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Trading post celebrates 10 years of selling Natchez

JAY SOWERS/THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Ashley Jones, an employee at Old South Trading Post, arranges a line of alligator heads for sale Thursday morning at the store's new location on Franklin Street in Natchez.
JAY SOWERS/THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Ashley Jones, an employee at Old South Trading Post, arranges a line of alligator heads for sale Thursday morning at the store’s new location on Franklin Street in Natchez.

You get more than just a Southern trinket or a jar of jelly when you walk in the Old South Trading Post; owner Jonathan Wood makes sure of that.

For 10 years, Wood has been wooing customers with his Southern charm and hospitality at his specialty gift shop.

Wood sells everything from alligator heads — one of his most popular items — and “Gone with the Wind” memorabilia to cookbooks and soap, all with a little Southern flare.

But Wood’s business in Natchez goes beyond making money or even entertaining patrons with his array of items.

Jan Scarborough, an employee at Old South Trading Post, top right, weaves her way between stands of T-shirts for sale.
Jan Scarborough, an employee at Old South Trading Post, top right, weaves her way between stands of T-shirts for sale.

“The game plan was to promote Natchez to get people to come here, and that’s what we’re trying to do,” Wood said.

Wood moved to Natchez after he retired from a career in broadcasting in Oklahoma City. He had visited Natchez and had been impressed by the hospitality shown to tourists by Natchezians, especially the women of Natchez Pilgrimage.

Wood had remembered particularly the hospitality of Sallie Ballard and Dot Clark and had promised the women that when he retired he would come to Natchez to help build tourism.

“Ten years later, I still think the legacy we stand for is what those women did, inviting people to their homes and their neighborhoods,” Wood said. “As you talk to more and more people, and I’ve talked to people all over the world, a lot of people are similar in that they admire the long-term hospitality that Natchez has afforded to visitors from around the world.”

Wood originally opened the store on Main Street, then moved to the former railroad depot on Broadway Street and just recently relocated to 714 Franklin St.

The store has evolved over the years and accomplished successes that Wood never thought he would see.

Old South Trading Post is being sought out by cities such as New Orleans, Vicksburg and Chattanooga, Tenn., to open locations.

“That’s something that in my wildest dreams I never would have thought about,” he said.

Wood has also branched out into the Internet and direct mail business, bringing Natchez to those who cannot travel here.

“It never dawned on me that I would be doing that, especially the Internet business,” he said.

But the demand was there when customers started calling asking if Wood could ship them items they bought during a trip to Natchez.

“A lot of people say, ‘I can’t come back to Natchez, but I can enjoy what I got there again,’” Wood said.