September 19, 2010 by wcobserver
By Susan McCarthy
Winslow- Beer, deli sandwiches and groceries may soon be a short drive away for residents of south Washington County in a few weeks when a new store opens on Hwy. 74 just west of I-540 near Winslow, making beer available without traveling to Fayetteville or Fort Smith.
Two Winslow women, who have been friends for over 40 years, hope to complete construction of their new 2400 square foot store, Backwoods Beer & Goods, in the next month or so. The store is in Lee Creek Township which is not dry. Owners Cheryl Smith and Kay (Charlotte) Barker say the store will provide the only beer between Fort Smith and Fayetteville. In addition to beer, the store will feature a full deli, groceries, and health and beauty products.
“We’ll have everything the other big stores have, but in a smaller quantity,” said Barker.
Smith said that Winslow has been without a store since a fire destroyed Romine’s Grocery about ten years ago.
“We need a store badly,” said Barker, who has previous experience as a convenience store manager and owned and operated a diner in Winslow.
“It’s tough; it’s a half-hour trip to town every day. It was heart-breaking when Bridgers closed,” said Katy Nease, who has lived in Winslow since 1972 and remembers when Winslow had three grocery stores, a laundromat and two gas stations. “We need something out here. West Fork is not that far, but a five minute trip is so much easier to do.”
Winslow Mayor Jarnagan is unsure of the impact the store will have on Winslow. “It’s a whole other township and tax area,” he said. He said the area has been without a store for a long time and people are in the habit of heading to West Fork or Fayetteville.
Tim Scott, Assistant Superintendent at Devil’s Den State Park, noted there has been lots of speculation and rumor about the new store and that many thought it was going to be a package store. “I don’t know if this will have an impact on our sales; it’s seven miles away,” Scott said. “It may be a plus for us. Our customers may have a place to go in the off season.” Scott said the park’s store is closed from Nov. through March.
“We’ve been working on this project for two years,” said Smith. “It was very difficult to get financed. It wasn’t easy getting this up,” she admits gesturing to the interior of their new store where about six men were working hard last Friday to ready the store for its opening.
Smith said the duo couldn’t get a conventional bank loan and ended up with private financing through an individual. “We think the economy had a big effect on it,” she said.
Much of the work, where possible, has been completed by friends and family members said Smith. “This place wouldn’t be here without their help,” she acknowledges.
The store will be open from 6 a.m. until midnight seven days a week. Barker said they will be accepting applications for employment in the next couple of weeks and plan to hire two to three employees.
Smith said their store will also be open 24-hours in the winter when I-540 is closed or becomes slick and anytime there is a search and rescue operation in that part of the county at the request of the Washington County Planning Commission. She said the store could close earlier than midnight on slower evenings.
“We are excited about offering convenience for people down here,” Smith said.