Old Buildings = New Business for Rural Communities
Just like the downward drop of the green flag at the starting line of a race, spring has signaled drivers across the state to begin their trek through the towns of Arkansas. It is time to visit familiar towns or backroad through new ones.
During these journeys, one favorite activity is to stop and admire an old building that proudly stands with or without the “historical building” indicating its age. Whether it is a barn built in the 1700s that still displays the elaborate pully system used to pull the hay onto the loft of the second floor, or the mercantile shop of a once booming rail spur town that was the congregating place of even some questionable characters, old buildings bring a connection to a moment in time that has long passed. And, when business owners decide this history is important enough to purchase, restore, and share these buildings as an anchor point in the town to attract more businesses in the immediate vicinity, it makes the charm of century old buildings even more special.
In the CREATE BRIDGES region known as the Ozark Foothills (Izard, Fulton, and Sharp counties), this signaling of tourism season is an important part of the economy of the area, when travelers to and fro descend on these and other rural communities either on purpose or as passersby. For two local businesses, they have each decided to seize the moment to acquire 100+ years-old buildings and reopen them to the public as retail establishments to serve visitors and locals alike.
On the main thoroughfare of Cave City in Sharp County, the newly opened Millie’s restaurant offers a family dining establishment in the beautifully remodeled rock building that once stood in disrepair. Named in honor of the late daughter of one of the owners, the opening of Millie’s in this rescued building is a reminder that even the broken can be fixed for a purpose. The remainder of the building, owned by Bank of Cave City, will be converted into the bank’s annex room will be outfitted with current audio/video capabilities where local meetings can be held for the bank or the public.
Millie's in Cave City, Arkansas. Photo Credit: Leslie Scribner
In the Fulton County town of Salem, the majestic presence of the Castleberry Building commands attention on the square. The Scribner family acquired this two-story building in August of 2020 and began the lengthy process of adding the building to the National Historic Registry.
With plans to open a brick-and-mortar location for the already successful Castleberry Kids clothing boutique in the building’s store front, the rest of the Castleberry Building will eventually receive a historically accurate renovation to house a venue for weddings and other occasions. The family hopes a National Historic designation on the Castleberry Building will bring attention to the beautiful Salem downtown square and attract visitors and businesses back to this once bustling Main Street.
The Castleberry Building on Salem's Main Street. Photo Credit: Hazelle Whited
To listen to an episode of CREATE BRIDGES: Small Business-Big Rural Impact podcast
that features a business owner restoring an older building to house her newer business,
check out "Ready, Set, Grow" with Amelia Moore of Picalily Flowers and Gifts.
To learn more about CREATE BRIDGES, visit the website: www.uaex.uada.edu/createbridges.