Fire damages local business early Tuesday morning

Published 8:36 am Wednesday, August 21, 2019


NATCHEZ — Mr. Whisker’s, a long-standing business located at 247 U.S. 61 South, caught fire in the early morning hours Tuesday.

Natchez Fire Chief Ventris Green said a passerby on U.S. 61 called to alert the Natchez Fire Department at 12:38 a.m. Tuesday, at which time flames were already visible.

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“There is more smoke and heat damage than anything,” Green said. “From what we can tell, it started in the rear of the building. … As far as what started it, we couldn’t determine that yet. … There was already fire blowing out of the roof by the time we arrived. We had three crews out there and the new ladder truck and kept the fire contained. The fire was under control in about 40 minutes from arrival.”

Store owner Winston May, who is also known as Mr. Whiskers, said he learned about the fire soon after and saw three fire trucks around the blazing building when he arrived.

“I’m doing OK, but it burned everything I had up,” May said. “… Someone called last night and said there was a big fire. I had no idea. I had been gone all that day with a load of peanuts. … I didn’t get home until about 7 or 8 that evening. … An old friend called me about 12 a.m. and said my building was on fire and I thought he was joking. … When I got here, there were about three fire trucks around my building. It was just — wow. … I couldn’t believe it.”

May said he leased the building from Big Joe Oil Co. more than 20 years ago, and from it sold a variety of items, including wooden rocking chairs, pottery, yard ornaments, fountains, candles, peanuts, fresh produce and Mr. Whisker’s famous crawfish.

May said the fire cost him approximately 80% of his equipment, lumber and goods when it consumed almost everything inside the building — leaving only a small office space and most of the tin walls and roof.

May said his business does well enough this time of year that he won’t shut down until he can relocate or rebuild.

“We’re going to stay open,” he said. “We’ll maybe just have to get another place and work around this for a few days. … Hopefully, we can get it worked out. Right now we’re at ground floor.”