Pastime: The Town Shop of Warren, a memory

Recent deaths of two fine ladies reminded me of a very unique ladies apparel store – The Town Shop – which is now a Pastime of local finery absent from the Warren Business District.

By Maylon T. Rice

As I looked into the history of the shop’s owners and those who worked in this small, but important shop, perhaps it is a macrocosm of the way all shopping for me (and maybe you too) simply cannot be found today.

After the closure of the Bradley Store in the early 1950s, the Men’s Wear Manager, Lovett Reaves, was looking for his own retail outlet in downtown Warren.

He settled on a Ladies Ready to Wear store – opening the Town Shop, 103 South Main, with his wife, Christine and her sister Verna Galloway Trotter. This unique little storefront just north of Weiss Jewelry, on the corner of Cedar and Main. 

The Town Shop sold ladies ready-to-wear fashions, lingerie, hosiery and a small smattering of costume jewelry, scarves, gloves, etc.,

And for decades it would compete with a few other little ladies’ ready-to-wear stores and even some larger more regional and national franchise “department” stores came to Warren.

The Town Shop was as successful here in Warren as was Edrington’s, Martins’, Imogene’s and Daugherty’s to name a few.

The Town Shop was as successful as other small-town businesses found in towns like McGehee, Dermott, Monticello, and Lake Village.

I’ve always considered the Town Shop to be on a par with Klaser’s in McGehee, Mansur’s in Lake Village, and Weisman’s in Dermott, if not a step better than these and others in the region. 

All these small stores contained unique fashions from the Dallas Fashion Mart and other regional suppliers in St. Louis and Kansas City could be found on the racks. Even those exotic traveling “trunk show” dealers would on occasion set for a three-day sale, offering new lines of fashion in a merchandising deal with the store.

The most unique feature I can remember from the Town Shop location was it has a small, yet intriguing little alcove of black and white tiles, set back off the Main Street sidewalk as you entered the building.  

If memory serves me correctly, there was a large display window to the north featuring dressed mannequins and a smaller southern side window filled with more but smaller fashions – such as scarves, stockings or gloves.

The front door was slightly offset from the center of the building.

The Town Shop was at 103 South Main, between Weiss Jewelry on the South and Gannaway Drug Store to the North all on the West side of South Main Street, just at the intersection of Cedar and Main.

The building was built in 1905, from Sanborn Insurance Maps, and housed a number of dry goods and clothing stores and in the late 1930s was even a printing shop.

In 1947, it was the home of Warren Furniture Exchange.

But in 1953, the location became the Town Shop.

The Reaves family sold the business and property in the early 1970s to Bettye Sullivan, who has been for decades the principal nurse for Dr. Wallis Marsh’s medical practice on North Main across from the YMCA and Ford’s Laundry & Cleaners.

Today, the Town Shop property, is owned by Gannaway Drug and in 2021 became the location to receive covid-19 vaccination, according to JeNelle Neal Lipton of the Bradley County Museum.

The four principles of the business were – Lovett and Christine Reaves, Verna Galloway Trotter and some help along from Dale, the Reaves daughter, to make up the sales force. Verna Trotter had been the Ladies manager at the Bradley Store until its closure. Verna and Christine were related.

The seamstresses who would make customer alterations to the closing, such as hemming the dress lines, taking up a little here or letting out a little here for a custom fit was Ruth Johnston. Ironically, she lived over on Turner Street. If Ms. Johnston was busy or overwhelmed with her sewing, Dorothy Wisener was pulled into the traces for Town Shop alterations.

The Reaves’ daughter, Dale, went on to obtain a music degree from Henderson State Teachers College in Arkadelphia, where she met her husband, a very talented jazz musician for decades in the Hot Springs area – Charles F. Wilson. 

Dale was a noted Bridge player and played in many bridge tournaments in the Southwest Arkansas area and the surrounding states. Dale, too, has some retail experience with long-time friend Greta Kaufman, who sold a line of women’s apparel in the Hot Springs area.  At Dale’s memorial service held recently, Warren native Shelly Martin, the eldest of Curry and Mary Lou Martin’s girls, played the organ at the St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church.

The Reaves No. 1 helper – Verna Galloway Trotter, was married, her second marriage, to the Monticello merchant, Juan (pronounced Ju-Ann) Trotter. He had a department store-like store on the Square in Monticello.

The Trotter’s family home on North Main n Monticello, has since been donated to the University of Arkansas at Monticello as a gathering place, hosting social events in and around Monticello and the campus. The Trotter House is across from the First Baptist Church.

When Bettye Sullivan bought the Town Shop, a lovely classmate of mine, Barbara Ross Boyd, went to work for The Town Shop. Her 22-year-old husband, Randy Boyd was killed in the 1974 tornado – just months after Barbra had gone to work at the Town Shop. Barbara continued to work at the Town Shop until cancer took her life almost a decade ago.

Bettye Sullivan, who bought the Town Shop from the Reaves family, ran the Town Shop for more than a decade, closing the store and later moving to Plano, Texas to be near family and a beloved niece Monica Sullivan Loving. Bettye died April 23, 2020 and is buried in the Union Cemetery at childhood birthplace of Rye.

This is a Pastime worth telling, my eyes are filled to overflowing with tears of these precious names of good, hard-working people and a little dress shop that so many grew to love in Warren.

6 comments / Add your comment below

  1. Loved the story of the Town Shop where I spent lots of time. Ruth Johnston was the Wiseners “ adopted” grandmother and a lifelong friend of the family. My mother, Dorothy Wisener, did work at The Town Shop as a sales clerk and perhaps helped Lovett with the books but helping with the tailoring was not a talent of hers.
    My favorite stories told were their once-a-year sales. Mother told that women would line up in front of the store and as she unlocked the door she had to run out of the way of the charging mob. Great memories and great times at The Townshop.

  2. The name of the young Nan killed in the 74 tornado was Danny Boyd – not Randy Boyd. Maylon Rice regrets the error in this Pastime.

  3. Enjoyed the Town Shop article. I recall shopping there when i was in high school. For a time, I was good friends with Barabara Boyd following Danny’s passing, & I still have a few cute jewelry pieces I received as gifts from Barbara from the Shop. Thanks for a nice article!

  4. I worked at Gannaway Drugstore after school and during the summer. I remember The Town Shoppe vividly. Before going off to college, I remember shopping at a sale there and buying several dresses for $5 each. Back then I made $4 a day at Gannaway Drug. I loved their store and their sweet spirits. Warren has remained in my heart all these years even though I, like many others, never lived there again after graduating from college. ❤️

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