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Since I grew up on a cotton farm instead of inside the city limits of an actual town, there are several places in Northeast Arkansas I call home. Each town served a different purpose for our family—Keiser for school, Osceola for groceries, and Blytheville for shopping. Real shopping, as in Christmas presents and back-to-school shoes. If my sister and I managed to behave during these outings, sometimes on the way home, Momma stopped to get us hamburgers at the Kream Kastle.
Blytheville, located along Interstate 55, is only a few miles from the Missouri bootheel and not too far from Tennessee as the crow flies over the Mississippi River. With a population of about fifteen thousand, it’s the largest town in Mississippi County. That alone translated to excitement for an Arkansas farm girl.
Even today, I never visit my mother without spending time in Blytheville. Although many of my favorite spots are gone, a few have stood the test of time. Here they are. I hope you’ll check them out soon.
That Bookstore in Blytheville (TBIB) is a legendary Northeast Arkansas destination. Proprietor Mary Gay Shipley opened the store (originally called The Book Rack) in the mid-1970s as a used book exchange. Since everyone simply referred to The Book Rack as “that bookstore in Blytheville”, she eventually renamed it. She also began attracting top Southern authors for signings including local Northeast Arkansan John Grisham who refers to TBIB as his favorite bookstore. (I agree with you, Mr. Grisham.)
Mary Gay recently sold TBIB to Chris Crawley, a passionate, likeable man whose excitement is contagious. Stop by and visit. The store is comfortable and familiar. You’ll make a new friend in Crawley and leave with several new books. It can’t be helped.
Sisters at the Crossing is a gift, antique and interior design shop located in a historic 1900s dry good store on Main Street. In addition to antiques, the store carries local Arkansas gift items such as Park Hill candles made in Little Rock. Sisters provides Annie Sloan paint classes and design workshops (check the schedule for dates and times). The Southern Grace Tea Room (in the back of the store) serves lunch four days a week.
For sixty-two years, Kream Kastle has been serving up the perfect burger. Perfect in part because of a well-seasoned grill. Also perfect because it’s still owned by the same family. Get the Kastleburger. Double meat goodness.
The Dixie Pig is a Blytheville barbecue institution. The pig sandwich, a local favorite, comes topped with cabbage and wrapped in wax paper like a gift from the barbecue gods. The hand-cut fries and onion rings are divine too.
The historic Greyhound Bus Station, built in 1932, is one of the few surviving art deco bus stations in the United States and an important expression of Americana. Several years ago after falling into disrepair, the property was restored by a group of committed citizens and now serves as the offices of Main Street Blytheville and a transportation museum. Tours are available by appointment. Even if you don’t have time to stop in, take time to drive by this incredible architecture.
The Ritz Civic Center on Main Street is a restored movie palace that serves as the home for the Arts Council of Mississippi County. If you time your visit right, support the local arts by attending an event.
See you soon in Blytheville!
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