If you find yourself traveling down Highway 70, be sure to keep a look out for the two-story brick building Kocourek and Son Antiques in downtown Hazen.
The building is said to be the oldest continuously operated business between Memphis and Little Rock.
Kocourek, an immigrant from Bohemia, was something of a renaissance man of Hazen. Known as a founder of the Grand Prairie region, he got the Cotton Belt Railroad to build a track from Hazen to Stuttgart (the train made the trip twice a week), enabled alot of folks from Slovak and Bohemian to settle in the region ( he gave them a free train ride to the area and looked after them when they got there) and was vital in determining the location of Highway 70 through town.
Kocourek’s grandson Dink sold the business in 1980 to Conley House, who ran it until 2001. He sold it to Greg and Barbara Rawn in 2006 for use as an antiques store.
Barbara said when plans to expand came into the picture for Kocourek, they picked up the small store, put it on pipes and rolled it to the back lot. They began construction of the larger building( the one folks see now) in 1906 and they finished it a year later. “It was actually run as a hardware store pretty much up until the time we bought the building seven years ago,” she said. “It’s just really a wonderful old building.”
A lot of people tried to buy the building and ‘they were on the verge of tearing down the
building just for the building materials.’
A key to the Rawn’s proposal was preserving the vast amount of local history connected to the store. “I think that’s a large reason the gentleman who owned the building agreed to sell it to us,” she said.
The store has high ceilings ( around 18 feet) and is four bricks thick all the way around.
The second story houses a large hand-operated elevator with a rope hoist.
“They had elevators like that in a lot of these old buildings,” said Rawn. “When the railroad ran, they would buy tons of stuff for the farmers and stuff around here. This was a booming town, they would buy it on 90 days credit and they would buy this stuff and pull it up on the old elevator and store stuff up there. They sold pretty much everything except clothing and groceries in here. Anything they could fit on the 8 by 12 elevator.”
On the route to town, folks will notice wooden signs for the Railroad Prairie Natural Area, which occupies portions of the abandoned right-of-way of the former Chicago, Rock Island, and Pacific railroad along U.S. Highway 70 between Carlisle and DeValls Bluff. This section of prairie land is one of the last remaining segments of what was once the dominant ecosystem of the Grand Prairie. Today, less than 1% of the prairies that occurred across this region remain.
When the Nature Conservancy purchased the land ( the Natural Heritage Commission currently looks after the land) for this area a few years ago, the official celebration ceremony and announcement took place at the Koucourek and Son store.
Outside the store, the 2-mile Hazen Trail runs along the main thoroughfare through town. The asphalt trail ( a rail to trail project) is interrupted at its midpoint by a short section of original track. The trail lies on an old Rock Island rail line that once ran from Little Rock to Memphis.
Kocourek and Sons continues to be a landmark in town as a thriving antiques store. Barbara has been buying and selling antiques off and on for the last 35 years and always “kind of wanted to do something like this.” “The building really kind of lends itself to this kind of product,” she said. Inside, visitors are greeted with a lot of interesting finds, including a bello used in the Civil War.
If you want to stop by and check out the building and antiques, the store, located at 56 East Front Street, is open Monday-Friday from 10-5 and Saturday from 10-4. It is also open by appointment. For more information, call 870-255-3465.