The city of Pontotoc, long known by the translation of its Chickasaw name as the Land of Hanging Grapes, is living up to a more modern motto: Where family comes first and you’ll love every second.
There’s a lot for families to love in this city of 5,600, including a rich history, an abundance of boutiques, a variety of restaurants, and numerous recreational and outdoor activities.
“We’ve got good choices here,” said Miriam Clark, who along with two friends owns Antiques Downtown.
Their business is one of five antiques stores in Pontotoc, located about 25 minutes west of Tupelo in Pontotoc County. Two doors down from Clark’s shop is Antiques on Main, where a life-size cast aluminum buffalo greets visitors amid vintage wrought iron patio furniture on the sidewalk.
“It’s going to be sad when the buffalo leaves,” Clark said, explaining that the statue has been sold but not yet relocated to its new home in West Point.
Near the courthouse “up on the square,” she said, Cowgirl Clutter is in the old Michael’s Department Store building. Antique Station is on Oxford Street just north of the square, and Antiques Off the Square is in a former hardware store on West Marion.
“All the antique stores in town are a little different, and that’s why we want everyone to experience each one,” said Clark, who works with the other shop owners to promote their businesses as well as everything else Pontotoc has to offer.
That includes the boutiques, of which there are plenty.
“We have several downtown and we have several on the bypass,” Clark said.
Visitors can park and stroll down Main Street to Between Sisters Boutique and Gifts, Ella Ivy Boutique, True Blue Boutique and Flutter & Company. Pure Bliss is a short drive away in the Piggly Wiggly Shopping Center, and not far from there is The Red Door. Even the True Value Hardware Store sells ladies’ clothing.
“They are great,” Clark said. “The boutiques have replaced the big box stores. They’re really trendy and have good prices.”
Those with a notion for sewing can stop in for quilting and knitting classes at Needleart Fabrics and More on Lafayette Street, and hungry visitors will find a mix of fast food, family, sandwich, seafood, Mexican and Chinese restaurants in Pontotoc.
Boondocks Grill, next to the Chamber of Commerce downtown, offers authentic Cajun cuisine. Happy Day Cafe serves up specialty sandwiches, coffee and cakes on West Oxford, and at Austin on Main, patrons dine in a red brick building that once housed a general store.
“At Austin, they have good burgers and chicken wraps,” Pontotoc resident Paula Matkins said. “Their salads are probably my favorite.”
From the Mechanics Insurance office where she works on Main Street, Matkins is close to all Pontotoc has to offer.
“We’re getting a lot,” she said.
Her parents own and operate Happy Trails, a bed and breakfast cottage that routinely hosts guests from near and far interested in the Tanglefoot Trail. Locals, including Matkins, also frequent Mississippi’s longest Rails to Trails conversion.
“It’s encouraged a lot of people to get out and walk and ride their bikes,” she said.
The 43-mile recreational attraction starts in Houston and ends in New Albany.
“The Tanglefoot Trail goes through 22 miles of Pontotoc County and city,” said Ellen Russell, director of Pontotoc’s Main Street Association and Chamber of Commerce. “That is an avenue that we have seen to grow tourism. It’s brought people from all over the country here.”
At Hill and Trail Bicycle Company on Turnpike Road, “They’ll rent you a bike and put you out on the trail,” she said.
Other outdoor attractions in Pontotoc include Howard Stafford Park and Trace State Park, which offer camping and fishing, and Russell said visitors to Pontotoc are also curious about the Amish in the area.
“We have 20 to 25 families that live in the south part of the county,” Russell said. “We do have a lot of people who inquire about them.”
Clark said tourists also visit the antebellum mansion Lochinvar, as well as the Town Square Post Office & Museum.
“The Pontotoc museum is in the old historic post office,” she said. “It’s a working post office. People are donating to it every day. It has a lot of local history.”
Clark is among the locals buying into Pontotoc’s new motto.
“Where family comes first and you’ll love every second is printed on my business cards,” she said.
Visitors too can enjoy the hospitality Pontotoc has to offer.
“It’s always a pleasant surprise,” Clark said.
Story by Ginny Miller // Photos by Lauren Wood