For many, the F.S. Williams Country Store in East Feliciana Parish can never be replaced.
What remains of the landmark since it burned in 2011 is its sign with “no trespassing” emblazoned across the front, the two front doors of the store, which were salvaged by firefighters along with other mementos from the many years the store was in business, such as a turkey mount, its tail feathers singed.
What wasn’t lost in the fire, however, was the spirit of the Williams family and their resolve to keep providing quality customer service and products to residents of East Feliciana Parish and beyond.
“It’s in my blood, operating a Williams store, but I could never replicate the original store, nor do I want to,” said Jeff Williams, who is set to open F.S. Williams Outfitters, a hunting, fishing and outdoor gear business Saturday in time for Louisiana’s Second Amendment Tax Holiday Weekend.
“I’m just a little nervous that people are going to be expecting the original store and then disappointed when they learn it’s not.”
The original country store, which was opened by Neal Manship Williams in 1930 when La. 19 was little more than a dirt road through Ethel, was named F.S. Williams after Williams’ wife, Faye Sale.
The general store sold almost everything including cast-iron cookware, corn-cob pipes, clothes and groceries.
Alberta Williams, 92, Neal Williams’ daughter-in-law, has pitched in to help with her grandson’s new store, along with Jeff’s father, Ray Williams; Jeff’s wife, Brittney; and their children, Parker, 6, and Payton, 3, who are fifth-generation Williams.
“She’s the idea person,” Jeff said about his wife, who came up with the idea of filling the glass counter top near the register with articles and photos of the original F.S. Williams store, photographs of the many Williams family members and images from the day in November 2011 when the landmark was gutted during a blaze started by an electrical surge.
Ray Williams said when the original store burned, he and his brother, the late Manship Ney “Man” Williams were in the process of letting their children take on more responsibilities with the operation of the family store.
“We have always had a family rule: Get your college degree first,” Ray said. “All of us, that’s been the rule. Then, if the kids still wanted to come back and help out at the store, they could.”
Jeff Williams is thankful for that rule.
“After the store burned, I had to get a job selling insurance, but running a store is my blood. It’s in all of ours,” he said.
Jennifer Williams Templet, daughter of Man and Jeff’s cousin, was the first to open an F.S. Williams store since the original burned: Red Boot Deli, which has served the Clinton lunch crowd with her sandwiches, soups and salads made daily.
Lisa Williams Frosch, Jeff’s sister, who lives in Zachary with her family, was on board to help with Red Boot Deli, and will help her brother operate F.S. Williams Outfitters.
At 8 a.m. Saturday, F.S. Williams Outfitters will host its grand opening and serve pastalaya, drinks and feature door prizes.
Located near the Ethel and Jackson crossroads of La. 10 and La. 19, F.S. Williams Outfitters will feature hunting gear and supplies, such as guns; ammunition; archery equipment; fishing rods, reels and tackle; camouflaged clothing; hunting stands and blinds; deer corn and feed; hunting clothes and boots for men, women and children; work clothes; a large selection of jeans; cast-iron cookware; and more.
“More inventory is coming in every day, and we’ll carry the quality products we’re known for,” Jeff Williams said. “We’ll be expanding at some point. I have lots of ideas for expansion, which will include plenty more inventory, an indoor archery range and all-terrain vehicles. I would like to one day feature boats and kayaks for camping.”
“I’m so proud of him. Very proud. He knows how to treat people,” Ray Williams said of his son. “But this is his store, and it’ll be different. He’ll be doing things his own way, but I know he’ll be fine. I have all my contacts, but he’s had to set up his own.”
Customers from around the region visited the F.S. Williams Country Store on their way to Mississippi and from all over. Ray’s hope is that F.S. Outfitters will draw the same loyal customer base.
“Everywhere I go, people have asked us when we were going to reopen the original store,” Ray said. “There is a lot of hunting in the Felicianas and southern Mississippi, and Highway 19 is one of the main drags out here, so I think Jeff’s store will be a success. We welcome the hunters and fishers. Always, anytime.”
F.S. Williams Outfitters, 7150 La. 10, in Jackson (at La. 19) will open Saturday at 8 a.m. However, regular business hours will be 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays.
Call (225) 683-6000 or visit fswilliamsoutfitters.com for information.