It was buried gold that saved Neilson's Department Store, already in business a quarter century when the Union Army burned the store in 1864 with the rest of Oxford's Courthouse Square. Thanks to the hidden gold Neilson's rebuilt, today it's the South's oldest department store-though it's far from old-fashioned, outfitting Ole Miss students on a campus deemed "best dressed" by no less an arbiter than Women's Wear Daily.
That's shopping in the Mississippi Hills: generally a great story, always a great find. And today all it takes is a stroll through any of our charming and historic downtowns to unearth all manner of treasures, from fashion to furniture, art to antiques.
In fact, our one-of-a-kind retailers are drawing fans from far beyond our region. West Point's Mossy Oak Apparel has made its name as the ultimate outdoor gear emporium, while indoors, the hand-made creations of Starkville's Aspen Bay Candle Company have become the ultimate indulgence. Quality is always paramount, whether at Brussel's Bonsai in Olive Branch, the nation's largest importer and grower of fine bonsai, or at Corinth's C&D Jarnigan, where it's hard to beat the "dyed in the wool" excellence of period uniforms, clothing and accoutrements.
In Oxford, renowned writers hobnob with readers at Square Books, while nearby the publishers of Y'all Magazine, The Magazine of Southern People, ready their next issue for press. Up the road in Ripley, folks haggle at First Monday, the nation's oldest continuously-operated outdoor flea market. We also have potters' studios and galleries waiting to be browsed, and speaking of great taste, the local flavors here are unbelievably delicious, like fresh fruit you can pick yourself at the Reese Orchard in Starkville, the heavenly baked goods of the Ole Country Bakery near Brooksville, and melt-in-your-mouth pies and cakes from Sweet Potato Sweets in Vardaman, the "Sweet Potato Capital of the World."
With its wide plank floors and tall ceilings, Tupelo Hardware still feels much like it did when Gladys Presley bought Elvis' his first guitar, for $7.95. And that's the greatest thing about Hills shopping: Like Elvis and that guitar, we're always the real deal.