Cantrell Store: “Looking Back”

Cantrell’s Store, a general store located on the southwest corner at the intersection of what is now Highway 65 and Highway 225, operated in Greenbrier from 1917 until the 1970s.

In 1917, during World War I, James Oscar (Jimmy) Cantrell moved from his farm east of Greenbrier. His father, Frank, owned a blacksmith shop and gristmill in Greenbrier just north of the present-day post office.

Jimmy soon purchased an existing store from George Lieblong and Jim Love, establishing the E.A. Cantrell’s Store under the name of his wife, Eliza Arlilla (Glenn) Cantrell of the Glenntown community. Jimmy and Eliza had married in 1906.

Eliza and her four children, Dennis, Blanche, Marvin “Mugg” and Thomas, ran the mercantile while Jimmy worked as a rural mail carrier out of the Greenbrier post office. In the early days, he made deliveries with the help of a horse and buggy. Later he delivered the mail by Model T Ford and even by motorcycle. Eventually, in the post-World War II years, he delivered the mail by automobile.

In the early days, especially when young people remained near home, customers found a friendly atmosphere in the store. It became a community gathering place for Greenbrier’s young people on Saturday nights or after a school activity. It was also the place where many met for school affairs, community trips or ballgames. If you needed a ride home, you could usually catch a ride from someone at Cantrell’s store.

For many years, Cantrell’s was the domino-playing center with regular players vying for the table each day. The classy soda fountain provided a real uptown social atmosphere for the small town of Greenbrier. People could stop in for a 5-cent ice cream cone or a variety of soft drinks and stay a while, listening to the radio with friends. It was also one of the few places in Greenbrier that had a telephone.

Marvin “Mugg” Cantrell succeeded his father in the ownership with his mother in 1950 and managed the store for 22 years. In 1972, “Mugg” became associated with the State Revenue Department and his son, Scotty Cantrell, began to run the store, following in the footsteps of the father and grandfather.

Scotty continued opening the doors of the store each day at 5:30 a.m. and closing them at 9:00 p.m. Many times, it was much later; he stayed open as long as customers were coming in. Eventually, he expanded the store’s floor space. Shelves were stocked with a variety of items that changed as the demands of the community changed.

Cantrell’s also provided other services besides grocery items. Hunting and fishing licenses could be purchased there on the way to the woods or lake. A bus ticket could be purchased there for any place in the United States. Four busses made a stop at the store each day. Customers could also pay their gas, water, and electric bills without having to mail them or go to Conway.

Scotty ran the family store for over thirty years. When he eventually sold his interest in the store, he ran the Wooster Store for a short period. The old store was used for religious purposes for a few years before it was torn down. Today, the lot is vacant and is often used by multiple produce vendors.

Reprinted here by special permission of the author, Cindy Beckman, a retired Conway High School history teacher who writes local history.

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