Each year, countless families and individuals wind their way up the curvy roads traveling North to one destination—the Oark General Store.
The General Store’s official beginnings originated in 1890 when F. M. Nelson signed the paperwork to legitimize the store.
Over one hundred years later, Brian and Reagan Eisele are keeping the General Store tradition alive, while simultaneously blending technology and world experience into the business. But before they owned a small-town store, Brian and Reagen’s life was vastly different. Their journey began with big dreams, love, and a little dash of luck.
Reagan Eisele, a 5th generation Arkansan from Hartman, experienced Washington D.C. for the first time when she participated in Arkansas Valley Electric’s Youth Tour. She decided to pursue International Studies at Arkansas Tech University, which ultimately landed her a job opportunity to aid Senator John Boozman.
While serving her state, she met fellow small-town Senator’s Aid, Brian Eisele from South Carolina, on a work trip.
“We struck up a friendship. It’s funny to me how small-town kids have a way of finding each other and buddying up in situations like that. Brian claims he knew then he’d pursue a relationship at some point (in his words, “the chase was on”). We didn’t start dating for another six months or so because Brian, in his words, “had to play it just right,” Reagan reminisced.
Romance among friends lead to marriage and the decision on where to live. Brian and Reagan had visited the other’s homeplaces, but there was something special about Arkansas.
The couple knew that their educational and work background would be near impossible to replicate in Johnson County. (Brian had worked on “the Hill” handing defense and energy issues and holds a degree in Economics and Business from the University of South Carolina). So, they decided to pursue another route.
Reagan’s family suggested they “buy a job.” They also mentioned the perfect timing of the “FOR SALE” sign on the steps at the Oark General Store. Reagan mentioned it as a joke, but Brian “jumped all over it.” Three weeks later, they put in an offer, drove straight to the Mulberry River to float, and by the time they arrived home, they were the proud new owners of the Oark General Store.
“I never even worked in a restaurant he had for a very short time in college. So, we had no idea we were getting ourselves into,” Reagan laughingly admitted.
Despite the duo being newbies in the entrepreneurial world, they found their footing and have run a successful business for almost nine years.
As for living the small-town life after experiencing the world-at-large, Reagan and Brian are happy.
“I think D.C. was a great lesson in just getting along with people, even people that aren’t necessarily like you and don’t share your beliefs. While it appears on T.V. that everyone in D.C. hates everyone that’s different, that was not our experience at all. Some of my nearest and dearest are on the absolute opposite end of the political spectrum,” Reagan shared.
They carry those feelings with them while owning and operating the store. “The old saying about how no one remembers what you do, but they remember how you made them feel comes to mind. We want people to come to Oark and feel welcome. There are not many places left in the world with charm like the Oark General Store, so we want to preserve it as best we can, but also share it with as many people as we can.”
The couple, who are now raising three children, ages six, four, and two, are happy in Oark. “It’s a wonderful place to raise our kids (6,4, almost 2), and the store has been such a blessing. We have no plans to leave anytime soon.”