Spurlock’s Store: Nearly 115 years of selling a little bit of everything

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Charles Spurlock set up shop in Squires around 1901. “When my grandfather opened his trading post in the log cabin, there were two other established stores here,” says Randy Spurlock. “(Squires) was a thriving place because of the cattle drives…”

SQUIRES – When Charles Spurlock came to Squires at the turn of the 20th century, the village was a next-to-new, bustling place. It sprung up in the late 1800s as a key stop on the Arkansas-Springfield Road: The popular thoroughfare was used to drive cattle to Mansfield, after which they were shipped to Springfield and St. Louis.

Charles — known to his friends as Charlie — was impressed with the place. He’d been in the drygoods business down in Buckhart, where he’d started a store in 1898. That experience gave him the impression that Squires would be a good place to set up shop and set down new roots.

“His first store…was a log cabin,” says Randy Spurlock, one of Charlie’s grandsons. “He lived in half of it and had a trading post in the other half to see if business was going to be good here.”

Suffice it to say, business was good. Now more than a century later, however, Squires is a different place: The blacksmith, saloon, livery stable, grist mill, as well as canning and mattress factories, are all gone. They’ve been merely memories for years, in fact.

But 115 years after it began, Spurlock’s Store store is still there.

Then and now

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Glass-bottled soda pop is one of many things the store sells.

Of course, things are different these days. Instead of Charlie, you’ll often find Randy behind the store’s counter. Even though the younger Spurlock wasn’t around the store in its earliest years, he has a lifetime filled with stories told and memories made.

“We’ve always tried to carry a little bit of everything,” he says. The store’s shelves prove his claim: Ice cream, candy and soda pop are stored just a few feet from pipes, nuts and bolts and paint by the can. There are keys, coveralls, bluejeans and greeting cards. A few other wares include garden tools, a pressure cooker, drill bits, poison ivy killer, oil lamps, hammer handles, and even full-size tires.

And outside you’ll find one of the store’s biggest sellers these days: burn barrels. “(We) sell a lot of those,” says Randy. “People can’t hardly find them anymore to burn their trash in and whatnot.”

Looking for something? They probably sell it at Spurlock’s.

These days, one can run by the store and pick up a gallon of milk, snacks or even some canned goods — but back then? Forget it. “They didn’t sell groceries like we know of today,” says Randy, noting that in the past, many families grew most of their own food.

That was especially true of foodstuffs like flour, “because people raised wheat and had it ground it at the mills,” says Randy. And the store didn’t sell meat at all, unless one counts bologna — which, in the days before electricity, was hung on the wall for people to purchase.

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Spurlock’s Store as it appeared in October 2015.

“When people would come in, they would say, ‘Well, I want a pretty good-sized thing of bologna,’ says Randy. Others would simply go over to the meat, uncover the brown-paper covered end — called a “poke” — and slice off however much they wanted with a pocket knife.

“Now today, we would die if we did anything like that,” Randy says. But back then, it was a perfectly acceptable practice, even when the meat turned a little green. “You’d just cut out the green and eat around it,” he notes. “And people survived.”

The same was true of the big wheel of cheddar. “It was never covered,” says Randy. “Never ever. It had its own knife, and you’d just go in and cut off how much you wanted and hand it to my grandpa and he’d weigh it, put it in a little brown bag and hand it back to you.”

It should be noted that Spurlock’s still sells bologna and cheese, but nowadays it’s stored safely in the store’s cooler. “It’s different than packaged stuff,” says Randy of the bologna, which is sliced and sold by the pound — or by the sandwich. “We have a lot of people who like to find a spot along the road for a picnic and they’ll come here for chips, and a sandwich maybe and a pop and away they go.”

Back in the day


Spurlock’s Store has been housed in various buildings over the years. A “frame” structure followed the log cabin, but was torched by an arsonist in 1933. A new building was built in 1935, but was also the victim of arson in 1936. It was rebuilt, and housed the business until the current store (pictured at right) was finished in 1966.

Meat and cheese aren’t the only things that have changed with the introduction of modern convenience. “Before they had electricity here, we did have an ice house,” recalls Randy, who notes that when it got cold, someone in the community would chop ice and haul it to the store. “Then in the summer…people would come and get ice for ice cream.”

You can still buy ice at the store (albeit in bags instead of blocks). One thing you won’t be able to buy, however, is a suit of clothes. This male wardrobe staple, which came in a long box, included a shirt, tie, jacket and pants — and “probably didn’t fit very well,” says Randy.

But that’s simply what Ozarks men wore back then for funerals and other special occasions. Besides a buryin,’ those duds were donned to make a good impression. “A young man, especially dating, wanted a suit of clothes,” says Randy. “They didn’t want to have to go on a date in overalls.”

No cash, no problem

Cash hasn’t always been the store’s primary method of payment. “Into the ‘30s, (the store) became a thriving place because my grandfather carried people on credit when they had no money,” says Randy, recalling stories of his grandfather accepting farm wares in lieu of cash. “A lot of their bills were paid in eggs and chickens, hogs and whatever.”

That system of trade, however, continued for decades. “When I was a kid, we had ‘bought’ eggs,” recalls Randy of eggs the store acquired from its customers, both in trade and for cash. After the Spurlocks candled the eggs — a process of making sure the eggs weren’t fertilized — they took them to the feed store in Ava and sold them. “And that went against our feed bill there,” he says.

Post office presence

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Fred and Dorothy Spurlock stand in front of Squires’ post office — which is housed adjacent to Spurlock’s Store — in 1982.

There was a reason that kind of trading — especially during the Great Depression — was possible at Spurlock’s. “My grandfather was the third postmaster here and he was postmaster 36 years,” says Randy of the position that gave the family some crucial cash each month. “That allowed him to be able to use that to keep the store going and then he was able to trade.”

But the Spurlocks’ connection to the post office is greater than that 36 years. After Charlie quit being postmaster in 1943, the job was taken over by his daughter, Mary Elva (Spurlock) Turner.

It was a choice that shocked some folks. According to the Douglas County Herald in 1988, “even though this was 23 years after the Woman’s Sufferage Movement, she was sworn in before daylight and the Post Office Department (now the United States Postal Service) sent an armed guard to keep peace in case of an outbreak of riot.”

She held the job for four years, until Fred Spurlock — Randy’s father — took it over on Dec. 31, 1947. He held the position more than 45 years, and retired in 1993. Because of those connections, Squires’ post office moved to Spurlock’s Store when Charlie took over back in 1905. That’s where it’s located today, too.

The store today


Randy Spurlock assists some of the store’s Saturday-morning customers.

Fred and his wife, Dororthy Spurlock, jointly operated the store until his death in 2004. Today, 91-year-old Dorothy still owns the business, and spends a couple of hours there each day. But she’s greatly aided by Randy and his wife, Renee. “The store will remain open as long as she’s here,” says Randy of his mother. “After that, I don’t know what we’re going to do. But she wanted the store to remain open.”

And instead of the store carrying the farmers, these days it’s the other way around. “Our local farmers, our neighbors, are basically our only customers,” says Randy. “I mean, that’s who supports us today.”

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Lowell Porter is a longtime customer of Spurlock’s Store. His bench backdrop is noteworthy: It’s been a fixture at the “new” store since it opened in 1966, and was constructed from the building’s leftover lumber.

One of those people is 88-year-old Lowell Porter, a retired dairy farmer who ambles into the store with his daughter who is visiting from California. “It’s a good old store,” he says. “I used to buy a lot of feed, and now I come in for milk, bread, butter, eggs and cookies.”

But the store offers Lowell more than just food: It’s also a local social scene. “Oh, I come by here two or three times a week,” says Lowell. “Usually there’s a bunch of us who drink coffee.”

While Randy isn’t certain about the store’s long-term future, he does have a theory on why it’s lasted as long as it has: his father’s and grandfather’s big heartedness. “They supported people in hard times,” says Randy. “We still have boxes and boxes of tickets that haven’t been paid…They never looked at it as a problem. They looked at it as a benefit to the community.”

Want to shop?

Spurlock’s Store (Hwy 5 and Hwy JJ; 417-683-2537) is open Monday to Friday, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., on Saturday from 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and is closed on Sunday.

20 thoughts on “Spurlock’s Store: Nearly 115 years of selling a little bit of everything

  1. The Spurlocks are a staple of our community. They would be sorely missed if and when they ever close the store. And if you don’t see what you need, ask if they have it. More often than not, they do.

  2. I have loved coming to Spurlock’s store since my parents retired out on “P Highway” in 1971. It is always fascinating to see what they have in stock from time to time. I would usually get down two or three times a year. The folks enjoyed visiting with Fred and Dorothy and also with the kids. I enjoy seeing Randy and Renee in the store when I stop in now.

  3. This was the late John Domeny’s favorite store to visit when he made a trip from his home in Rogersville, MO to Douglas County. He enjoyed the store that many call the Squire’s Store and the ice cream at the Ava Drug Store. The store was a must when visiting the sale barn and the Ava Drug. Thank you for the great article.

  4. This is so awesome! I never knew this place existed until just now and will be planning on making a trip there! Don’t have many Spurlock family members around other than a couple aunts and uncles, and would very much like to see if we are possibly related somehow 🙂

    1. I think all of the Spurlock’s are related some way. I knew the store was there but wasn’t sure it was still open. I’ve never been. I’ll have to grab my brother and sister and go for a visit too. Spurlock’s and Walker’s are related too.

  5. Stopped there many times as a kid on our family trips from Peel Arkansas to St. Louis. Glad to see it’s still open.

  6. Very interesting .When I was growing up I was helping my dad drill water wells and there by the old store off the curve at highway -5 and JJ to the north we were drilling a well behind where the new store was being built .I enjoyed watching the contractors and had a part time job carrying concrete blocks for the brick layers. The new store was completed some time after we got the well drilled and moved to another job .I thought at the time it sure was a large building and sure had a lot of blocks to carry

  7. Charles A.Spurlock Oakdale,Ca.
    Loved the story on the store and comments. Our family was from Japton ,Arkansas, my dad had a
    store there until the hard times in 1932. Had to close and we all moved to Fullerton,Ca.

  8. I will be so excited to visit this store! Please keep it open—a living piece of history!! And the Spurlock name is alive there!! 🙂 My Spurlock roots are in Sharp County, Arkansas–not too far from Douglas County! I grew up in Rolla, Missouri. I’m looking forward to meeting you all sometime in the Spring–when I get my husband to come down that way on a motorcycle ride.

  9. My Dad and I stopped at store many times when I was a kid. We lived in Ozark county from 1969-1976. I miss the simpler days of back then.

  10. I loved reading this story. A lot I already knew, and some I didn’t. Dorothy Spurlock is my cousin on my mom’s side. Fred, and Dorothy have always been well known and very highly thought of in the community. I went to school with their oldest son Reggie, and knew Randy quite well. I remember the store’s parking lot always being full. The store always had that good old down home feel to it. I stop in there every time I go back home for a visit, and will continue to do so as long as the store is open. Thank you Spurlock family for all your years of service to our community. God bless.

  11. So many childhood memories revolve around Spurlocks. “Grandpa” Spurlock used to always give me a candy bar whenever I came in. My grandaddy used to stop to get longhorn cheese, ring baloney & crackers on our way to track down his fox hounds. Fred & Dorothy were always there with a smile, and Randy was a kid just a few years older than me then. Their family was always so generous and helpful. I’m so happy to see them get the recognition they deserve.

  12. I liked the story that was told I love history special about our great state of Missouri. I thank the Spurlock’s family for what they did and always will. I believe in my heart and soul they are the reason we lived. Grant Grandpa Perry Logan Pratt (on my mom a said) done treads with your grandpa and my Grandpa Willam Brazeal on my daddy said did too. Then my mom and dad did with Fred and Dorothy. I remember Grandpa Walker. And when I’m down that away I go by there to say hi buy a soda and bring back memories of being a child some of our best memories was there in Squires Missouri. I can’t think you enough for everything.

  13. I remember Fred also selling auto’s also my dad purchased a couple from him. I can remember the old store on old 5 and also when the new store was built. I don’t recall seeing it mentioned about Reggie, Jeanine and Regina working there I know they all put in some long days helping Dorothy to keep the store up and going. I am praying that anyone still alive that has a debt to Fred and Dorothy Spurlock regardless of the amount will find it within their heart to repay this debt to Dorothy I’m sure she doesn’t expect it but I’m sure it would be greatly appreciated, I was brought up to pay any debt I made I pray that all who knows how to pray to pray for this to happen They have been such an asset community GOD BLESS THEM

  14. Great read but knowing this family my whole life not once did Randy give credit to his brother Reggie who ran the store for as long as I remember. Reggie and his mom and dad are who made that store what it is today not Randy.

  15. As a young child, my brother and I would go home with our grandpa Alburton(Burt) Chitwood. We would ride on the back of a flat bed truck, standing up, and we would always stop by Spurlocks. It was the one that had the porch on it. Pa would always buy us red hot candies. My siblings and I stopped by there in 2000 and the lady running the store remembered us on the back of that truck. I have a lot of good memories of the store. Life was hard back then but also simple.

  16. Dear just me,
    The Spurlock family stick together- notice how the store name does just that. It is not titled “Reggie’s Store” nor Fed’s nor any family member before them. Whoever wears the last name, takes offense to the comment you made about Randy. But the comment before that, thank you, on behaf of those who hold the same family name. The family, as one, brought the store up, even when Fred was away to war, or when Randy worked for the government. The Spurlock family sticks together always. Ultimately, thank you for understanding it is not just one person, it is a family.

  17. Loved the story. My grandparents use to live off hwy 5 south of squires , Roscoe & Lizzie Degase Fletcher. I remember going to Spurlock’s store when we were little to buy a few pieces of candy. It was a real treat back in the days.

  18. To whom this may concern-
    I would just like to add that just because someone is not running the store every day it does not mean that they are not/ have not been involved. I know the Spurlocks on a VERY personal level and I would like to add that just because Randy has not been at the store everyday for the last 30 years, due to his government job does not mean that he is not involved in the store. He has ran the store since he reopened it in January of 2009, after Reggie closed it in August of 2008. As your are probably not aware Randy and his wife, Renee have never received a penny from the store and simply run the store and support the store for his mother, Dorothy. The store has struggled, and is still struggling due to unpaid bills. The store would not be open without Randy supporting it financially. Next time you need to consider just because his face was not at the store all day every day does not mean that he has not been the one behind the pay stub keeping the FAMILY tradition going. He plays a bigger role than anyone realizes, because he has a heart of gold. I can’t name another person on this earth, except maybe his father Fred that would support the store and run it without accepting a penny because of his passion for it. Reggie did not care about keeping the store open, or supporting it as you may know the doors were closed with fresh bread and milk left sitting on shelves to go bad. I think we should all be thankful for Randy opening the store back, because without him there would know longer be a Spurlocks Store to even write this article over. As for Julia Turner and “just me” please get your facts straight before downing Randy.

  19. Well. That’s my first response to some of these comments… “Well.” I was contacted by a cousin last night who told me to take a look at these comments and she said I needed to comment myself. After thinking about it, here it is.

    I contributed in this article about the Store’s history in Ozarks Alive. Shortly thereafter, unfounded comments were made inferring that since I was the main contributor – that I was taking away the credit from others in the family and their contribution to the Store. I will respond because some comments were directed at me. The mentioned article was not written about me, I contributed to it and it makes little sense to think that the intention of the article was to put down anyone. My last name is Spurlock, I contributed to an article concerning the history of Spurlock’s Store, much of that history involves family matters that is not of public concern. That’s why I was quoted numerous times. The author asked for information on how the Store began and why we are still here 115 years later. I think the answers are clear in her report, but here is my answer to some of your questions.

    When my grandfather came to Squires, he took in a young man that was homeless, Rube Short. My grandfather, three of grandpa’s brothers (Bill, Simon & Bob) and my Great-grandfather, Will, and Rube Short, all built the framed Store building, the one that was burned by arson in the 30’s. Then Grandpa married Granny, that was in 1904. So, there you have the ones that started the business and they all worked the business in the early days. Eventually, 10 children were born. All of them worked in the Store, as did their spouses and my Grandfather’s brothers in-law Will Reed and Jack Kennedy.

    In 1933, Grandpa was robbed, and his beaten body was taken to a wooded area east of the Store and he was tied to a tree and left there to finish dying. By the grace of God, he was able to untie himself and crawl back to the house. During the next several months the family was protected by armed guards (family and community members) because one of the captured varmints escaped and threatened grandpa’s life shortly before escaping.

    When the framed Store burned, grandpa’s cousin John S. Spurlock came to build the building we called the “old store” (the building with cement walls). A year later that building burned, again by arson, and John S. again rebuilt the store by pulling that building back together. Grandpa was bankrupted, but his brother in-law, Jack Kennedy, gave grandpa his life savings. Shortly afterwards my dad, Fred, left for California to find work. He worked in the hops fields and other fields, and he sent home as much money as he could to restock the Store. He wasn’t making the kind of money he needed so he volunteered in the Army during WWII and sent Grandpa a monthly allotment during his nearly 4 year tour. During this time my Dad and Mom were married. When Dad came home from the War in 1945, Mom quickly gave up her teaching career to help in the Store. “Just Me” here you have the people that made the business and that is why it is what it is and has always been. The rest of us are only the johnny come lately folks!

    I am one of 34 grandchildren, and I venture to say 98% of the grandchildren got their start in the public working at the Store, not just one or two of us. My cousin Marjorie enjoyed being paid with bologna and cheese sandwiches. My cousin, Jerry Spurlock, lived with us when I was a kid and worked with us, at the Store, before he got married. Another couple that was instrumental when the Store moved to the current location is my mom’s parents, Grandma and Grandpa Walker. In 1966, we opened in the new building and it was stocked with all new supplies on all new shelves. My maternal grandparents worked day after day for months cleaning out the shelves at the old store. They washed and cleaned every item before it was brought down to the “New Store.” Never accepting a dime for all their work. When my grandparents retired in 1972 and moved to Squires, Grandpa Walker began working at the Store, stocking shelves, cleaning and doing whatever he could to help my parents, again not accepting anything for his work.

    When my aunt, Maude, retired from her teaching career, she too returned to work at the Store for several years. Other cousins, Eddie, Mary Lou, Josie, Sandra, Marjorie, Janice, Paul and Rick, as well as Jerry, all worked at the Store during my lifetime.

    My brother bought the farm from my maternal grandparents and that was his life until after he got married. Dad wanted all of us involved in the Store. We had always sold chain saws and lawn mowers, so he expanded and the “saw shop” was started with my brother, Reggie. He was incharge of that side of the business and his wife, Jeannine, worked with us until she began college, seeking an education degree. I will note that I am grateful that in 2001 Reggie “came in” from the saw shop an helped my mom keep the Store going when dad got sick. He helped her 7 years before I was able to retire from the prison.

    My Dad sent me to school to learn how to help the Store with taxes and bookkeeping. I have had that job since I was 19. After I married Renee, she too joined us working at the Store. Although in 1988 I began working for the Bureau of Prisons, I was still the one in the background that took care of the book work and I worked at the Store at night and on weekends the whole time I was working for the Bureau of Prisons. I took an early retirement from the Prison because my Mom asked me to help her keep the Store open. I have done that for her since January 5, 2009. I make no claim to do anything but I helped my Dad, as he asked me, and I helped my Mother, as she has asked me. Another side note, all 5 of my parents grandchildren have worked in the Store. As Julia Turner noted, we all know the feel of the long hour days and 6 & 7 day work weeks – back in the day it was open until 9:00 p.m. daily.

    So what am I trying to say here? There were many, many before me and my generation that “made the store.” As I said we are the johnny come lately ones. We grandchildren and great-grandchildren have no claim to doing anything, but we were working for the public in the Store. In my case, just keeping the doors open and the bills paid…. That’s all.

    Just a couple weeks ago my cousin Jerry Spurlock was here during a Saturday rush, and he stepped in and fixed a broken lock so I could go ahead and deal with customers. Often my nephew, Jared, stops by to see if there’s anything he can do, to just help that’s all he wants to do. Sometimes there is something for him to do and he is very much appreciated. My 3 children all come home and work at the Store, from time-to-time, as do their spouses.

    Today there are only two living people that can actually say they helped “make the store” – my uncle Chuck and my Mom. The only thing that has kept it alive for 115 years is the customers and this community. The various family members that have been involved are just different ones with a passion to see it remain to help the community.

    Hopefully this will clear up some of the mis-communication that I see is out there! If you have any other questions you can email me at spurlocksstore@gmail.com.

    Thank you all for reading and responding to this article! — Randy Spurlock , Squires, Missouri

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