Business owners, city officials work to revitalize downtown Mena

by Talk Business & Politics staff (staff2@talkbusiness.net) 21 views 

Downtown Mena’s ongoing revitalization efforts can add a mix of antique stores and flea markets to the offerings. The area is home to five antique stores concentrated within walking distance of each other in the downtown area, and according to the proprietors, competition is the last thing on their minds.

“We are all working together,” said The Mercantile owner Judy McClara in a press release from the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism. “None of us are in competition with each other because none of us have the same things in our stores.”

The Mercantile is one of three new antique stores – others being The Front Porch and Old Bank Antiques – to join the community’s two oldest stores, Mena Antique Mall and Depot Antiques just across from the historic Mena Kansas City Southern Depot, which serves as a museum of local history.

The Front Porch at 816 DeQueen St. is owned by Jerry and Lori Price, who opened the building in 2015 allowing merchants to rent booths and sell upscale crafts and antiques.

The Mercantile is located at 622 Mena St., next door to the Skyline Cafe. McClara opened her doors in 2014 after purchasing the vacant building constructed in 1899. She is lifelong friends with Jerri McCoy, who owns and operates Old Bank Antiques at 812 Mena St.

“Before I retired from my county government position, I sold antiques through co-op situations in Galveston,” said McCoy. “It was a hobby business and it payed for my own hobby of collecting. I thought when I retire I’ll open a shop of my own maybe. And we had already thought of moving to Mena. When this building hit the market we were still several years away from retirement. We saw it online and thought that looks about right. We came up and looked at it and bought it several years ahead of retirement.”

McCoy and McClara are originally from Texas, and McClara is also the owner of Mena’s famous Lum house from Lum and Abner fame.

Downtown Mena is situated at the bottom of the Talimena Scenic Drive, the winding route that surrounds the Ouachita mountains. The road leads to Queen Wilhelmina State Park, home to a recently renovated lodge within view of Rich Mountain, Arkansas’s second highest.

Of the downtown revitalization effort, Gar Eisele from the Arkansas Regional Coalition of the Ouachitas, said the people of Mena “recognized that how your downtown appears reflects the health of your community,” adding that the goal was to create a walkable downtown with a healthy business and arts vibe.

To that end, Downtown Mena features the Ouachita Little Theater (which dates back to the 1920s); the Mena Art Gallery; a store called Chameleon Arts that allows people to paint their own pottery; and the restaurant and gallery American Artisans, whose owner Rick Chrisman heads the Ouachita Arts Celebration, a new annual fall festival held downtown that celebrates the local arts.

Varied shopping options in the area include properties such as The Rage, a boutique shop that first opened in 2010 and has now become a multi-million dollar online business. The city is also in the final stages of a $1 million downtown streetscape project to renovate sidewalks and lighting.

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