Mindy Brewster is a barrista at Caffinity, a coffee shop set up in the parking lot of the Economy Lodge on North Walton. She had a front row view as business owners vacated the storefronts across the street.
"One day they were there, the next day they were gone, same with quite a few other businesses," she says. "It really looks like a dead town, until you get to South Walton there isn't much up here."
Harps has plans to move out of their longtime location in downtown Bentonville, and onto 71 business. The company plans to tear down the Economy Lodge, and build a new store in its place.
Ed Clifford, president and CEO of the Bentonville Bella Vista Chamber of Commerce, says the city plans to rework the entire strip, from Central Avenue all the way to Fred's Hickory Inn.
"We're excited about the possibilities," Clifford says. "The city is going to do new lights trees new sidewalks... making it a destination spot sort of like the square in Bentonville."
Clifford says the area has plenty of vacant fields and old buildings for investors to move into.
"The old Bates property has real potential along the street for commercial properties," Clifford says, adding that Harps' decision to move in already has other businesses asking about those spots. "All of a sudden we're getting some interest," he says.
The Harps store should be completed by fall of 2013, but Clifford says he doesn't know how long it will take to turn the entire area around.