BY LEANN DILBECK
As 2014 rolls to a close, it is not only marking the end of a calendar year but the end of an era for one local family and Mena’s downtown. Stokes Herod locked the doors to Herod’s Department Store for the final time as the almost 40-year old Mena downtown cornerstone business closed.
The Mena/Polk County Chamber of Commerce hosted a “Farewell Reception” December 18. Mr. Herod was joined by many of his family as the community honored their significant contributions to Mena.
Mr. Herod said he knew at an early age that he wanted a career in sales. “In 7th grade, we had a magazine subscription contest. I outsold everyone in my class and I knew then that was my cup of tea. That’s how I knew what I wanted to do so I pursued it, even though I didn’t know how to pursue it, the good Lord helped me.” He got his first dime store in Greenville, Mississippi and he was transferred around Louisiana and Arkansas before he and his wife ultimately purchased McMillan Dry Goods in 1976. They moved to their current location in 1986.
Mr. Herod spoke of the changes he’s seen in the industry since the early days, “There has been a tremendous amount of changing. The internet and online sales, have probably affected the brick and mortar stores more than we could imagine.”
Mr. Herod said he knew he was approaching the time to retire and asked the Lord to send him a buyer when it was time. It was close family friends Phillip and Tracy Hensley who approached the Herod’s if they would consider selling and Mr. Herod said he knew then it was time. He said the entire process took only about two weeks to finalize. “It worked out beautifully.”
As the iconic Mena retailer looks forward to his retirement, Mr. Herod said he plans to rest first and then tackle yard projects between trips to Hot Springs to see his grandchildren and taking it “a day at a time… with no schedule.”
He reflects on the last 38-years with great memories and said his favorite and most exciting part is the buying of merchandise and “then getting to see people like what you bought and then you get to ring it up.”
As customers of the store are quick to tell you, it was more than the merchandise that was the secret to their success and longevity. It was the personal service. His one piece of advice to new owners was “Be nice. Be courteous and nice to them. I’ve always tried to treat my customers good… they’re the boss. I work for them.” And it is those same customers he explains that he will miss the most. “The people of Mena and Polk County have been so gracious to us. They just poured out their appreciation to me all these years by shopping our store.”