot of fun,” said Valerie Wilson, executive director of the Petal Area Chamber of Commerce. “That’s our primary goal, of course, is to bring a lot of families, friends and neighbors together to have a great time.
“Secondly, I think in terms of economics, it’s just good for Forrest County, and for the cities of Petal and Hattiesburg, to have people driving in and spending money, and hopefully taking in other activities while they’re here. We have seen license plates from, I think, 32 different counties (in the parking lot) last time we checked.
Both sides of the river will feature will feature live music, activities, a kids zone with inflatables, and a variety of food vendors. and a hot air balloon will make an appearance later in the evening on the Petal side.

“There will be a good deal of vendors – everything from snow cones to watermelon to seafood and barbeque,” Wilson said.
The music will begin at 6 p.m. on both sides of the river. The Petal River Park side will feature Jacob Arnold & the Bird Dogs and the Hub city sound Machine. Chain Park side will host Fun K, Grits & Greens and Taste of 59 South.
Attendees are encouraged to bring lawn chairs or blankets to enjoy the festivities. Pets, glass, tents, ice chests and personal fireworks – including sparklers – are not permitted.
For the first time, alcohol will be sold on the Petal side. In the past, that endeavor was limited just to the Hattiesburg side.
“We will be selling beer on the Petal side – we’ll have both Stokes Distributing and Southern Beverage there,” Wilson said. “We will be checking IDs, and people will get a wristband once their ID has been checked.

“That will allow them to purchase beer, once we know they’re of age. I’m working on an ATM, but (visitors) should be prepared to pay cash for the beverages and such.
Parking onsite is limited, but offsite parking with shuttle service will be available.
“We will be running shuttles from various parking lots around downtown, and we’ll be listing those soon,” said Andrea Saffle, executive director of the Downtown Hattiesburg Association. “They can park at the train station and follow the bike path that goes to Chain Park, and that will be open before and after (the event).
“Parking is limited, so we encourage people to park in the designated parking lots and ride in the shuttle. We’ll have handicapped-accessible parking on the Hattiesburg side, but that too is limited. Also, Ebenezer Baptist (Church) will have paid parking.”

The Star-Spangled Celebration on the River began in 2019 after Wilson and Saffle collaborated to provide an opportunity that could be enjoyed by both the Petal and Hattiesburg communities. The event has grown steadily since its inception, with the 2019 celebration drawing approximately 11,000 guests.
“We’re very excited to be having the Star-Spangled Celebration again this year; it’s an event that we always look forward to,” Saffle said. “What a better way to celebrate America’s birthday here in Hattiesburg?”

Petal Chamber Offering Potted Plants to Downtown Businesses for Beautification Efforts

Officials from the Petal Area Chamber of Commerce are taking another step in the beautification of downtown Petal by offering business owners the chance to purchase potted plants to spruce up the landscape.

During the effort – which is being handled by the chamber’s Beautification Committee to Revitalize Downtown Petal – any business on Main Street and Central Avenue can purchase a fully-potted plant for $65.

“Our goal is just to have a coordinated look throughout the city so that people start to notice these planters across downtown,” said Valerie Wilson, executive director of the Petal Area Chamber of Commerce. “(This will) add some color to our downtown, and really bring awareness to our businesses and our families downtown that we are attempting to beautify the area.

“It doesn’t take a whole lot; by working together, we can definitely improve the look.”

Available plants include Purple Fountain Grass, Asparagus Fern, Coleus, and Sweet Potato Vine. Any downtown business owner wishing to participate can call Wilson at (601) 583-3306 to purchase the plant, which comes fully potted and ready to place.

After payment is made, the planters will be delivered to the location. Businesses do not have to be members of the Petal Area Chamber of Commerce to participate.

“These are plants that we feel are easy-care, and that will last,” Wilson said. “They won’t require an awful lot of maintenance.

“They can go beside doors, on the sidewalk, on a porch. We just ask that they put the planter in a prominent location so that it can be seen by the public.”

So far, at least 13 businesses have signed up for the effort, and chamber officials are waiting until the current cold spell passes to deliver the plants.

“It will be an ongoing thing, as long as we have access to the planters,” Wilson said.

Story by: Haskel Burns

Downtown Walkability

Valerie Wilson, executive director for the Petal Area Chamber of Commerce – along with other city officials – is looking forward to a project more than 10 years in the making that will see a pedestrian/bicycle path stretch along Matthews Branch in the Friendly City.
The path, which is made possible with an $862,560 grant from the Mississippi Department of Transportation last year, will run along the branch from the area of Southern Bowling Lanes on South Main Street past Petal City Park, near the Petal Family Branch YMCA.
“It’s going to increase our walkability score; it’s going to be a complete addition to what we already have available,” Wilson said. “It’s going to make downtown so much more available for people to walk from Point A to Point B and that kind of thing.

“It’ll allow people to walk safely in downtown Petal. It’s not a new idea; I’d say it’s been floating around for a minimum of 10 years.”
Walkability scores are typically seen as good if the number is 70 or above, and many real estate search sites, such as Trulia and Zillow, feature walk scores prominently. Petal’s current walkability score is 42. A 90 or above is considered a “walkers paradise” where no car is needed, and most daily errands or activities can be accomplished on foot.
If all goes according to plan, work on the new route will begin in approximately a year.
“The way I understand it, it will almost connect with Central Avenue,” Wilson said. “So it will be an excellent way for kids to get to the YMCA, to get to the upper elementary, to get to the ball fields, and to not be on the street.
“I think it’s going to be extremely well-used; it’s a beautiful walkway. But it’s not just a nature trail; it makes accessibility to different places available to anyone that lives in downtown Petal. I feel certain that different groups are going to want to add maybe benches to sit – even some public artwork along the way.”
The path was approved at a recent meeting of the Petal Board of Aldermen. The upcoming route will take the place of a previously-approved sidewalk that would have run from West 10th Avenue and South Main Street down Morris Avenue near Petal Middle School.
That idea was taken off the drawing board based on information provided by city engineer John Weeks, which saw the project had a high potential of cost overruns and deadline issues.
“One of the things … that I didn’t like (about the original plan) was that it wasn’t going to be business-friendly,” Mayor Tony Ducker said. “It would have possibly put at least one business out of business, and shut businesses down during the construction phase.
“When you get around Ace (Hardware), up in that area, those folks don’t have a lot of land to give; a couple of them actually use that for parking. (Also), we already have some sidewalks on the other side – that we need to do some work on, admittedly – but this actually opens up an entire different part of town.”
Ducker said the Matthews Branch route will give officials fewer issues with land and property owners, as there is no land in that area that is buildable.
“We’re not going in and taking land that’s currently being used by anyone,” he said. “We actually run our sewer down Matthews Branch as it is, and we maintain that area by cutting the grass so we can have access to our sewer infrastructure through there.”

Graphic provided by Drew Brickson

Why we LOVE Petro Nissan!

Tony Petro can lay claim to being one of the longest-serving car dealers in the Hattiesburg area, having opened Petro Nissan on September 14, 1990 on North Main Street in downtown Hattiesburg, at the current site of Grover Brothers Restaurant Supply.
A year later, Petro purchased the former Oldsmobile dealership before acquiring the Lincoln-Mercury dealership on West Pine Street. A few years ago, Petro Nissan moved to its new location at 6248 U.S. 98 in Hattiesburg, in the Oak Grove area.
And although Petro has been a Hattiesburg mainstay for more than two decades, he is also one of the biggest contributors to the Petal Area Chamber of Commerce, showcasing why anyone – even outside the Petal city limits – can benefit from being a member of the chamber. Petro recently took the time for a phone interview to discuss his business and the perks of being a chamber member.

Petal Area Chamber of Commerce: Being a Hattiesburg-based business, what is your connection to Petal?
Tony Petro: One of our best markets, as far as market penetrations, is actually in Petal. My brother grew up in Petal and I grew up in Petal – my dad was a Hattiesburg boy, but (he and my mother got married) and we lived in Petal forever. It’s a funny story; I was in the ninth grade and my mom said she would never leave Petal. My dad was working in the car business at Dossett Pontiac at the time working six days a week, long hours, and he came home one day and said “pack your bags, because we’re moving. I get stuck by that train (in Hattiesburg) every day, and I’m tired of waiting on it.” Had the Evelyn Gandy (Parkway) been there at the time, we’d still be living in Petal.

Q: Speaking of the Evelyn Gandy Parkway, which was officially opened in 2006, that thoroughfare has contributed to some significant growth in The Friendly City.
A: I have family in Petal, and Petal – really in the last 10 years, since the Evelyn Gandy was built – has really experienced an explosion of growth. It’s got the Number One school system (the Petal School District) in the state, year in and year out. They do a great job, and that’s why we joined the Petal Area Chamber of Commerce, probably eight or 10 years ago.

Q: Have you thought about bringing a dealership to Petal?
A: I was hoping to be able to (do that) on the Evelyn Gandy, and the one I was looking for, somebody else bought it. But that’s why we joined the chamber, and (executive director) Valerie (Wilson) does a great job with the chamber over there, and Petal does a great job. There’s a lot of commerce, but the one thing they don’t have is a dealership. Car dealerships are high-ticket items – they’re high transactions – so car dealerships generate a tremendous amount of tax revenue for the local tax base. The one thing that (Petal) doesn’t have is a local franchise, new car dealer over there. We might be able to seek one over there one day, but by that time I’ll probably be retired anyway.

Q: Even if you don’t bring a Nissan dealership to Petal, have you thought about other options in that avenue?
A: I don’t want to call any names, but I had spoken to a couple of new car manufacturers that are not represented in Hattiesburg. I told them what my plans were, and I actually told Valerie about it, and right now they’re just selling all the cars they can make. So yeah, if I could do it right now, absolutely. But the (current) Nissan store is going to stay where it’s at; it’s got way too much reputation and staying power on Highway 98, because we were the first new car dealership out there. Now, pretty much all of them are moving out there.

Q: What benefits have you seen from being a member of the Petal Area Chamber of Commerce?
A: We do it to support the city, to support the commerce and business for Petal. We sell a lot of cars, percentage-wise, than we do just about anywhere else. We always advertise during the Petal football games; in fact, I’m the one who came up with it. I heard they had a Jumbotron there, and I called the school and said … I’d be interested (in advertising). So I’ve been putting ads before the game, during the game, at halftime, at the third and fourth quarter. So it’s a lot of money for the school and the football program. We joined the chamber just to be good neighbors – we do a lot of business in Petal, and we really didn’t have an investment over there. But Petal is really coming into its own, as far as business and opportunity, housing, schools. They’ve just done a great job over there, and we wanted to support them in any way we could.

Let’s (re)Develop Downtown Petal

In June 2009, local developer Jay Estes, working with officials from the Petal Area Chamber of Commerce and the City of Petal, drew up a blueprint for a long-term redevelopment plan for downtown Petal, particularly the areas of Main Street and Central Avenue. Although officials weren’t able to kickstart that plan right away, now may just be the time – and the chamber is looking for feedback from all sectors. To that end, the chamber will host a meeting from 4:30-6 p.m. on Jan. 11 in the Magnolia Room at Petal Civic Center on South Main Street, where participants will be encouraged to discuss ideas and concerns.

“(We and Estes) just took a look at that plan and decided it was a good time to redevelop that plan,” said Valerie Wilson, executive director of the Petal Area Chamber of Commerce. “(The original plan) was very ambitious, and it was wonderful, but things have changed tremendously. “At the time, a lot of those projects and plans were out of our reach, but we’ve come a long way since 2009. So as a chamber, as a city, as individuals and business owners, we just felt like it’s time to go back and see what we had talked about doing several years ago and put it into a context that makes sense for today.”

Business owners, property owners, and interested citizens are invited to the meeting to give their input on what they want to see for the downtown area. “Let’s take a look at what we want – is it the same thing we were looking at several years ago, or have those plans changed or altered?” Wilson said. “I know that so many discussions have already been held, and it’s important for people to have accessibility in downtown, meaning nice sidewalks and a way to get from Point A to Point B without having to drive. “(There’s) beautification efforts, which may include some underground wires – taking some of our poles and above-ground wiring and putting it underground. That’s a tremendously expensive project, but something that we should look at. Why not see if it’s a possibility, and put it on our wish list for the future?”

Other projects may include façade improvements at downtown businesses or business incubators in the area. “It’s wide open,” Wilson said. One of the significant aspects of Estes’ original plan was a mixed use-development at the vacant lot next to Subway on West Central Avenue. Ideas for that site included a combination of apartments and retail space and a community area that could host events such as fairs and festivals. “In all these years, that area has not been developed yet,” Wilson said. “It’s still sitting there, so it’s a good time to take a look at it.
“Also, it’s a good time to take a look at what we consider downtown Petal, and what our alternatives are. Especially now, there are several builds and funds available for communities. It’s a good time to see what may be available to our community.”

Wilson said positive things are already underway in Petal – such as the vacant Rite Aid building recently being purchased by Dollar Tree – and she wants residents to know what a good position the city is in currently. “Many, many small towns and communities are dying – they’re withering on the vine,” she said. “If they weren’t already, then COVID might have hit them hard.
“In contrast, Petal is doing well, and we continue to grow; we continue to have businesses as well as individuals investing in Petal. Great public/private partnerships are coming together, so we’re on the horizon of some really good times. I think it’s important for us to have a plan in place and at least a set of priorities, for us to work with (everyone) to see what’s most important, and prioritize, and spend very carefully. 



Story By Haskel Burns.  Photos by Cayla Camp Burns



Petal Gears Up for 2021 Holiday Events

Petal-area residents can look forward to a full day’s worth of holiday activities with the upcoming 2021 Petal Home for the Holidays event, which will showcase a parade, vendors, a Christmas tree lighting and more. Festivities, which are put on by the Petal Area Chamber of Commerce, beginning with a Christmas Market at 3 p.m. Dec. 4 at Hinton Park, behind Petal Civic Center on South Main Street.

“First of all, it’s a community tradition – we know that this is the type of event that makes our community happy to be where they are,” said Valerie Wilson, executive director of the Petal Area Chamber of Commerce. “We’re very proud of the fact that we can put on events like this in our community, and to keep the spirit of Christmas here in Petal.
“I think (residents) absolutely did a wonderful job shopping in Petal for Shop Petal First. This year, because of COVID, we appreciate being able to get together and have our events right here to enjoy being part of our community.”

The Christmas Market, which will last until 7 p.m., will feature several vendors selling items such as arts and crafts, food and holiday-themed gifts.
The parade will start at 4 p.m. and will follow its usual route from Dirt Cheap on North Main Street to Hinton Park, where Santa Claus will be available for photographs. Awards will be given out, and Mayor Tony Ducker will be on hand to greet parade-goers.

The parade will open up with the parade banner, which will be carried by representatives from the Petal Fire Department and Petal Police Department. So far, approximately 50 float entries have signed up to take part in the parade.“We’ve got everything from golf carts to dirt bikes to large floats, to the Petal High School band,” Wilson said. “We’ll have lots of pageant award winners, and everybody will be represented. “And this year, we have somewhat of a special surprise: for the first time in many, many years, Santa will not be on top of the fire truck. We wanted people, especially the children, to be able to see him better, so he will be at the end of the parade.”

The Grand Marshal for this year’s parade is Max Fullen, the 13-year-old son of Randy Fullen and Elizabeth Dodge who was recently diagnosed with brain cancer. Fullen suffered a stroke while in school and had a lengthy stay at Blair E. Batson Children’s Hospital in Jackson. Fullen has gone through several rounds of radiation and chemotherapy since being diagnosed.
“We actually put it out on Facebook, and we had a ton of people that were very good nominees,” Wilson said. “But Max was overwhelming – we had so many people saying that Max would be a great grand marshal, mostly because of the courage he has shown, and the strength he has shown.

“He represents the very best of people, and at this time of the year, that’s what you want your grand marshal to be – somebody that represents the best of us, and that was Max. So we’re thrilled to have him as our grand marshal, and we look forward to giving him a wonderful evening leading the parade.”
Judges for the parade will be Jim Cameron, Caroline Nurkin and Jake Wilson. The event will be followed by the Celebration in the Park and the Festival of Trees, which will feature a tree-lighting ceremony in honor of Christmas.

“The Festival of Trees is various trees that have been put up by businesses and individuals and clubs in Petal,” Wilson said. “They will all be lit at the same time right after the parade. The Petal Arts Council is in charge of the Festival of Trees. “Also during that time, we’ll have live music; the Petal Jazz Band will be playing. Much love will flow through the community.”
Petal’s Christmas festivities date back to at least 1962, when the Petal Merchant’s Association put on the city’s Christmas parade. In 1974 – the year the City of Petal was incorporated – city officials took over handling the parade.

“This has been an event that even the older people in our community – the seniors – remember,” Wilson said. “We want to re-create those same memories for the children in our area now.”
In addition to the chamber activities, Petal High School Indoor Percussion is presenting Breakfast with Santa from 8:30-10:30 a.m. at the Petal Primary School cafeteria. Tickets are $7 each and are available for purchase at the door, or from any Indoor Percussion student. Participants are encouraged to bring their own cameras for pictures with Santa Claus.
Also, the Cosmopolitan Club of Petal will host “Let’s Jingle & Flamingle” tasting take-out from 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Dec. 4 in front of Petal Middle School on East Central Avenue.

Story by Haskell Burns

I Can See Clearly Now!

After being stationed in Meridian while serving in the United States Navy for seven years, Dr. Alvaro Moreno moved to Petal to work at Southern Eye Center in Hattiesburg. Moreno stayed at that clinic for seven years before opening his own establishment, Moreno Eye Care, in 2003 at 598 East Central Avenue in Petal.

The business offers comprehensive eye care services and in-demand lenses and frames. The eye doctors perform comprehensive vision examinations and specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of a wide array of eye diseases, conditions and problems.

Moreno recently took the time for a phone Q&A to talk about his practice and how he has fared in The Friendly City.

Petal Chamber: What made you want to establish your business in Petal?

Moreno: I live there, and my home was there in Petal. I wanted to be more of a part of the community, instead of driving to Hattiesburg to work every day.

Q: How has being in Petal worked out so far?

A: It’s been great; people have been very supportive, and not just Petal people, but people from the surrounding communities. They’ve supported our practice and our growth, and I’m to the point now where my son is in practice with me. He joined the practice last year, so he’s in his second year of being in practice there at the office.

Q: You’ve been a member of the Petal Area Chamber of Commerce since you established the business. How has that benefited you, and what advice on joining the chamber would you give to new businesses or anyone considering joining?

A: I think (it’s great) just being part of an organization that’s banding together for the good of the community – and not just the community itself, but for the businesses in the community, to help and support each other. That helps everybody be able to make it through any kind of crisis.

Q: You mentioned that business has been great since coming to Petal. What do you attribute that to?

A: I think, for one, since there wasn’t an optometrist or an eye clinic in Petal, there was some pent-up demand. People didn’t have an option; they had to get in their car and drive to Hattiesburg. As Hattiesburg grew and traffic became more of an issue and people got older, they were looking for somebody to be able to do it in Petal. So I think that helped my growth, just being accessible and being close so people wouldn’t have to go to Hattiesburg to get their eyes taken care of.

Q: What do you see in the future for business in general, and for your business?

A: For business in general in Petal, I’ve always said that we need more business in Petal; we need larger businesses in Petal. The main thing I’ve said since the day I opened up my practice in Petal is that our most valuable resource (clients and customers) is cranking up and driving across the river every day. If you go look at some of the businesses in Hattiesburg, some of their best employees – if you really dig down and look – they’re from Petal, or went to Petal High School. They’re Petal people, and they’re in Hattiesburg. My wish is to one day have it to where everybody who didn’t want to drive to Hattiesburg could find a job and make a living wage in Petal. I’m sure that most of them, if they had a choice, would probably stay in Petal.