One mile from Gentry on Highway 59 South sits a small gas station and grocery store called Sleepy Hollow. The store is stocked with vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts, vitamins, herbs, flours, homemade veggie burgers, cinnamon rolls, and other fresh baked goods.
Sleepy Hollow’s Beginnings
In the 1940s, Brereton Warren “Bert” English, a Seventh-day Adventist auto mechanic from California, moved with his family to Gentry, Arkansas. Bert worked as a salesman for the Decatur Realty Company, and was soon elected as the president of the Northwestern chapter of the Sabbath School Association (Record, 1951). About 1945, Bert bought about five to seven acres of land on Arkansas Highway 59 South, the main highway through the city, linking Gentry with other west Benton County communities.
There he built a small gas station, did some auto mechanics, and raised chickens. The gas station, named Sleepy Hollow, was ideally located across the road from a well-known local recreation area, Bill Feemster’s Playground. Soon after Bert’s death September 27, 1961, his family sold the station to Leslie Pierson and moved back to California (Wilson, 2019).
Leslie Pierson ran the gas station and did some service on cars. He also sold bread from the Ozark Academy bakery. Mr. Pierson sold the business to Bill Einhellig, who in turn sold it to Mr. Tubbs (Morley, 2019), and then it was sold to Gus Nichols who added a metal building, turning it into a gas station, grocery, and health food store (Wagner, 2019).
On September 27, 1971, Lyman and Kathy Williams bought the Sleepy Hollow gas station and store. The Williams had four children — Joy, who was fourteen-years-old, Jay, who was eleven, Delton, age two, and Lorie, ten days old. The store was open from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. and their youngest daughter, Lorie, remembers being told that her parents would put some blankets in a grocery cart and that’s where she “hung out until she was old enough to walk.” Jay remembers making a Fireworks stand outside of the store. “The stand was made out of canteloupe crates. He slept in the stand to ward off potential thieves. One night while he was sleeping, some thieves did come, but somehow Jay’s father warded them off and a sleeping Jay knew nothing about it until the next morning” (Wagner, 2019).
Lyman and Kathy knew most of their customers by name and had a friendly greeting for each customer who came into the store. Lyman built the second metal building onto the store, doubling the space. Some of the shelves in the store were stocked with bags of whole wheat, coarse-ground corn meal, rye flour, dried fruits, gluten, and potato starch. The wheat and corn were grown by Lyman on the 800 acres he farmed just over the state line near Maysville, Oklahoma. The grains were ground into flour and meal at Sleepy Hollow by Lyman, Kathy, and their children. The small mill could “grind about six bushels a day,” according to Lyman. “That’s enough to meet our needs” (Cleek, 1978).
At one time Gentry was the center of the celebrated “apple orchard of the world” and apples were the principal product of the town. The name of the town was even changed from Gentry to Orchard City (Journal, 1897) on November 1, 1897, but was changed back to Gentry on April 1, 1900 (Journal, 1935). It made good sense, then, for Lyman and Bill Young to build an apple cider press. Joy remembers that “in the fall they would have to start making apple cider at 4:00 in the morning to be finished by opening time at 7:00 a.m. It was quite the operation.” (Wagner, 2019).
Black and white photos (Cleek, 1978); Color photos courtesy of Lorie Wagner.
In 1975, the Williams sold the store to Duane and Rosie Weber. They owned the store for a couple of years, but then sold it back to the Williams. On September 15, 1981, Don Smith, Richard Affolter, and Gene Mohr (SAM) bought the store. SAM sold it to the Cordwells, and soon it went back to SAM, after which they sold it to Onie Irvine. In late 1986 or early 1987 Lyman and Kathy Williams again resumed ownership of the store. Lorie recalls that “a few years before the store was sold again, our family had our Thanksgiving dinner in one of the aisles in the store” (Wagner, 2019).
On September 15, 1991, Van and Lois Morley bought Sleepy Hollow. Starting at 5:30 each morning, six days a week, they baked fresh turnovers, cinnamon rolls, and bread. In a letter dated September 14, 1991, Kathy Williams wrote a letter to her parents telling them that the new owners had longer hours for the store, and she was thankful that she didn’t have to work those hours! (Wagner, 2019).
(1897, Oct. 1). Gentry City is No More. The Journal-Advance, p. 2.
(1935, Jan. 3). 40 Years for The Journal-Advance. The Journal-Advance, p. 1.
1947, Sep. 25). Ibid., p. 6.
(1953, Apr. 9). Salesville. Baxter Bulletin, p. 5.
(1970). The Flintonian. Gentry, AR: Ozark Academy.
Cleek, Doris. (1978, Jul. 9). Sleepy Hollow: Country Store or Supermarket? Springdale News, Section D.
Morley, Lois. (2019, Jul. 15). Conversation and photos shared with Rebecca Burton.
Wagner, Lorie. (2019, Jul. 12). Sleepy Hollow. Email to Rebecca Burton from Lorie Wagner, daughter of Lyman and Kathy Williams.
Wilson, Carol. (2019, Jul. 18). Bert English. Email to Rebecca Burton from Carol Wilson, niece of Bert English.