Crenshaw merchants pulling together during pandemic

Published 3:22 pm Wednesday, August 19, 2020

By Jacob Palmer

Small town America with bustling main streets and family-owned businesses were the norm for many generations growing up. Now, more and more small town and family-owned businesses are disappearing, but not in Crenshaw

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The small country town of Crenshaw in the northwest of Panola County, was founded in 1903. The town is no longer bustling, and hasn’t been in decades, but there are some businesses that have been in operation in Crenshaw for a long time, and the people of the close-knit community support them well.

F&S Grocery has been in business in Crenshaw for 40 plus years. Other businesses like Bo’s Auto parts have been going strong for 35 years and more.  The Snack Shack has also been open for almost 30 years.

These businesses are a part of Crenshaw’s history and have watched how the town has changed over time, including weathering the recent COVID-19 pandemic.

“Crenshaw is a unique place, and that’s the great thing about Crenshaw everybody knows everybody and helps each other,” said Oscar Barlow, the longtime mayor of Crenshaw.

Darlene Cook has worked at Snack Shack for 29 years and has fed generations of families in Crenshaw.

“One of the best parts of working at the snack shack for so long is seeing the different generations of families come through and order,” said Cook.

Sammy Duncan, owner of F&S Grocery, agrees with Cook.

“I will be looking over the shelves at the store, and someone will come up to me, and I have to look twice because I think it is their parents,” said Duncan.

COVID-19 did not have a great effect on the Snack Shack’s business. “It did not change our business too much because the customer picks up their order.  The only new thing we have to do is making sure customers huddle up in groups,” said Cook.

“When you work in the food business, your customers have to trust you, or they will not eat with you,” said Cook. “Crenshaw is my home. The greatest thing about Crenshaw is the support the community shows for one another.”

Duncan has been in business for 48 years.

“Mr. Sammy is famous for his fresh meat and fresh produce. People who do not live here anymore come back with coolers just for the meat because they cannot get fresh meat like Sammy can,” said Barlow.

According to Duncan, the reason he has stayed open for so long is, “Good people, good people that work for me, the support the community of Crenshaw has shown him over the years, and most importantly my children and my loving wife. Without them, none of this would have been possible,” said Duncan.

Darlene Cook of Snack Shack is one of those good people Duncan mentioned. She worked for Mr. Duncan for 12 years before working at Snack Shack.

COVID-19 changed the F&S Grocery business because Mr. Duncan closed temporarily. “I voluntarily closed for 10 weeks during the pandemic for the safety of the community. Crenshaw is my home, and I wanted to keep it safe for others, said Duncan.”

Bo Mitchell of Bo’s Auto Parts has worked at the auto parts store for 35 years. He attributes his success to the community of Crenshaw.

“Without the community, I wouldn’t be open, and I am thankful for the community’s support,” said Mitchell. According to Mr. Mitchell, COVID-19 did not have a great change in his business. “I have not noticed a great change, the business has been running smoothly as usual,” said Mitchell.

Next time you are in Crenshaw, walk down Broad Street, and see a small piece of history. Visit some of the local businesses like Billie’s Pecans, F&S Grocery, Snack Shack, Bo’s Auto Parts, and before you leave, fill up at Alex’s gas station at the end of the street.

“That’s the great thing about Crenshaw. Even though time changes, the one thing that remains constant is everybody knows everybody and helps each other,” said Barlow.