Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Neilson’s to Celebrate New Style with Grand Re-Opening Thursday

Neilson’s Department Store on the Oxford Square is celebrating its grand re-opening Thursday from 5:30 to 7 p.m. providing food, beverages and new inventory.

The store recently went through a complete renovation to meet customer demands. Last year Neilson’s celebrated 175 years in business, and is the oldest store in the south. It is the nation’s 16th oldest store and was added to the National Register of Historic places by the U.S. Department of Interior in 1980.

Neilson’s Department Store in Oxford

“To make a big investment in a historic location in a small town has, for a long time, been contrary to retailing trends,” said Will Lewis, owner of Neilson’s. “But Neilson’s is a part of the unique aspects of the Oxford Square, and wouldn’t be the same anywhere else.”

The Lewis family has been associated with the store for more than 100 years and is owned and operated by Will Lewis and his daughter, Amanda Lewis Hyneman. Both are involved on a daily basis.

Exterior of Neilson’s Department Store

“The purpose of the renovation was that we wanted to modernize and reevaluate store appearance. We wanted to make the whole store brighter, change the flooring, and open up walls for more display,” Lewis said. “We took as many racks off the floor as we could to display merchandise on the wall. We changed some things in our inventory and added different merchandise to the mix.”

Oxford High School football spirit window display

Neilson’s has departments for men, women, children, cosmetics, home, bridal, gifts, lingerie and shoes, but that has not always been the case. When the store was first established in 1839, it carried everything from groceries to hardware. It predates the University of Mississippi and has survived the Civil War and the Great Depression.
During the Civil War the Union soldiers burned down all the businesses on the Square, including Neilson’s. In 1866, the store began operating again, and there has been no interruption of store business since then.

Ole Miss throw pillows for sale

When the Great Depression hit, the store was able to help customers by taking assignments of paychecks (the state of Mississippi couldn’t honor them due to lack of funds.) Neilson’s also honored IOU issued for deposits in local banks and carried charges by customers who were unable to pay. Neilson’s proudly displays a letter from William Faulkner explaining why he had been late in paying his account.

The iconic store has been outfitting generations of people for years, and the renovation is just in time for Ole Miss football and Grove season.

Bridal registry items

“I grew up in Oxford in the 70s and 80s and then attended Ole Miss in the early 90s,” Hyneman said. “There is a fever pitch in this town, especially as we are heading into the football season. The unique energy of Oxford and the Square is unlike any other.”

Kathryn Winter is social media specialist and staff writer for Email her at