George Booth III manages Tupelo Hardware Company, a fourth-generation family business and major stop on the city’s Elvis Presley Birthplace Trail.
What happened on that fateful day in 1946 when Elvis came into your store?
One of our original hires sold Elvis his first guitar. Elvis came in wanting a twenty-two-caliber rifle for his birthday, but his mother wouldn’t let him have it, and he had to settle for a guitar. This was January 8, 1946. Elvis was eleven. Now we’re the most famous hardware store in the world. Visitors love that we still look a lot like we did when Elvis walked in.
What are other can’t-miss stops on Tupelo’s Elvis Presley Birthplace Trail?
His birthplace is where most people start or end up. The house was tiny; it was made into a visitors center and museum. One of the coolest things is seeing the old church where he went as a child. It’s been moved to the site and has an interactive experience that makes you feel like a revival is going on.
At Johnnie’s Drive-In, you can sit in Elvis’s old booth and have a burger. Some people also check out his alma mater, Milam Junior High. There are some great old pictures of him there. And they visit the Presley family plot and cemetery where it’s believed Elvis’s stillborn twin brother was buried in an unmarked grave.
The Tupelo Elvis Festival takes place June 1–4. What can visitors expect?
It’s definitely a party: Elvis fans like to celebrate. The highlight is the live music during the tribute artist competition, and there’s also a gospel concert on Sunday. Here at the hardware store, we’ll have living history skits with actors dressed like Elvis and his mother.
While Elvis fans are in Tupelo, what are some cool spots you’d recommend checking out?
Blue Canoe, a restaurant and bar known for its blueberry-doughnut bread pudding, is a great place to hear live music. They bring in up-and-coming musicians. And there are a lot of changes going on downtown, like new restaurants and shops opening. Kermit’s Outlaw Kitchen is run by young chefs doing cool stuff with cocktails. They’ll roast vegetables, infuse them with vodka or bourbon, and use them in drinks. The same people also own the Neon Pig, a butcher-burger joint.
Four decades after his death, is Elvis still making new fans?
Of course. Young fans come in, and children know who he is. He’s the King.