End of an era: Last of downtown pharmacies closes

Published 1:46 am Wednesday, November 15, 2017


NATCHEZ — One of downtown Natchez’s oldest businesses is closing up shop.

Tuesday marked Wilson-Holder Drug Company’s last official day as a drugstore, with storeowner Larry Holder deciding to enter retirement. Holder said he could not find anyone to assume control of the shop.

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After 38 years at the store, Holder said all of the pharmacy’s prescriptions would transfer to Walgreen’s, which has two locations in Natchez.

The front of the store will remain open for the time being until everything in the store is packed up, though Holder said he did not have a set time frame for how long that section of the store would remain open.

Natchez Mayor Darryl Grennell announced Wilson-Holder’s closing at Tuesday’s board of aldermen meeting, lamenting the business’ departure.

“We’re going to lose an asset in downtown Natchez, and that’s not good,” Grennell said.

But employees and customers of the store reflected Tuesday on the good Wilson-Holder has produced for Natchez through the years.

Spending nearly four decades as an important cog in downtown Natchez’s economy and social dynamics, Holder said his retirement is timely but difficult nonetheless.

“You hate giving up something you’ve been doing,” he said.

As for what he would miss the most, Holder had a succinct, simple answer.

“People,” he said.

Holder’s wife, Annette, said customers were more like family throughout the years the drug store served the community.

Annette Holder owns the next-door business Mrs. Holder’s Antiques, which will remain open after Wilson-Holder’s Drug Company closes.

“Our customers that we’ve had are family and friends,” she said.

One of those friends is Ann Tillman, who said she remembers the days before Holder took ownership and the store was just “Wilson’s.”

“Downtown Natchez is going to be a different place because that store was just a hub for so many different things,” Tillman said.

The Holders said downtown held 11 drugstores at one point in the city’s past. Tuesday, Wilson-Holder became the last of those 11 to leave.

Despite the sadness of closing, Annette Holder said some positives would accompany the switch to Walgreen’s for customers.

“The nice thing about going to (Walgreen’s) is that no matter where you are … If you lose your prescriptions or whatever, you can get them filled, and it’s no trouble because the computer system has got everything in it,” she said.

While much of the rest of Natchez changed with years gone by, Wilson-Holder remained largely unchanged. The store did change its storefront — taking advantage of the city’s historic rehabilitation program — but many of the faces at the store stayed the same.

Take for example Billy Nichols, whose time at the store predates even Larry Holder’s.

Nichols has spent more than 47 years working there.

“It’s been wonderful,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed all the customers, everybody, a lot of friends.

“I’ve seen a lot of families grow up in this place. That’s what people was coming in today and telling me.”

After nearly half a century at Wilson-Holder, Nichols must now decide what his future holds.  Nichols said he has yet to make that decision.

“We’ll just wait and see,” he said.

Another longtime employee at the store, Tommy Ross, could often be seen out front, sweeping the porch to make sure the store remained tidy.

“I’ve been with Larry for 27 years,” he said.

The familiar faces of Wilson-Holder both employees and customers, ingrained themselves as a part of the city, and Tillman described aptly the feeling of seeing them go.

“It’s the end of an era,” she said.