BENTON, Ark. — Revitalization efforts for downtown Benton are growing as working to make “main street” thrive again has become the city's top priority. A huge part of the effort all started with one local farmer with a big dream.
At the corner of highway five and nine sits Olde Crow General Store. The middle of nowhere, old school, all local, market and lunch spot may seem like a tough sell for modern day America but it's been thriving for 3 years.
It all started as a place for farmer Damon Helton to get his products from the farm out to the public but soon grew into a market for other Arkansas farmers to reach people.
“This is a place where people know they can come and get good local product that’s Arkansas made and Arkansas grown,” said Helton.
Since he opened, Helton said the response from the community has been overwhelmingly positive. He even had people growing backyard gardens again and bringing fruits and vegetables to sell at the store. Guests initially came pouring in from Hot Springs Village but people from Benton started making the drive in and asking for Helton to bring the farm fresh concept closer to home.
“We started doing the farmers market in Benton twice a week and the amount of feedback I was getting made it blatantly obvious that I needed to find a way to get into downtown Benton,” said Helton.
So, Helton, with his entrepreneurial spirit, found a way. He purchased the iconic Main Street Station and is working to bring a new Old Crowe Market concept to downtown Benton.
“In the new location, we have a bigger footprint to bring in local product,” he said. “We’ve even got another room to sell meats and veggies from farmers markets.”
Helton said one of the most exciting part of this new development is the addition of a renovated food truck court area. Helton said he hopes each day it will be filled with local food truck owners. He’s hoping they’ll help bring people to downtown Benton.
Eric Lee, the owner of Fire Dancer BBQ food truck, quit his job to make working the food truck a full-time job. He’s planning to be at the food truck court regularly.
“When I heard that Damon was doing this and taking care of everything, I was excited,” said Lee. “He’s got the spirit and the drive to make this a destination and I’m really happy to be part of it.”
Brad Jordan, Director of Community and Economic Development for the City of Benton, said one of the city's major focuses is growing downtown and this is helping their overall mission.
“What Damon’s bringing here will be an anchor to our community in downtown,” he said. “The city’s focus is going to be on downtown revitalization by helping businesses that are here and bringing new businesses in.”
Helton said the future of Benton is bright because the community is ready to see the city thrive. “Everyone is really excited because this is what people have been asking for and we’ve been listening,” he said. Helton plans to have a soft launch of the new market and food truck court by March.
For more information about Olde Crowe, click here.