Long-awaited Harps Food Store opens in Seligman
Store offers groceries, friendly faces, convenience to locals
A steady stream of customers walked in and out of the new Harps Food Store in Seligman Wednesday after the store opened it's doors to the public that morning at 10 a.m.
"It's been a constant stream of [customers]," said Store Manager Siobhan Taylor, who said the opening, and the days leading up to it, have gone exceptionally well. "Customer and community support has been great."
The new grocery chain store, the opening of which has been long-awaited by the Seligman and surrounding communities after a new Walmart Express store closed its doors unexpectedly and took jobs with it, will be open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day.
"The customers have been great," said Taylor, who had been busy greeting customers, helping employees, and making sure operations went smoothly. "They're all ecstatic we're here and finally opened."
In the grocery business since she a teenager, Taylor is a natural fit to manage the new store.
"My first job was a cashier," she said. "I've been in the grocery business 21 years."
The 11,000-square-foot store has 26 employees. Some live in Seligman, some in surrounding communities, but either way, the grocer provides jobs in an area with few opportunities and connects them with the community.
"I think the new store is great," said cashier and stocker Brandon Prim, of Seligman. "I really like working for them."
"It's more friendly here," said fellow cashier and stocker Ben Still, also of Seligman. "They care about their employees."
Along with the opening, training went very well also, Taylor said.
"We had some employees that trained at one of our Rogers, Ark., stores, and the cashiers and stockers trained in the store here," she said. "We did training sessions and classrooms and they're doing very well. We haven't had any issues, and everyone seems to be enjoying us, and we're enjoying them."
The store's calling cards and marketing slogans are fresh food, quality and customer service, which the store and its employees say gives it a competitive advantage and a pleasant shopping experience.
"We offer product quality, freshness, friendly service and cleanliness," Taylor said.
"What that means is that we try to get the freshest produce in a clean environment, and you naturally want people to have great nutrition and beautiful, vibrant produce," said Susan Douglass, produce and general merchandise manager who drives to work from the Holiday Island, Ark., area. "I think that says it in a nutshell.
"But overall, the impressive thing is that the customers are finding a happy face who wants to help. So it's about providing the best overall value for the customer, and those align with the same things I believe in. I know in my personal shopping experience I want to have a friendly, clean place."
Along with a wide variety of groceries and fresh produce, the store also offers health and beauty products, school supplies, general merchandise, fishing supplies and camping fuel, flowers and even greeting cards for those last-minute special occasion pick ups.
Douglass said in line with the store's mission of offering a friendly atmosphere, she enjoys talks with customers as she's working, even sharing recipes.
"I think people are surprised when I say, 'Hey, have you seen those peaches?'" she said. "Then, a customer told me about this peach recipe. It's a sharing experience. It's not only important, but fun to share [with others]."
"I think this store is good for Seligman, but also the outer communities around it," Taylor said. "All of the customers are super excited. We are a part of this community."
Cashier Shelley Carnes, of Jane, said working for Harps already feels like family.
"They're great," she said. "Training went very well. My supervisor was patient, and she taught us a lot."
Customer Melvin Harwell, of Seligman, was walking out of the store with his groceries. After the Walmart Express store opened, Harwell said he frequented the Dollar General store a lot more often, as did other locals, to get some of the groceries and supplies they needed.
"I went to Dollar General for groceries," he said. "Their business really picked up when Walmart shut down. I was driving to Cassville, Pea Ridge and Rogers, Ark., to buy things the Dollar General didn't have."
But now, he does not have to make road trips anymore.
"It's great to have [Harps] here," he said. "It's quick, convenient, and saves quite a bit of money."
Customer Elaine Phillips, of Gateway, Ark., felt Walmart made a bad decision when it left the community because business was booming, she said.
"I think Walmart made a stupid mistake when they left," she said. "We liked the Walmart store when it was here. This parking lot was packed every day they were here."
She said she likes the new store and would like to see more low-sodium type foods be available. But, having the store in Seligman saves her time and gas because she won't have to drive to Rogers, Ark., anymore for basic necessities.
"It saves me time, especially," Phillips said.