Batesville’s oldest business schedules week-long celebration

Published 4:39 pm Thursday, April 25, 2019

By Anna Gibbs

Flint’s Hardware in downtown Batesville is celebrating 130 years of serving Panola County residents, commemorating the occasion with several events beginning next week.

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As the oldest store in town, possibly the oldest store operated by a single family in the state, five generations of Flints have stood behind the counter since 1889. Historically speaking, the store was borne out of Reconstruction-era necessity, making it older than the automobile, airplanes and concrete sidewalks.

“Flint’s opened just 24 years after the Civil War,” owner Ben Flint said in a January 2018 Panolian article. “It’s seen Batesville through both World Wars and the sinking of the Titanic.”

The store survived a decline in business during the Panic of 1907, a boll weevil infestation around the same time as World War I that left many farmers high and dry and a 1954 fire that burned down a sizable portion of the Batesville Square.

Flint’s great-grandfather C.H. Flint came to Batesville from Indiana at age 18. Orphaned at a young age, he decided to move to New Orleans. However, when he stopped in Batesville, he met his wife, Mary Forrest Gage. They were married by Reverend James W. Bates, the preacher and railroad conductor for whom Batesville is named.

C.H. Flint showed gratitude to his adopted hometown through community involvement – he was an alderman, member of the board of stewards of the Methodist Church and served on the school board. He was known for his dry wit and great affection for the town that helped him get this his start as a young orphan.

This attitude of gratitude is something that’s continued over the last 130 years, Ben said.

“We’ve just always been a small town (business), tried to treat our customers right, and we have a good customer base that’s loyal to us,” Ben said. “We’re born and raised here, and lived here all our lives. It’s important to keep small businesses like ours going, because you don’t get that personal touch from Amazon or big box stores.”

When C.H. Flint and Sons first opened, they “furnished” farmers – stocking most of what small, local farmers needed to raise crops – from horse collars to plows. They also sold home furnishings, including wood cook stoves and window sashes. They sold to the farmers on credit.

Today, the store sells a little bit of everything, from cast iron cookware, to galvanized pipes, to earmuffs and Case knives, and every customer is still greeted by name, with a smile and a handshake. They still use pen and paper to keep track of their sales and have records as far back as 1918. Now, they input all the data into the computer at the end of the day, but that’s one of the only things that has changed.

Those perusing the store will notice items from years past lining the very top shelf near the ceiling, a reminder of trials and triumphs of yesteryear.

Like the generations of men before him, Ben said there came a time to pass the store on to a new generation. He’s still around, but today, Cole Flint, great-great-grandson of C.H., can often be found behind the counter.

“Our continued success is dependent on the younger guys now, and eventually their children and grandchildren,” Ben said. “Nothing lasts forever, but as long as we have a Flint that’s willing to do it, we’ll stay open. We’ve been lucky in Batesville and are so appreciative of that.”

To show their appreciation, Flint’s Hardware is holding an anniversary sale beginning Monday, April 29 and ending Saturday, May 4. Customers will be eligible for 10 percent off all cash purchases. Also on May 4, the store will host a celebration, complete with free hamburgers and hotdogs, door prizes and drawings, including the chance to win a lawn mower and string trimmer.

For more information on events, visit the Flint’s Hardware Facebook page.