By M. Scott Morris/NEMS Daily Journal
TISHOMINGO – Pattie Ferguson was the subject of a running joke in town.
She and her employees at Pattie’s One Stop in Tishomingo entered the Christmas parade. They had a generator on the trailer and it ran out of gas.
“They said, ‘How does a gas station owner run out of gas?’” Ferguson, 38, said.
She took the jokes in stride because she had a good excuse. Ferguson is new to the gas station and country store business.
About two years ago, she left her hometown of San Antonio, Texas, to open the One Stop. The move was years in the making, and it started when a friend from Belmont recommended Tishomingo State Park.
“My husband and I vacationed at the park for five years before we bought the store,” she said.
They fell in love with the area and looked for a business to buy. The previous owner of the One Stop visited their campsite for dinner and said, “I’ll sell you my place.”
It was that simple, if you don’t count Ferguson’s divorce and surrounding legal issues. Once that was settled, Ferguson found herself the owner of an empty store.
“Everything was gone,” she said. “We had macaroni and that was about all. I needed money to pay for my mortgage.”
She cooked what she had and sold plates for $6 each.
“They came. They all came in and had a plate of what we had,” she said. “We raised the money. I couldn’t have done it without them. They were so generous from the beginning.”
If one of her customers wants to remind her about running out of gas during the parade, who cares? They’re the ones who’ve kept her in business.
“I don’t know why. I just hang out here about every day,” said Kenneth “Chubby” Clingan of Dennis. “It’s somewhere to go and get out of the heat.”
“Are you giving me grief, Chubby?” Ferguson said.
“What?” he said.
“Are you giving me grief?” she repeated.
“Not yet. I’m about to start,” he said.
Before moving to Tishomingo, Ferguson was in the real estate business. The way she sees it, selling is selling.
“I sell a lot of hamburgers. I sell a lot of food,” she said. “I do know how to sell.”
She learned to cook squash, okra and other country vegetables her patrons wanted. The menu also includes the “Spanish stuff” she was raised on.
“I’ve gotten them to eat burritos and fish tacos. I’ve had Spanish rice,” she said. “I make pinto beans, but I make them different than they do. I put jalepeños on everything.”
When Ferguson’s mom visited, she brought tamales for the customers.
In addition to food, gas and groceries, the store rents DVDs, and has a collection of boat propellers, in case you find yourself in need. Ferguson also offers tanning booths for those who want them.
“Everybody always says, ‘What tanning bed do you use? What lotion do you use?’ I say, ‘Honey, this is natural. I don’t use a tanning bed,’” she said. “I didn’t know how popular they were. That’s so odd to me. It’s just not something that’s popular in San Antonio, but if they want them, I’ve got them.”
Ferguson lives in a three-bedroom apartment that’s attached to the store. She rolls out of bed at about 3:30 a.m. and starts cooking biscuits, then opens at 4 a.m. The store stays open until 9 p.m.
She has four employees, so she can hop on her bike and go for a ride, or sneak into her apartment for a nap.
“They all know my schedule,” she said. “They’ll say, ‘Is the princess napping?’”
She’s knows the jokes are in good fun. If they weren’t, she wouldn’t be in business.
Store owners often put the first dollar they make on the wall. Ferguson’s wall features 12.
“It’s just a reminder that I have people who support me,” she said. “I love it here, and I’m learning. Slowly but surely, I’m making it home.”