Posted on June 28, 2019
Broadway Street runs through the heart of Smackover, with shops lining either side of the thoroughfare. One shop on Broadway has been a staple for the last 50 years: Classic Dress Shop.
Manager Bea Kinard, always wearing a wide smile as she welcomes patrons, greets every customer that walks in Classic Dress Shop; a little farther back in the store, customers will find owner Gussie Gray, who at over 90 years old still makes it in to work every day.
“It’s been a thriving business,” Kinard said. “We have pretty clothes. [We’ve had a selection] even bigger than this at times, but we’re starting to sell out of some things, being the season that it is.”
Kinard and Gray will celebrate Classic Dress Shop’s 50th anniversary in Smackover this weekend and are inviting all to attend. Light refreshments will be served throughout the day at the store, where they are holding a sale on most of their wares.
“We will do a 25 percent off on all apparel with the exceptions of Slimsations and blue jeans, because we sell those all year long,” Kinard said.
Classic Dress Shop opened in the storied summer of 1969, and Gray and Kinard have seen extensive changes to the world around them in the 50 years that have passed since.
When the Highway 7 bypass around Smackover was built, Gray and Kinard saw how businesses in the city suffered as a result.
“When the bypass came along, it killed Smackover. It hurts because they used to have to come right through here, coming from both ways, from El Dorado and Camden,” Kinard said.
Now things are finally starting to pick back up, Kinard said, both for Classic Dress Shop and other businesses around Broadway Street.
“We’re well advertised; we’ve been here so long we have customers from Little Rock, Hot Springs, Texarkana, Texas, Oklahoma. We’re one of the few left of this type of store. There’s not many boutiques left because the big stores have put them out,” Kinard said.
While many other small businesses have come and gone, something has helped the ladies at Classic Dress Shop stay afloat when others couldn’t. Kinard said she thinks it’s their friendliness.
“We greet everybody with a smile and we treat everyone alike. We speak to them when they come in the door,” Kinard said. “If we can help them we will. If they want to just look, we let them do that; we don’t hang over their shoulder. We’re not pushy. And I think that’s part of it.”
Kinard originally owned the store, opening it herself in 1969. Eventually, she had to sell the store; she did, to a woman from El Dorado, Billie Glover, who ran it for about four years.
“My husband got transferred about a year and three months after I got it opened,” Kinard said. “I had to get out of it.”
Gray, who is also Kinard’s sister, purchased Classic Dress Shop back after that, and it has been a family business since. Now Kinard manages the store.
“It’s a family-thing. It’s a legacy,” Kinard said.
Broadway Street is unique in that most business owners there are women. Kinard said being women has never affected their business negatively.
“Nobody gave us trouble at all, they sure did not,” Kinard said.
The shop has expanded some since they originally opened. The ladies have updated their stock with modern clothing often and offer sizes from petite to plus. Classic Dress Shop also sells missy clothing and accessories, including purses, jewelry and scarves.
“You don’t meet yourself in the street,” Kinard said. “We have unique clothes, we carry several lines. Really, we try to make everybody happy.”
Another element to the Classic Dress Shop ladies’ success is their ability to make friends. Kinard said customers aren’t just a dollar to be made to her; instead, they’re her friends that she has known for years.
“My goodness, we’ve even done some counseling in here,” Kinard laughed. “We’ve made lots of dear friends through this business.”
The Classic Dress Shop is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Gray and Kinard will celebrate the store’s 50th anniversary this Saturday during business hours.
Caitlan Butler can be reached at 870-862-6611 or email@example.com.