By Rupert Howell
There were a lot of happy people in Sardis early Wednesday morning at the grand opening of the Sardis Walmart Neighborhood Market.
But the happiest people included manager Patrick Hooks who was brought to tears while thanking his wife for putting up with him in the final weeks prior to the opening; construction project superintendent B.J. Chambers whose responsibility was to erect the facility from scratch on a hilly slope of ground beginning in late July and have it ready before Christmas, and Sardis Mayor Billy Russell who campaigned on a promise to get Sardis a grocery store.
“Y’all have got me off the hook,” Russell told about 60 people gathered in an overflowing parking lot early Wednesday morning for a brief program including prayer, the national anthem and introductions prior to the ceremonial ribbon cutting. Russell had previously pointed not only to the convenience of Sardis again having a full-fledged grocery store, but touted additional employment and sales tax revenue coming from the new store. The store also has gas pumps and pharmacy.
Chambers works for FMGI Construction and said he has never missed a deadline, citing a team effort in construction and singing the praises of not only Walmart, but the City of Sardis–specifically Mayor Russell and city works director Bubba McDowell.
“It’s always helpful to build a facility when people want it,” Chambers said noting that he had built Walmart buildings all over the Southeast.
Hooks also cited the city of Sardis and its mayor for assisting by “cutting through red tape” and assisting when possible.
Hooks is originally from Nettleton, a town of approximately 2,000 near Tupelo and noted that it is about the size of Sardis. He said he likes small towns and stated emphatically, “I am as happy as anybody I know. I want to work with you to help the town of Sardis grow.”
Two days prior to the Wednesday opening, Hooks had passed out donations of $500 each to North Panola High Schools ROTC program, the Sardis Police and Fire Departments, the North Mississippi Animal Rescue League and Anointed Prophetic Ministries Church. Through his company Hooks also provided toys forwarded toys for children in the Sardis area who otherwise would not have a Christmas, according to Penny Hart with the Sardis Chamber of Commerce.
It was both cross section and who’s who of Sardis citizens on hand watching as Mayor Russell and Manager Hooks cut the red ribbon on a very cold December morning. Although most were shivering, nobody seemed unhappy.