The space that is now becoming the new location for the restaurant Petra has an interesting history. For most of its history, it was the oldest black-owned business in Oxford, and one of the oldest continuous businesses. In 1898, it was bought by the gentleman with the tie, Mr. W.R. Boles (the concept that race is largely a social construct is supported by the fact that the local community viewed Mr. Boles as a black man). He opened a shoe shop there. Over the next decades, he bought the space next door (where 2 Stick is now) and the one next to it (part of the M&F Bank, and before that a dry cleaner), along with the parcels behind his shoe shop (which became a barber shop and a cafe, all now incorporated in what Petra is renovating). He died in 1959. Somewhere along the line, the young man in the left hand side of this picture, Herbert Wiley’s father, took over the shoe shop and then bought the building, including the space holding the barber shop and the cafe. Herbert took over the shop from his father, and operated it for years until selling the building in the last decade, just past a hundred years of a shoe shop operating in that location.
Folks who remember Wiley’s shop should look very closely at this picture: It looked very much like this right up to the moment Herbert decided to rent the front to Parish’s pub and move his shop into the back. There were even much of the same counters, and Herbert showed me a shoe lasting machine that had been in continuous use there for over a hundred years.
The Petra renovation has highlighted some unwritten history of the building. There was once clearly a pretty serious fire in the front part, for instance, that did some real damage to rafters (that were not much repaired).
My office has operated as a law office right next door, the office building having been built about 1890.