"It Pays to Shop at Penney's": A National Department Store on the Main Streets of Arkansas
journal contributionposted on 01.01.2012, 00:00 by David Delbert Kruger
On the morning James Cash Penney opened his first Arkansas store in 1923, the mastermind of Walmart was just five years old, and the founder of Dillard's had yet to see his ninth birthday. At the same time, the lives of Arkansas department store magnates Joseph Pfeifer, Gus Blass, and Mark Matthias Cohn were all coming to an end, while prominent national retailers such as Sears, Roebuck and Montgomery Ward were still only selling merchandise via catalog, with no conventional department store presence. The very idea of a national department store chain operating in Arkansas, much less a store that sold quality merchandise at everyday low prices, was still a novelty. Yet Penney's first Arkansas location, on Garrison Avenue in downtown Fort Smith, would be a harbinger of many more to come.