BY MELANIE WADE –
Downtown Mena experienced quite a bit of TLC in 2017 with many new store owners choosing the historic old buildings as their place of business and they, along with those already in place, are bringing back the glory of Main Street America.
For generations, Main Street played the most important role in any town in America.
They were the center of activity and commerce and many stories and pictures have been passed down that reinforce those ideas. As many in the world seem to be turning ‘back to their roots’, Main Street America is making a comeback. For Mena, Main Street activities are also resurging with activities centered specifically around the area. The Downtown Streetscape brought about several years ago has beautified the streets and sidewalks and the Downtown Arts District has encouraged many to open up artisan-type shops, antique stores, creative arts, and more.
Still yet, many buildings in the downtown area remained empty – until 2017. Kevin Wolfenbarger is the Code Enforcement Officer for the City of Mena and as part of his duties, he issues permits for construction, repairs, etc. Wolfenbarger said several buildings in downtown Mena received extensive updates and repairs in 2017 and several businesses opened up or expanded as a result.
“There were a lot of big projects in 2017 in Mena,” he said. On DeQueen Street, Stanley Craig restored a building which became Lottie Da’s Salon, run by his wife and daughter. On North Mena Street, the Rowell’s restored the old textile building and turned it into a creative arts center, named Reflections, that offers multiple art forms including dance, music lessons, marital arts, yoga, and will feature a coffee/ice cream shop soon. The building was in complete disrepair, however many of the original structural pieces remain and old ceiling boards now line the walls, creating a piece of art in themselves.
And on South Mena Street, Aleshire Electric purchased and restored the old Bob Carver Chevrolet building with a new roof, lighting, windows, and electric. The old Tops Shoes building was purchased by the Brewer Family, who installed a salon.
Also in the works are plans to design and open up a new facility in the old Mena Middle School Building on North Mena Street, which was heavily damaged during the April 9, 2009 tornado. Walter Deetz, the school’s owner and local businessman, enlisted McClure Engineering, specialists in innovative community development projects, to create a plan based on community input. The McClure Engineering team, led by Dr. John Sutherlin toured the 70,000 square foot school, local businesses, UARM, MRHS complex, the Historic Arts District, and then met with local interested citizens to determine options for the use of the old school building on Mena Street
“This meeting was the first of a series of meetings, to determine a multi-use plan that considers current and future uses for all ages. The multi-use approach will ensure sustainability through the 21st century,” said Rick Chrisman, who is working with Mr. Deetz to determine what the building will become.
As downtown Mena continues to grow, the growth has been seen across the city as well. “We also had a new VA Clinic built in 2017,” said Wolfenbarger. “As well as the Louise Durham Elementary School expansion project that totals $8.1 million.
“It’s good to see people that have the means to fix the buildings,” Wolfenbarger said. “Their hard work benefits the city and everyone in it.”