By Charles Cooper
Hello everyone, hope you’re having a good week. Since we have been interviewing local businesses and individuals it has become very popular with you readers and we will continue along this line in the future. This week I was fortunate to have an interview with Mr. Billy Autry, owner of Serenity-Daniels funeral home on Martin Street. I had stopped in several days before to ask for an interview and met Office Manager, Shirley Daniels and Mrs. Autry, wife of the owner and they agreed to arrange for me to meet Mr. Autry.
In talking with Shirley, I learned that her father was Shadrack Daniels, who operated a taxi service for many years. I knew him and also his uncle, James Daniel who had a store on the Block and they were all fine people.
Mr. Autry is a tall distinguished gentleman with white hair and a friendly casual manner. He took me into a small office and sat in a chair by me instead of behind a desk. We made small talk and when I mentioned I worked for Newman-Gardner it led to a discussion of the business then and now. We both agreed that competition is good for all parties as it causes everyone to “fine tune” their service and offer customers a choice.
Mr. Autry told me he owns funeral homes in New Albany, Holly Springs, Pontotoc, Oxford as well as Water Valley and a radio station. He has had an interesting career, starting on a farm where he picked cotton for his father and was allowed, time permitting, to pick for other farms.
He was allowed to keep the money he earned there and he spent it at the store and he learned that what he needed was to own a store which he did later after getting his college degree in Holly Springs.
He tried several businesses, some successful, others not, as he said. His daughter was his number one assistant until she decided to go into the insurance business and now his wife is in that capacity.
Unlike some funeral homes today who lease their equipment and use an on-call embalmer, he owns his equipment and has an on-site embalmer in his funeral homes. We both agreed that government regulations and high taxes make it hard for small businesses to succeed today but in the true American spirit they keep trying.
In the interviews I’ve conducted so far, it makes me proud of all these small business owners and I know that Water Valley is fortunate to have so many and hopefully, more to come. It was an inspiration to talk to Mr. Autry and I’m sure he will be as successful here as he has been in the other towns. I’m open to suggestions from all of you about who I should interview in the future. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org or write me c/o the Herald and have a happy holiday season.