Photo courtesy of Eureka Springs Historical Museum
This week, we look back at a grocery store that resided at 63 N. Main Street in Eureka Springs that claimed to be the oldest grocery store in the Ozarks, dating back to 1885, and the proprietors of the business, Zoe and Albert Harp.
The store was started by Zoe’s father, Claude Pike, who served as the chief of police around the turn of the century. When it became too much for him to handle, they passed it on to her sister and her husband, John and Edna Bergdorf, who in turn, passed it on to Zoe and Albert in 1950.
The couple grew up in Eureka Springs when the town boasted a population of around 4,000. Born a few months apart in 1904, they live across the street from each other and attended classed together at the Old Red Brick Schoolhouse. After a childhood of walking to school together and playing together, Albert proposed to Zoe one August evening. A few nights later, on Aug. 6, after band practice, they walked up the hill to Judge Davis’ house on Clay Street and were married.
Both Zoe and Albert were active in the city band for years. He played the cornet, and she played the French horn. Until 1985, they took part in the “Hill Folks” show, and played in Basin Park singing and dancing for tourists. Zoe was also known as an avid doll collector, and had a collection of more than 1,000 dolls in the back room of the grocery.
The Depression brought tough times to Eureka Springs, and people did anything they could to make a living. Albert was once noted as saying he remembered children picking huckleberries for 25 cents a gallon. He also stated many people in town would not have made it had it not been for Harp’s Grocery. Credit was extended to those who needed it, mostly to couples with children, who were having the hardest time making ends meet.
Harp’s Grocery was fondly remembered by locals, particularly children, where you could buy a bottle of pop on a hot summer’s day, or for lunch, a bologna sandwich and chunk of cheese off an enormous cheese wheel. Sadly, Zoe passed away in 1993, and Albert in 1995. But the memories they left for the community of Eureka Springs will last a lifetime.
— Stephanie Stodden, Museum Operations Manager