By JB Clark
SALTILLO – Downtown Saltillo isn’t a place for someone in a hurry.
The pace is slow and the faces are friendly, but the business offerings aren’t sparse, with everything from hardware and flowers to auto repair and tattoos.
The quaint downtown is anchored by one of Lee County’s oldest continuously operated retail businesses, City Hall, Food Giant and Renasant Bank.
Jones Hardware owner Tommy Jones said the store has been in its current location somewhere in the range of 100 years, “but I wasn’t alive that far back to remember.”
The store originated somewhere to the north of its current location – Jones said most likely around Cedar Hill – by his great-grandfather, Roper, in the 1800s.
Jones’ great-grandfather and grandfather went into business together and the store became Roper-Jones.
When Jones’ father graduated from Millsaps College, he went in with Jones’ grandfather and the store became J.W. Jones and Son.
The store changed names again when Jones’ uncle returned from World War II, becoming J.W. Jones and Sons.
Now Jones and his son Mitchell operate Jones Hardware, and Jones said the business will one day fall to his son.
He said the community supports them pretty well and it helps that the nearest hardware stores are in Baldwyn and Tupelo.
A block west of Jones Hardware is a newer staple of Saltillo’s quiet downtown, Bren’s Diner.
The diner is where many of Saltillo’s men gather each morning for coffee, eggs and political debate.
“They’re a good group of guys,” said owner Bren Stanford. “I enjoy them and I like to cut up with them, but I don’t get involved when they start talking on politics.”
The men were patrons of the diner before Bren took it over and gave it her name five years ago. She said Saltillo’s downtown is nice because of the slow pace.
“It feels like home,” she said. “I wouldn’t mind a little more business through here, but the people in town support me and I have my regulars. Lately we’ve gotten some new faces and I like that, but you can count on the same crowd every morning and I know what they’re going to have.”
One of those regulars, Wayne Sprinkle, was finishing breakfast with a few other regulars on a recent Wednesday morning.
“It’s a friendly crowd and sometimes we learn things, and we usually learn it two or three times in a row,” he said with a laugh.
Kathy Brown, owner of the Style Shop salon in the old Saltillo Bank building, said she’s seen the town grow tremendously in her 20 years of business.
Across the street and back toward City Hall, Danny Brown has been operating DB’s Floral Designs N’ More for nine years.
He said he enjoys the unique character of the town and the benefit having the main highway pass by his business.
While life’s a little slower downtown, it’s certainly not without visibility being nestled along Highway 363 east of Highway 45.