History Behind Longest Continually-Operated Business in Arkansas

OARK, Ark. (KNWA) - A staple in Johnson County has been serving people from near and far for more than a century.

The Oark General Store, which is located in the rural town of Oark, opened in 1890 in response to demand for groceries and supplies in the community.

"I started coming to this store when I was probably 3-years-old," said Roy Lee Melson, a longtime resident of Oark. "Here you could buy feed for the chickens, nails for the barn, staples for the fence, you could get sheet iron and have it delivered right here."

The store turned into a full-service restaurant in the 1990's. People from around Arkansas and the country now come to the place for its home-style cooking. However, it still offers staple grocery items and gasoline.

"We are at least thirty minutes away from the nearest town, so if you need to fill your generator, we've got gas here for when your power goes out," said Reagan Eisele, current owner of the Oark General Store. "We have basic groceries and supplies. For a lot of our locals, it's a spot to come to in the mornings to have coffee and hear the latest gossip and that sort of thing."

In recent years, the store has become a popular destination for both on and off-road travelers. 

"It's a lot bigger than me and my husband, so there's a lot of responsibility that comes with keeping such a thing going to make sure it's successful," Eisele said. "We have really been fortunate. Our staff has been phenomenal. Our locals keep us alive during the winter and we get a lot of tourism and guests in the spring, summer and fall months."

At nearly 130 years old, the store is the longest continually-operated business in Arkansas. 

"I don't know what our community would look like without the store, but I don't really want to know what it would look like without the store," Eisele said. "I hope down the road the store is a lot like it is right now. A little bit of change is okay, but for the most mart, you don't want to change something like this. It's hard to recreate it."

The Oark General Store is listed in the Arkansas Register of Historic Places.

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