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.

The FAM Jam Remedy

When was the last time you talked with your neighbors? Not just a passing hello, but an actual, heartfelt conversation? If it has been a while, you are not alone. Research shows fewer and fewer people even know the names of the people who live on the same block, let alone choose to socialize or interact with them. Then, we add a global pandemic that forced us to remain distanced from our own family and neighbors. What a year?

But, don’t be distressed!  There is a simple remedy just around the corner.  The Downtown FAM Jam will offer Petal residents, county neighbors, visitors, and friends an opportunity to enjoy live music, great food, artists, and retail vendors in a FAMily friendly environment.  It also offers a lot more than just one evening of fun.

The social benefits of local events are less visible, but they are just as important. It’s fair to say that the FAM Jam fosters community pride, teaches people new things, and strengthens relationships. It keeps our residents in Petal for the evening and introduces guests to our downtown. It’s free advertising for our downtown businesses.

Our request from our guests is simply to leave the area as you found it and respect the property of the businesses and people in the neighborhood.  Have a great time and take lots of photos.  Help us grow the Downtown FAM Jam and allow us to bring more community events to Petal

How Long Can These Low Mortgage Rates Last?

Homebuyers have a unique opportunity to take advantage of historically low mortgage rates, according to Freddie Mac. Before the global pandemic, no one could imagine mortgage rates of less than 3% on 30-year fixed-rate loans. In this new world, rates have trailed below that level for months. Additionally, 15-year loans are also on the decline. Mortgage rates continue to break records and hit new lows.

It’s a great time to be a home buyer, seller, or real estate professional.

 Lowest Rates in History

The most popular loans continue to be 30-year fixed mortgages. In mid-December 2020, rates on 30-year loans hit historic lows for the 15th time in a row. According to Freddie Mac’s data, interest rates for these products hit 2.67% with 0.7 points. Points are paid to lenders and equal 1% of the loan amount. They are added to the interest rate.

Freddie Mac has tracked mortgage rates since 1971 and has never recorded rates this low for this long. Rates had fallen 2.25 percentage points from 4.94% in November 2018. From an even longer perspective, 30-year mortgage rates averaged 8.15% in 2000.

 Low Rates Projected in 2021

Are you planning to buy a home or sell your property in 2021? Low rates are great news for sellers and buyers. COVID-19 is likely to follow us well into 2021, despite vaccines being deployed around the globe. As cases rise in different areas, quarantines and lockdown will continue to mark this unprecedented historical era.

This sobering reality will continue to affect economics worldwide. Businesses must continue to rely on a digital presence to attract consumer attention. CNN reports that 110,000 restaurants closed in 2020. Airlines, cruise lines, and other significant employers teeter on the edge of bankruptcy. In this environment, recovery may happen slowly and painfully.

Mortgage rates typically plummet during economic downturns. With this in mind, can you really expect to see low rates go even lower throughout early 2021? No one knows.

 Mortgage Loan Applications Are on the Rise

The market composite index continues to rise, increasing 1.1% in the week ending December 17, 2020. The index, measured by the Mortgage Bankers Association since 1990, reports total loan applications in the United States. The purchase index was up 2% from the prior week and 26% year over year. Refinance rates are also dropping, and the number of new refinance loan requests was up 105% over the previous year.

With the super-heated housing market showing no signs of slowing, the economic downturn continues to be a boon for those brave enough to stay in the market during the pandemic. Those who still have jobs and a steady income should take advantage of low-interest rates that won’t last forever.

Fortunately, vaccines will eventually get COVID under control, and the economy can get back on track. In the meantime, savvy investors will turn their eyes toward the active real estate market.


New Stimulus Bill….What’s in it for Me?

Here’s What Is in The New Stimulus Bill

On Monday, December 21, 2020, the Senate approved a massive emergency economic relief package, government funding, and tax cuts designed to counter the effects of the pandemic and stimulate economic growth. The legislation, introduced as a 5,593-page bill, was passed with a 92 to 6 vote following weeks of intense negotiations.

Efforts to pass economic relief measures in the weeks leading to the presidential election had failed despite numerous attempts. But after the election, a bipartisan group of lawmakers teamed up and successfully negotiated for action to spur economic activity by helping businesses and consumers.

Why was the 5,593-page bill passed?

The spike in COVID cases across the country and strong concern that the economy is weakening informed the need for the federal government to intervene — cushioning households and jump-starting the economy. Nearly a year after the first case of Coronavirus was reported, government-mandated restrictions are still in place across the country. Congress is upbeat that the stimulus bill will protect jobs, businesses, households, and livelihoods.

Just hours after the bill was sent to the White House, the President asked Congress to amend the current bill to afford a greater distribution to qualified Americans.

What is inside the $900 billion stimulus package?

As of now, the $900 billion economic relief stimulus includes:

  • $600 direct payments for qualifying adults and children
  • Economic assistance for struggling small businesses, including more than $284 billion for forgivable Paycheck Protection Program loans and $15 billion for theaters, cultural institutions, and other venues
  • $300 per week for enhanced Unemployment Insurance benefits
  • $25 billion for rental assistance and an eviction moratorium extension
  • $82 billion for schools and colleges
  • $10 billion to help with childcare assistance
  • $13 billion in increased food assistance and child nutrition benefits
  • $7 billion to bolster broadband access across the country
  • Support for coronavirus vaccine distribution, testing and contract tracing efforts
  • A tax credit “to support employers offering paid sick leave”

The bill extends aid to millions of households and businesses hammered by COVID. The aid is given through stimulus checks, enhanced federal unemployment benefits, and money for small businesses, childcare, and schools. It also covers the funding for free vaccination that will be distributed across states. Additionally, the package will repurpose $429 billion in unused funding provided by the Cares Act for Emergency lending programs run by the Federal Reserve.

Let’s look at the key details of the bill:

Stimulus check

  • The legislation provides a $600 stimulus check for each qualifying American, including children and adults.
  • The size of payment reduces for persons who earned above $75,000 in the 2019 tax year. Anybody who earned above $99,000 in the 2019 tax year will not receive a stimulus check.

Jobless benefits

The legislation extends unemployment benefits of up to $300 per week.

  • The benefits could begin from December 27 and run until March 14.
  • The bill also extends the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance targeting part-time and gig workers who were left out of the state unemployment insurance benefits. However, applicants are now required to provide documentation that proves employment or self-employment within 21 days of applying for the benefits. Anybody extending their benefits before January 31 have 90 days to provide the documentation.

Relief for business

  • The bill provides over 284 billion for the first and second forgivable paycheck protection program loans. It also expands the PPP eligibility for non-profit organizations and news outlets
  • The bill provides $15 billion for the entertainment industry, including music clubs, cultural institutions, movie theatres, and entertainment venues
  • The package includes $20 billion targeted grants through the Economic Injury Disaster programs
  • The legislation provides a tax break for corporate meal expense

School funding

  • The bill extends aid to colleges and schools, which will receive $82 billion. A $22.7 billion will go to colleges and universities and $54.3 billion for elementary and secondary education.
  • The deal also provides a $10 billion package for childcare assistance.


  • The bill provides $45 billion for transportation, including $16 billion for an extra round of airline employee and contractor payroll support.
  • Others are $14 billion for transit, $10 billion for highways, $2 billion for airports, and $1 billion for Amtrak.

More information will be coming on how our businesses can take advantage of the new stimulus package.



There’s a Pandemic Startup Surge

While some of us were learning to bake or binge-watching Netflix during quarantine, others, especially those who were away from their regular workplace, were doing something entirely different. The number of new businesses that opened during COVID-19 is, well, a start-up pandemic.

Here at the Petal Chamber, we are taking note of how new and existing businesses are taking advantage of the changing economic landscape to serve customers in new and unique ways.

Are you ready to go into business for yourself? If you are, you aren’t alone. The week of August 10th, over 111,000 applications to start a new business were filed, according to the US Census Bureau, with 113,000+ filed the week before. And while the economic climate now may not be a bad time to start your own business, there’s a big difference between vision and success.

We’ll give you some tips on how to start your new business off on the right foot – and we look forward to welcoming you into the Petal Chamber.

Vision Plus Experience Makes the Dream Work

Many small businesses start with a dream, a vision, and an understanding that there’s a niche to fill. Having a “big picture” concept of your business is essential to your purpose and helps shape your business plan (an essential document if you plan to apply for a Small Business Loan).

However, a successful start-up needs three kinds of personalities: Visionary, Expert, and Detail-Oriented.

Your vision for your company launches the blueprint for your purpose and goals. However, to get off the ground, you need the experience of someone who has actually done what you plan to do. They can give you practical advice on how to solve common problems as they come up and reference their own background in dealing with business growth and what their customer experience has been.

Finally, you need someone to mind the details. This is the person who may help balance your finances, spot little things that you miss, and make sure that your vision, plus the expert input, forms into a workable plan.

Watch Actions, Don’t Listen to Promises

When you hire someone for your start-up, it’s important they contribute to getting your business off the ground. You, as the founder and business owner, should be the visionary – and your team is there to help support the purpose of your business. When you set goals for your team, make sure that they follow through with what they say they’ll do, offering practical solutions for problems you encounter.

The advice from your expert should be practical and insightful. The assistance from your detail person should help you put it all together. A successful start-up doesn’t just start – it keeps going, and that’s why you need the expertise of someone who has managed or owned a business in the same field as yours. Your expert creates an action plan for you, and your detailed person puts it all together into a road map that you can all easily follow together.

Starting your own business is hard work, but for many, it’s also a labor of love. We’re all in this together, and at the Chamber, we understand the challenges and the triumphs of small businesses. Our mission is to support local businesses and our community economy whether you’re an online business, a brick-and-mortar, or a click-and-mortar hybrid.


Designing the first 15 feet of your store

They say that you only get one chance to make a first impression, and nowhere is that more important than in the retail industry. You’ll need to draw customers into your store from the moment they step foot inside, and this requires care and attention to detail when planning the entrance to your shop. Here’s what you’ll need to consider.


Of course, you want to keep your entire store clean, but you should pay particular attention to the entrance. If prospective customers see dust and dirt when they first walk into your store, they’ll likely turn around and walk back out again. From their perspective, how can they expect you to offer quality wares when you can’t even care for your store? Dust the shelves and sweep or vacuum the floors daily, and clean any permanent fixtures, like lighting and ongoing displays, at least weekly. Depending on your location and the local weather conditions, you may need to clean more often.

Window Displays

Your store’s front windows are your most powerful tools for drawing in prospective customers. Aim to display your best offerings right at the front so that customers will want to come in to see more. When placing those products inside your store, though, you’ll want to place them near the back so that customers have to walk by all your other wares to find what they are looking for. This encourages impulse purchases, making it more likely that customers will buy more than just the single item they originally sought.

Product Placement

You’ll need to carefully consider the placement of the rest of your products as well. The front of your store should show off some of your most desirable items, but you don’t want the best things to be up front. Aim for a mix of popular items and those that don’t sell as frequently. By dispersing your best products throughout the store, you can guide customers through the aisles so that they’ll see as much as possible.

Be Prepared to Make Changes

Over time, you’ll likely discover that some products do better in particular areas of your store. Try to identify any patterns that emerge so that you can make adjustments to your displays as needed. Take note of customer feedback in this area as well. After all, it is your customers who matter most when it comes to making decisions about purchasing your products. Listen to what they are telling you.

Of course, none of this matters if you don’t offer the products your customers are looking to buy, so take care in choosing the products you offer. Look to strike a balance between quality and affordability. If you notice that the quality of the products from a particular supplier seems to be diminishing over time, it may be time to find a new supplier. Design your store to draw in customers in the first place, and keep up the quality of your products to keep those customers coming back again and again.


Find GREAT Gifts at our Local Salons

Buy Local Series

Gifts from salons are ideal for anyone who enjoys pampering themselves, but people don’t often think about stopping by the local salon when searching for the perfect gift. However, the variety of gifts available might surprise you. Learn more about what type of gifts salons offer to determine which of your loved ones would appreciate salon gifts the most.

Gift Certificates

Gift certificates are ideal because they allow the gift recipient to decide which service they want. So if possible, purchase a general gift certificate that can be used on all salon services. If a general gift certificate isn’t available, consider purchasing a gift card for select services. Many salons offer gift cards for facials, massages, and other spa services.

Hair Products

Does your loved one use specific hair products from the salon? Those typically can’t be found in just any store. So consider purchasing a variety of different hair products for your loved one, and then, put them in a gift basket.

Skincare and Beauty Products

Most people purchase their own skincare and beauty products because no one knows their skin like they do. However, many salons keep records that include specific products their customers purchase. So if you know that one of your loved ones enjoys shopping for skincare and beauty products at a nearby salon, consider asking the salon employees if they know which products you should purchase for a gift.

Candles and Scented Oils

Most salon services are centered around relaxation, so it’s not surprising that many salons sell a variety of candles, scented oils, and other supplies typically used for aromatherapy. The good thing about this type of product is that it isn’t as personal, so they can be used as gifts for people at work. If you’re purchasing aromatherapy products for a loved one, consider purchasing a gift card for spa services as well.

Most salons carry several different types of products, making it easier than you think to purchase a gift. As long as you consider the type of products your friend or loved one usually enjoys, selecting the right gift is easy.

Don’t Get Your Dental Floss in a Wad!

Whether you’ve recently relocated, you’re dissatisfied with the care you’ve received at your current dentist, or you’ve just never gotten around to finding one, choosing the right dentist can feel overwhelming. Before you get your floss in a wad, take a look at tips for choosing a great dentist.

Check Your Insurance

If you have dental insurance, then finding out which dentists are in your network should be your first order of business. Most insurance companies provide this information on their website. If you can’t locate this information, then a quick call to your provider will give you the information you need. This will narrow your search considerably, making it easier to quickly find a dentist.

Ask for Recommendations

Once you’ve narrowed your search, seek out recommendations. If you’re searching for a dentist because you’ve relocated, then your current dentist may be able to recommend a dentist that is near to Petal. If you know people in the area, then ask around; oftentimes, you’ll hear the names of one or two dentist offices that people have had consistently good experiences with.

Look at Treatments Offered

Some dentists also have training in orthodontics, while others specialize in oral and maxillofacial surgery. Other dentists have received extra training beyond dental school to provide pediatric care, and still others specialize in periodontics. Consider the unique needs that you and the members of your household have, and look for a dentist that offers the specialized care that you need.

Consider the Location and Office Hours

No matter how wonderful the dentist is, if they’re located 45 minutes away from your home or workplace, then keeping regular appointments will be a challenge. The same goes for office hours. If the dentist you choose is only open three days a week and their hours of operation are also the hours that you will be at work, then you’ll have a difficult time keeping regularly scheduled visits. Look for a dentist that is conveniently located and has office hours that will accommodate your busy schedule.

Personal Comfort

One of the primary things to consider when you choose a dentist is how comfortable you feel with that person. Do you feel free to talk about your symptoms and ask questions? Do you feel as though the dentist rushes through your check-ups rather than taking time to hear and understand your concerns? If you are receiving a procedure like a filling or a root canal, do you feel comfortable expressing your anxiety or asking for more pain medicine? While some discomfort with certain procedures may be inevitable, your dentist should provide attentive and empathetic care.

Choosing a dentist can feel like a daunting task, but by taking these things into consideration, you can pick one that will fit your needs and lifestyle.  Luckily, the Petal Area Chamber of Commerce has several dental clinics as members.  Not only are they great dentists, but they have also committed to making Petal a better place to live.  Out teeth are in good hands!

How the talent shortage affects your kids

The talent shortage is affecting businesses across a variety of industries. As our world has moved firmly into the digital age, more and more companies are looking to hire employees who have digital skills, including web design, digital marketing, social media, and more. However, many businesses are finding that there aren’t enough job applicants who possess the required skills, resulting in a talent shortage.

It is not that recent graduates aren’t getting quality educations, but rather that educational institutions have not yet incorporated the needs of today’s job market into their curricula. The end result is that there are numerous jobs available in the digital areas of business, but those applying for the jobs don’t have all of the skills required.

If you have children, of course, you want them to have the best possible chance of success in their future careers. Particularly in the digital space, it is essential not to rely solely on formal education to develop the skills needed to be successful in the modern business world. Until the world of education catches up with the rapid pace of growth in this area, students may need to take it upon themselves to learn these crucial skills.

Encourage your children to expand their knowledge outside of traditional outlets. The more experiences you can expose them to, the greater their chances of discovering where their passions lie. Take the time to sit down with each of your children individually to discuss their goals for the future. Then, you can advise them on which skills will be most desirable to employers.

Of course, finding employment is not the only goal of getting an education, but it will help your kids find a way to get paid for doing what they love. Encourage your kids to think outside the box in terms of career opportunities and courses of study. When your child finds what he or she is genuinely passionate about, you’ll know which avenues of education make the most sense and which areas may need to be studied independently.

Talent shortages are not uncommon in the business world and most often occur after rapid advances in technology and techniques. The current workforce must act quickly to adjust to the latest trends, and those just entering the industry are in the best position to make the most of the latest developments. Because they won’t be bogged down by the way things were done in the past, your children can focus on driving future development and growth.

If your grown children are struggling to find employment in today’s rapidly changing business environment, don’t let them get discouraged. With a bit of creativity and effort, they can find a suitable job that makes the most of their innate talents and personal passions. Taking some time to further their education with the most in-demand skills in today’s market is often a better choice than trying to force-fit themselves into a job that isn’t quite right. Although we may never be able to eliminate the skills gap, our children have the chance to minimize it as best they can.