Along with all the street food, games and parades, Arkalalah will also mark the opening of a new downtown business. Little Branch, at 218 S. Summit Street, plans to swing its doors open later this month in junction with the big fall festival in Arkansas City.
Owner Jill Wineinger said Friday, that she plans to have clothing, handbags, accessories and a wide variety of pantry items, featuring everything from fancy marshmallows to rubs and seasonings.
She said the store’s offerings are meant to appeal to everyone. When she was developing a product line, all of the men in her life kept asking what she would have in the store for them.
“They said ‘it’s all girl, it’s all girl,’” she said with a laugh. “My grandmother always said the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, so I brought in pantry items.”
“There’s a little bit of something for everybody,” she added.
Wineinger said people also are supporting other small businesses when they support hers.
“My handbags, my clothes, all of my food products, my beauty products, all come from small vendors and they are all American made,” she said. “I try to buy as many made in the USA products as possible and purchase them from small vendors.”
Wineinger said that she has always been an entrepreneur and has owned the building for more than 30 years. She said the building has housed a number of other businesses over past few years, including a hardware store, a jewelry store, a quilt shop, a silver exchange and a store that sold bath salts.
She has also operated another downtown clothing store named Willow, but closed it several years ago, having decided to wait until her children were older before trying again.
“They were just babies, and we were in that giant building, I fell down the fire escape and turned my leg backwards, there was just a lot of things that happened,” she said.
Wineinger believes that the downtown area can be brought back to life again — it just needs a push.
“The whole point of opening the store is to take the eyesore that it is and bring it back to life,” she said. “I always say these buildings are cheap to buy and expensive to own.”
Wineinger said that there are a lot fewer empty buildings downtown than people think. Many buildings are lawyer or accountant offices rather than shops and stores, but she said more shops and stores want to locate in the downtown area.
“I believe that six are in the works currently,” she said. “Possibly more.”
Wineinger said that there is an active group of people who want to see the downtown survive. They plan several promotional events such as monthly wine crawls and sidewalk sales. They have also discussed staying open late at least one night each week.
“We’re really trying to work together to improve the community,” she said. “That’s really what all of the shops are about.
Wineinger warned, though, that new businesses will fail if the community doesn’t support them.
“The shops downtown will never survive without community support,” she said. “That is the A number-one thing.”
Wineinger said her story will be ready to open when the Arkalalah food vendors begin selling at 11 a.m. Oct. 27. The plans a ribbon cutting at that time. She plans to be open throughout Arkalalah, and will then establish regular business hours.
“From Thanksgiving until Christmas, I’ll be open seven days a week,” she said. “You’ll even be able to shop here on Sunday.”