Stacy Schmoll and her daughter, Sophia, take a moment of relaxation on the veranda of LBJ's Beer and Grocery at St. Vincent, Arkansas. The relaxation did not last long on the balmy October afternoon of our visit. Once our interview and photo session started, a parade of pickups steered by thirsty customers streamed in to the store. For a while, I was good for business.
Sunday, October 14, 2012
The business district of St. Vincent consists of one store at the crossroads of Arkansas Highway 95 and Kaufman Lane to the west and Ranger Road to the east. The store is LBJ's Beer and Grocery, managed by a business-savvy proprietress, Stacy Schmoll. On the day of our visit, Stacy's assistant was her toddler daughter, Sophia. They had everything under control.
Stacy Schmoll displays her constant smile with the confidence of a successful manager. Her nicely behaved daughter Sophia rolls with the flow as she tries to determine the exact meaning of the hubbub disrupting a little girl's afternoon.
Somehow the store screamed "stop and investigate." After all, it ain't often you see a small town store with a beach umbrella on the front porch. Stacy Schmoll immediately warmed up to the idea of a picture and read my mind as an art director. The trash can at the right corner of the building was originally at the head of the steps before she moved it. I knew then that I was not dealing with the average bear.
Though its exterior appearance is stark, the inside of the store is a potpourri of stuff to see. Antiques and plants greet you. The beer case looks like it has the approximate capacity of a nice sized beer truck. Folks must be thirsty in these parts.
Stacy explained the name of the store. It has nothing to do with the 36th president of the United States. The moniker stands for Louie, Bob, and Jim who, in the early 80s, bought the store from Pat and Red who called it, you guessed it, Pat and Red's Beer and Grocery. Louie is Stacy's father-in-law. After the LBJ trio began to operate the store under the flag of LBJ's, Bob died, and Jim sold his interest to Louie.
As customers ascend the steps to LBJ's, they are told they are welcome before they hit the door.
The store shows the favorable signs of a woman's touch with its decor and organization. LBJ's, with Stacy at the helm, is a picture of how a family business successfully operates. She does all this while fulfilling her roles as wife and mom. They don't teach what she does in business schools. Maybe they should.
By 1998, Louie had enjoyed about as much retail management as he could stand. He approached Stacy, who at the time had a well-placed position in the Tyson Foods management school at London, Arkansas. Louie asked her if she had any interest in running the store. She agreed, and 13 years later she is still running the store with a smile on her face. Her outgoing attitude is contagious and it appears that customer transactions at the store are as much social events as they are an exchange of cash and goods. Eat your heart out big boxes!
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THERE'S MORE TO SEE
Most of the time, there is more to the Photo of the Week story than can be told in an essay. And most of the time there are more pictures to be seen. Presuming that some folk will enjoy being privy to this trove of information, I have created a blog, “Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind,” where I am showing and telling “the rest of the story." There are also some blatantly commercial mentions of some of the things we do to earn our beans and taters. Click on the Weekly Grist logo and go to the blog. — J. D.