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Tupelo Hardware

The King of Hardware

On an average day at Tupelo Hardware in Tupelo, Mississippi, employees can go from assisting a customer in finding a product to sharing memories of rock n’ roll legend Elvis Presley. In addition to loyal customers, the staff regularly meets Elvis fans who have been traveling from around the world to visit the store, known for being the site where Elvis purchased his very first guitar at age 11.

Tupelo Hardware
George Booth, III and his father, owner George Booth, II work together in Tupelo Hardware, a 90-year-old family-owned business.

Standing the Test of Time

Walking through the doors of business transports many customers to their childhood, as the 90-year-old family-owned business contains the same look and feel of a store from the past, according to George Booth III, manager of the store, which is owned by his father, George Booth II.

“People like coming to our store because it feels like their childhood, something you might find in Andy Griffith’s Mayberry,” Booth says. “They feel connected to a more innocent time, when hardware stores looked a certain way.”

The store opened in 1926 when George H. Booth no longer wanted to act as a traveling salesman but set his roots down. While the building has always been downtown, it’s been in the same building since 1941.

 

The King’s First Guitar

Elvis
This is a photo of Elvis Presley’s first guitar, purchased from Tupelo Hardware.

In addition to evolving and building a great history on its own, Tupelo Hardware has found a special place in the hearts of Elvis fans worldwide.

Elvis was born and raised in Tupelo as a child. When he turned 11, his mother Gladys brought him to Tupelo Hardware to pick out a birthday present. Elvis wanted a rifle, but his mother didn’t want him to get one, so he chose a guitar instead.

After Elvis’ death, a former employee, Forrest L. Bobo, recalled how he assisted during their visit, trying to give Elvis an option he would like by handing him a guitar.

To keep the history preserved, Booth II went to Bobo’s home to type up a letter from Bobo’s memory of the visit on Tupelo Hardware letterhead. It is now in the store’s display case.

After the word spread, Booth says Elvis fans would come from here and there to visit the store, but it wasn’t until the 25th year anniversary of his death that Elvis-themed tours brought more and more people to the local business.

“We welcome people from all over to the store,” Booth says. “They’re not wanting hammers, saws and fireplace screens. These people want a great story and to reminisce, walking the floors where Elvis had walked. We even have a lady who shares the story with fans and works the floor during general hours as well.”

Around 2000, Booth says the store added items like postcards, stickers, screwdrivers engraved with Tupelo Hardware, coffee mugs and other little souvenirs visitors could take home from their travels.

And for those who want to get their start in music like Elvis, the store even brought back basic guitars, Booth says.

“The coolest thing for me about the fans that come to visit is that I get to interact with people from around the world,” Booth says. “Sometimes it’s people in groups or just two people. We’ve welcomed visitors from places like South America, Australia, Canada and all over the U.S.”

The individuals he’s met over the years are unique, and Booth says he’s happy because he’s gotten to talk with people he may have never otherwise met.

Yet at the end of the day, this family business is proud of its place in the history of Elvis, but is even more proud of the people who have remained loyal employees.

“A lot of people like to talk about the Elvis story, which is cool,” Booth says. “But I think the biggest thing about Tupelo Hardware is that we’ve had people work at our business and dedicate their working lives to our store. There is no way we could be around without them.”

About Renee Changnon

Renee Changnon is the retail outreach coordinator for NRHA. She meets with retailers in their stores and at industry events and introduces them to the services NRHA provides. Renee previously worked as a member of the NRHA communications team. She earned a degree in visual journalism from Illinois State University, where she served as the features editor for the school newspaper. After college, she implemented marketing and promotions initiatives at Jimmy John’s franchise locations across the country. She enjoys exploring books with her book club, Netflix marathons and hosting goat yoga at her apartment complex. Renee Changnon 317-275-9442 rchangnon@nrha.org

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