The Love of a Small Town Downtown

I’ve lived in Bentonville for over 6 1/2 years and watching this little community transform from what it was, to what it is now, has been amazing. 

Six years ago my husband and I used to go downtown just to walk around. There weren’t very many people there, if any at all. We would go because it seemed like a neat place to be, but there wasn’t anything to actually do. The Saturday morning farmer’s market was a few small stands, and traffic still flowed through the streets. Everything was closed on Sunday. And by “everything” I mean the three(ish) stores that were actually there. We would talk about how cool the downtown part of Bentonville could be, then we’d go into Harps to buy bread and drive home. But now…. NOW….oh my goodness. Talk about a revitalization of downtown! 

Let’s just take a moment to appreciate how far this small town downtown has come in just six years.

First, anytime you head downtown these days you’re bound to see tons of people and chances are, you’ll know a few of them too. Whether it’s 6am on a weekday, 4pm on a Tuesday, 11pm on a Friday, or anytime during the weekend, there are people on the square. Actual people doing actual things and enjoying themselves! It’s awesome.

Second, anything you need,  can now be found on the square. And when I say anything, I literally mean anything. And when I say “square” I really mean downtown. (Small town downtowns seem to usually be built around a central square area, hence the reference. There’s probably some history lesson waiting to be learned here).

Do you need groceries? There’s a grocery store. Need a drink? The restaurants and pubs have you covered. Need a distraction for your kids? Head to the bank, grab a few rolls of pennies, and let your kids go to town throwing hundreds of pennies in the fountain. Sweet tooth? We have an ice cream shop next to a vintage candy store. Shopping for gifts? The local mom and pop shops have you covered. Needing a little inspiration? Head over to the hotel which houses some really rad artwork, or walk a little farther to Crystal Bridges Museum. I mean, seriously. It’s amazing. And I barely scratched the surface of what’s there. 

Third, there are TONS of activities. We have the usual Saturday morning farmers market, but oh man, we have a lot more than that, too! First Friday events, Pickin’ on the Square (just to clarify since this IS a mom’s blog, pickin’ refers to playing guitar, not picking noses), outdoor movies, running races, and so many other events throughout the year that bring people out of their homes and all together in one place. It’s heartwarming and wonderful to see streets blocked off full of people and pets and families.

The small town downtown has got to be one of the most underrated aspects of American life. It’s been so cool to see this transformation in my own town. The revitalization of one downtown has had an amazing ripple effect on the surrounding small town downtowns, and if Bentonville is any indication, it can only get better from here on out.   



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