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story.lead_photo.caption Photo courtesy of the Rogers Historical Museum Local residents brought wood on Saturday to sell in front of the Rogers Wholesale Grocery about 1910. (Note there is not a single female in the picture.) Before the days of the big chain groceries, there was a mom-and-pop grocery on every corner. Rogers Wholesale supplied merchandise to these stores.

One of the most historic buildings in Rogers is in the process of being restored and renovated and is an important part of the renewal wave of the original town. The Rogers Wholesale Grocery building at 101 E. Walnut St. -- most recently known as the Dollar Saver building -- is once again going to be the cornerstone of the historic district.

In 1907, construction was booming in Rogers, and some of the town's most magnificent buildings were constructed along the dirt streets -- Applegate's Drug Store (now The Gathering), the Bank of Rogers (now several businesses) and Rogers Wholesale Grocery (recently Dollar Saver) to name a few. Local architect A.O. Clarke must have been very busy that year because he designed all of these buildings.

The Rogers Wholesale Grocery was constructed by builder John Mylar with red pressed brick, limestone headers and two large skylights. The front of the building housed offices, and the large warehouse in the north end of the building had loading docks on the east and west sides. At the time of construction, all merchandise came in on trains, and the merchandise was unloaded on the east side and shipped out in wagons from the dock on the First Street side of the building. One interesting item about the building: The land that it was built on was owned by the railroad until recently.

Rogers Light and Water also was located in this building in the early part of the century until the new city hall was built in 1929. In those days, Rogers' water was supplied by Diamond and Frisco springs, now part of the Lake Atalanta Park.

Several prominent citizens were connected with Rogers Wholesale Grocery, including Ed C. Baker, the first manager; Lockwood Searcy; and Z.L. Reagan. Reagan became the manager in 1917 for many years, and he was the father of the noted Reagan sisters -- educators Agnes Litton, Mary Sue and Betty Lynn.

In 1935, Griffin Wholesale Grocery acquired the business and continued at 101 E. Walnut until 1966. Before the days of the big chain groceries, there was a mom-and-pop grocery on every corner and in every nook and cranny of the area. Rogers Wholesale -- and later Griffin -- supplied merchandise to these stores. Still in business, Griffin Foods Co. is a chain based in Muskogee, Okla. Local citizens who worked at Griffin included Ralph Brooks, manager; Irene Forsythe, bookkeeper; Henry Grissom, shipping clerk; Ross Schopp, mechanic; "Doc" Briley; and many others. In 1956, Griffin in Rogers served Rogers, Fayetteville, Harrison and Monette, Mo.

DOLLAR SAVER DAYS

It is interesting to note that the J.O. Rand Wholesale Grocery operated from the mid-1930s to 1964, next door just across the rail road tracks. Rand was a direct competitor of Griffin, and they both closed in the mid 1960s.

Griffin Grocery closed in 1966, ending the era of the wholesale grocery business that operated in this building for 60 years. It has been reported that John T. Griffin closed the business when the employees voted to unionize, but it was probably due to competition from larger wholesale suppliers and the decline of mom-and-pop groceries in the 1960s.

The next occupant of the historic building was the Outlet Salvage, owned by Troy Miller and operated from 1966 until 1976.

In 1976, the building was in need of repair, with the windows and front door boarded over. Jack Parker -- who had been in the cattle and farm business for many years -- decided to make a change and renovated the building. He opened the Dollar Saver, a variety store, and offered bargains on factory close-outs, overages and merchandise from bankrupt companies. The unusual store sold everything including hardware, wallpaper, fabric, paint, art supplies, wedding supplies, Levi jeans, bicycles, toys, food and much more. Shopping there and looking for bargains was an adventure.

In 1982, Jack's sons, Bruce and Brent Parker, bought the business and operated it until it closed Nov. 7, 2015.

The Dollar Saver has closed, but the interior was a step back in time with the original creaky wood floors, big skylights, a freight elevator and exposed beams. During a tour before the store closed, Bruce Parker pointed out a hand-written date on one of the beams -- May 28, 1908.

Morgan Hooker of High Street Development and Andrea and Jon Allen, owners of the Onyx Coffee Lab, partnered for a $3.2 million mixed-use development of the building and are restoring and renovating. On June 7, Jon Allen gave a preview of the plans. The Onyx Coffee Lab will have its coffee bean roasters and shop on the first floor with offices, training facilities and storage in the basement. Also the Foreman cocktail bar will be on the mezzanine overlooking the roasters below. Upstairs, Jason Paul will have the reopened Heirloom Restaurant, formerly on South Second Street. Also on site will be the Doughp!, a wholesale bakery owned by Sammy Townsend. In the northwest corner of the building, Michael Robertshaw and Merideth Butler will operate a Creole restaurant, The Pearl. The back section of the building will include 11 one-bedroom loft apartments, with several already reserved.

The target date for opening the 1907 is August, according to Allen. Historic downtown is experiencing a wonderful revitalization recently with the restoring and repurposing of some of our most valuable buildings including the Lane Hotel into Haas Hall Academy, the Hailey Ford building into the Rogers Historical Museum, the old City Hall on Elm Street into apartments, and the old Opera House on Walnut into retail and residential units.

Courtesy photo The historic Rogers building that most recently housed the Dollar Saver is being renovated into “The 1907,” a building with multiple businesses and loft apartments.

NAN Our Town on 06/14/2018

Print Headline: Wholesale Grocery building to see new life

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