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Statewide Homegrown 4

Mercantile Shopping is More Than General Stores

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Mercantile shops are among the most creative retail expressions in Arkansas. Historically, a mercantile was a store for a sparsely populated area where customers could find pantry staples, children’s toys, farm supplies and seasonal attire under one roof. They were the type of business where a family would travel to town once a week or month to gather supplies to supplement what they could produce at home.

Many mercantile-type stores occupy historic spaces, while others offer multi-functional interaction for visitors.

Today, the mercantile concept functions similarly as days gone by, with modern conveniences and meals in one space. As you travel, take advantage of these incredible experiences where the side business might be the main attraction!

Hawkins Variety Store | Murfreesboro
While many travel to this small South Arkansas town to dig for diamonds, stopping to include a scoop of ice cream at the town square’s general store is a stronger guarantee. The soda fountain dates back to 1943, with sandwiches, sodas, and ice cream served in the historic 1909 corner store.

Page 52 Mercantile | Conway
Named for the worn-out page in a cookbook her mom uses every Christmas morning, the store has something for everyone, from vegan cookbooks to biscuit mixes, dishes and dish towels. The shop also offers workshops from time to time in cocktail making, painting, recipes and homemaking.

Ferguson’s Country Store and Restaurant | St. Joe
A Ferguson’s breakfast is a planned stop for many traveling North to the Eastern side of the Buffalo River National Park or a hot plate lunch for trout fishermen with a busy morning. But the fresh, hot cinnamon rolls will catch you any time of the day. Half the store is a furniture showroom for cherry and oak pieces custom-built and handmade on-site.

Stamps General Store | Alpena
Today, the Stamps General Store is home to Osage Clayworks. The Bailey family, early settlers of the Alpena community, built the Stamps Store as a general store with meeting and lodging space for hotel guests on the second floor. Travelers, traders, the lawless, and moonshiners were among the greatest patrons of the store in the earliest 20th century, where a grocery and dry goods store shared the space with a town bank. The store is always a popular stop for those traveling to the Buffalo River to float or view elk or during the fall when shopgoers have come from the War Eagle craft fairs.

Gap Mercantile | Caddo Gap
The Gap Mercantile has been open since 1932, with many of the original store fixtures in use today. The store sells vintage toys and snacks, heirloom seeds, Arkansas canned goods, handmade soaps, antique tools, and Farm Hand’s Companion books and show series props. The family uses the store as a fun connection to Ouachita Mountain visitors, introducing them to a way of life many in the region experienced in the 1930s and 40s.

Marrs Mercantile | Centerton
This spring, Dave and Jenny Marrs, stars of the HGTV hit show Fixer to Fabulous and Rock the Block, renovated the former Centerton Bank building into a gathering place for Northwest Arkansas residents and visitors. The store reflects the Marrs’ love for historic space, Dave’s carpentry skills and Jenny’s unique gift to make any room feel lived in and comfortable. The store sells apparel, home decor, handmade pieces by fair trade artisans, and special Arkansas treats.

White’s Mercantile | Wilson
“A general store for the modern tastemaker.” White’s is the brainchild of singer-songwriter Holly Williams who learned of the cultural expansion in Wilson and knew she needed to bring her Nashville-based store to Arkansas. The pet-friendly store is named for her grandparents, who owned a mercantile in Louisiana in the late 1800s.

Southern Mercantile & Gifts | Prairie Grove
This Prairie Grove cornerstone connects visitors to a day gone by with large antique pieces for office and home. The caribou on the wall and large apothecary jars with candy connect today’s taste with heirloom pieces from large trunks, tables made from converted factory carts, working cuckoo clocks, and a wide selection of jarred goods made nearby.

Lillihobbs Mercantile | Omaha
Often a stop on many visitors’ way to Branson, this eatery and shopping venue will catch the eye of many shoppers. The sandwich shop is the right kind of stop before a fun weekend, just across the Missouri line, but the layered cakes make people stop over and over. The showroom contains jewelry, body products, unique gifts, children’s toys and antique finds.

Main Street Mercantile | Van Buren
In the heart of historic Van Buren, this collection boutique shines a light on local businesses in a collaborative shopping experience. The shop features over 20 stores, including a clothing boutique, handcrafted tables and furniture, vintage gift finds, a gardening store, handmade jewelry, body care, macarons and soy-based candles.

The Mercantile on Main St. | Pangburn
A local coffee shop and lunch spot celebrating Main Street America as a gathering spot for locals to visit and exchange business plans. Others can grab and go from an easy takeout menu or stop and browse for a sweet and unique gift curated locally from the Little Red region.

Petit Jean Coffeehouse and Merc | Morrilton
AY Magazine’s best coffee shop in Arkansas also has various apparel, gift items and Arkansas-made products. Some are necessary to spend a weekend on the mountain enjoying trails, the lake and simple family memories, while others you just think you need before you head home. Grab a cup of joe while you look around at the art, grab a new book, or find a sweatshirt to remember this sweet space.

Dry Creek Homestead Mercantile | Pindall
A watering hole for locals, Dry Creek has a little bit of everything. Created for the same reason mercantiles, especially in old railroad towns, came around in the 19th century, the core is an abandoned white-block gas station wrapped with salvaged barn wood. Later a porch was added for rocking chairs, and they raised the roof to accommodate a remarkable antler chandelier. Stop by for camping supplies, simple groceries, or a real bite to eat from the deli. Locals love a breakfast omelet or a piece of strawberry pie.

Mountain Thyme Mercantile | Mountain View
Any trip to Mountain View is often in search of an easy breezy weekend in a lovely change of scenery. This must-stop mercantile brings that and much more. Visitors love the homemade fudge, candy turtles and bulk candy wall, where you can buy pretty much anything in bulk, including Lucky Charms cereal marshmallows.

Other quick stops that may catch your eye:
Moxy Modern Mercantile | Little Rock
Mercantile on Main | Booneville
City Supply | Fayetteville
Oark General Store | Oark
Gilbert General Store | Gilbert
Hiwasse Mercantile | Gravette
The Vintage Mercantile | Sherwood
Sugartown Mercantile | Stuttgart
Hometown Threads & Mercantile | Pearcy
16 General Store | Fayetteville, Elm Springs, Cave Springs
Muses Country Store | Heber Springs
Bentonville Mercantile | Bentonville
Social Hill Mercantile | Malvern
Against the Grain Mercantile | Marion
River Valley Mercantile | Russellville

 

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Keisha (Pittman) McKinney lives in South Arkansas with her husband and sweet Boxer, Bailey and one-year-old son! Keisha is passionate about connecting people and building community, seeking solutions to the everyday big and small things, and encouraging others through the mundane, hard, and typical that life often brings. She put her communications background to work as a former Non-profit Executive Director, college recruiter and fundraiser, and Digital Media Director at a large church in Northwest Arkansas. Now she is using all of those experiences through McKinney Media Solutions and her blog @bigpittstop which includes daily adventures, cooking escapades, #bigsisterchats, the social justice cases on her heart, and all that she is learning as a #boymom!

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4 responses to “Mercantile Shopping is More Than General Stores”

  1. Katharine says:

    I was so happy to see Hawkins made it to this story. Not only that, but it was first in line! It is a favorite place for us, and the lovely owners are so much fun!
    Thanks for this great essay!

  2. Donnie Crain says:

    The Hollis Country Store is another historic country store/mercantile to add to your list. Surrounded by the Ouachita Mountains in the tiny hamlet of Hollis halfway between Petit Jean Mountain and Hot Springs National Park, the Hollis Country Store is a real, authentic country and has been serving locals and Arkansas travelers since 1930. Oh – and the store has Arkansas’s Best Bologna Sandwiches, serving Petit Jean Meats.

  3. […] leader in rain-grown cotton.” Today, historic sites and museums, downtown squares, and mercantiles continue to give visitors a glimpse of life when dirt streets were host to trading posts and […]

  4. […] are the best time to visit The Vault, but the door is always open for those shopping the area: antique stores, history researchers, artists, or visitors looking for a great watering […]

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