Tommy Granata, businessman and former Tontitown mayor, dies

by Jeff Della Rosa ([email protected]) 1,812 views 

Business owner Tommy Granata, who had served as mayor and alderman for the city of Tontitown, died Saturday (Aug. 29). He was 65.

The Tontitown native owned bowling alleys in Fayetteville, Rogers and Springdale. He was born July 13, 1955, in Fayetteville, according to his obituary.

Granata died following a massive heart attack on Thursday, said Tontitown Mayor Paul Colvin.

Granata was serving his third term as alderman for the city and was running unopposed for a fourth term, Colvin said. Granata also had served as mayor for two years, and Colvin, who said he’s known Granata for 30 years, asked that Colvin run for mayor.

“He was one of those people that was larger than life,” Colvin said. “He lived a very full life — had two boys, a loving wife. He loved to put on bowling tournaments and play in them himself. He absolutely loved the outdoors. If you ever went over to his house, you’d probably see him outside more than you’d see him inside.

“I don’t know that you’ll find a better advocate for the city of Tontitown,” he added. “He was just all about Tontitown and making it a better place for folks to live and raise families.”

Colvin joked that of all the aldermen he’s served with, he argued with Granata more than with any others regarding city business.

“He was very strong-willed,” he said. “I can’t say enough about him.”

Granata worked to ensure the city park was the “best it could possibly be,” and was instrumental in bringing the volunteer fire department to the city and negotiating the contract with the department in 2015, Colvin said. He also helped the city with the project to install a water tower and pipeline, which started operating about three months ago.

“Believe it or not, we were even trying to formulate a game plan, he and I together, to get the city to buy the old Hanna’s Candle (building) in Tontitown and making it a Tontitown convention center,” Colvin said. “He’s going to be somebody truly missed and hard to replace.”

Granata was raised on a poultry and dairy farm. In a 2018 oral history produced by the Tontitown Historical Museum, Granata said the family farm raised 36,000 chickens every nine weeks and had 30 milking cows. He recalled hand-feeding chickens and cows, cutting fields and producing hay bales. Over the summers, he would pick up hay bales and place them in the barn.

Tommy Granata

“Every day, we’d haul 1,000 bales of hay, and I’d get $20 and had the world by the tail,” he said with a smile. He also worked for Walmart in the sporting goods, hardware, paint and automotive departments and said he was paid $1.60 per hour.

He attended Tontitown and Springdale schools. At the Tontitown school, he was taught by nuns and recalled attending church every morning before school. He attended Springdale schools starting in junior high and played basketball and football through high school. He played football at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro.

His father started a bowling alley business in 1963, and when Granata was 8 or 9, his father purchased an eight-lane bowling alley in Bentonville. Family members ran the first bowling alley, including the café, front-desk and bowling machinery. He worked in the café before he started helping with machinery. He started managing a bowling center after college.

Granata was preceded in death by his father and mother, Buster and Lillian Granata. He is survived by his wife, Mary Alice; two sons, Brett and Greg; one brother, Bobby Granata; and three sisters, Martha Pianalto, Carolyn Bowen and Darlene Johnston.

A funeral service is set for 10 a.m. Thursday (Sept. 3) at Harry Sbanotto Park in Tontitown. Some chairs will be provided, but guests can bring a chair, according to his obituary. Visitation will be 5 p.m. Wednesday (Sept. 2) and be followed by a rosary at 7 p.m. that day at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Tontitown. Burial will be at St. Joseph Cemetery following the funeral.

Donations may be made to the Tontitown Historical Museum.