It doesn’t matter what kind of day you’re having, but if you run into this guy, you’re bound to perk up. That’s because Billy Patton is always perky. Patton is a clerk at Fondren Cellars and says his goal is to “make people smile.” A 2005 graduate of Provine High School, Patton says he does everything to make life better for others. In fact, he wants to bring entertainment and employment opportunities to people in Starkville. When we asked him how, he told us we’d laugh (but we didn’t). His plan is to open a club and skating rink. “I want to give young people something to do,” Patton says. The 25 year-old grew up in there until the age of ten when his family moved to Jackson and says he will return to build his dream on family land. Will we lose Patton to north Mississippi? “I think I’ll have someone else run (the club there) because I want to put a place like this in Jackson, too.”

Until then, Patton is learning a business he says he got into “by running his mouth.” Working as a security guard at Community Bank, he began telling co-worker (and now Fondren Cellars co-owner) Joseph Johnson that he wanted to open a liquor store. “Joseph said he did, too,” Patton remembers, and 12 months later, Fondren Cellars is firmly secured in the neighborhood. And with Patton, your wine gets firmly secured in your car. “The first time I ever buckled somebody’s wine in,” Patton says, “the lady started taking pictures.” That caused him to “freak out” but he says the buckling was for good reason. “You bought it, so I want to make sure it gets safely to wherever you are going.”

Patton says life is very different working in Fondren. “I’m happy to get up and go to work everyday,” he tells us. And he’s happy to help others. “Just being myself and making people feel good makes me feel good.” It’s the people of this neighborhood that cause him smile the most. “Everybody knows my name. They make me feel welcome.”

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