BY JACLYN ROSE –
Southwest Outdoor Center, located at 1167 Highway 71 south, was founded by Chuck Lewis in November of 1992. Specializing in mowers, they sell several well-known and quality brands such as, Cub Cadet, Husqvarna, and Grasshopper. They also sell trimmers, chain saws, pole saws, blowers and other types of power equipment. Additionally, Southwest Outdoor Center sells parts and has a fully operational repair shop.
In 1996, Dianna Miller started her career with Southwest Outdoor Center and, 18 years later, she continues to be the face of the business, and customers can count on her friendly smile when they walk in the front door. “I really enjoy the people I have been able to work with over the past 18 years,” said Miller.
Miller is a hometown girl who married her husband, Jimmy, in 1982. She is the mother of one daughter, Michelle, and the grandmother to two little boys. “I love to spoil my grandsons, they are like sunshine to me,” Miller said.
On August 15, 2014, the Farmers Co-op in Mena was given the opportunity to purchase Southwest Outdoor Center and combine the two businesses. Farmers Co-op was incorporated in 1944 and, like all cooperative programs, was started by a group of people who joined forces to take their collective buying power and lower the price of their purchases. With the merger, Paul Stanley, who has served as manager of Farmers Co-op since May of 1995, began managing Southwest Outdoor Center also. “Farmers Co-op sells feed, fence supplies, fertilizer, hardware, hunting and fishing supplies, animal health, lawn and garden supplies, boots, bird and pet supplies, fruit trees, shrubs and general automotive parts. Farmers Co-op is not exclusive to farmers. We want everyone to feel welcome to come in. We have a lot of good stuff that is relevant to everyone and we take pride in stocking quality products. We also have a very knowledgeable sales force and our guys are a great source of information. No one needs to feel timid about coming in because many times just talking with our staff can help solve any problem they have,” explained Stanley.
The merger between Southwest Outdoor Center and Farmers Co-op was initiated to better serve the people of Polk County. “We wanted to give our customers an even better selection. We are a large outfit with 16-17 locations and we thought our size and buying power could really benefit Southwest Outdoor Center and the public. After we bought the business we began the task of cleaning and reorganizing. We totally remodeled the interior and stocked back up with a fresh and expanded inventory.” said Stanley.
Stanley, originally from Magnet Cove, Arkansas, stays extremely busy managing both stores and gives a lot of credit to his wife for his success. “My wife, Jami, and I have been married for 6 years and between us we have four boys. The truth is she stays at home and takes care of everybody and everything. She is a big part of why I can do what I do and stay busy 6 days a week running two stores,” Stanley explained. “I really like the outdoors; the mountains are what keep us in Polk County. The quality of life is so much greater here, it’s a little slower here and a good clean place to live and raise a family.”