CADDO GAP – The restoration of the Gap Mercantile is just another step in the McWilliams family’s journey to not only save the old time way, but reintroduce it with the world.
The Gap Mercantile has been a landmark of Caddo Gap for generations, predating the Caddo Indian Monument that draws hundreds of visitors to the community each month.
Gary and Lynna McWilliams are the most recent in a long line of proprietors at the Mercantile who are looking to offer a little slice of the past with those living in the present.
Gary stated that the desire to purchase and reopen the Mercantile sprang from his desire to preserve a way of life that has been left behind by modern living.
Gary and his family are part of a growing movement of people who are turning back to a more primitive way of farming, construction and simple living.
He spent about 20 years of his life working for Pastor Adrian Rogers and his ministry as a sound technician. While living in Tennessee Gary decided to return to his roots and purchased a farm. Gary explained that he had grown up on a farm near Prescott, Arkansas and missed working with his hands.
While working on the farm he decided to marry his love for the land with his AV technical skills. He began recording projects with the hope of producing a TV program.
He admitted that after putting the pilot together it wasn’t what he was looking to do.
“To be honest, it was boring to watch.” Gary joked.
He put the project on the shelf, but never gave up on his dream. A dream that would become a reality thanks to the growth of Youtube. Gary explained that when he discovered Youtube he realized that he could produce his program in shorter segments. This slight alteration in the production gave life to what he had been wanting to do.
With the Farmhand’s Companion Gary launched a Youtube channel which shared a simpler way of farming and construction with the world. With over 20,000 subscribers one might think this would be enough. However, Gary and his wife Lynna decided to move their family back to Arkansas.
The move to Arkansas opened new doors for the McWilliams. Gary continued to work for the Adrian Rogers ministry, but he eventually found a ministry of his own at a church in Hopper where he now resides.
He continues to teach others the art of primitive farming and building and his family has a Gospel singing group.
Gary and Lynna felt there was something else they were missing. A place to showcase what they were trying to share with the world.
That’s when Gary found the Mercantile on Craigslist for sale. After a few meetings he and his family purchased the property and began preparing it for the next step in their lives and the life of the old store.
The Gap Mercantile opened for business September 1 and will be open Fridays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The McWilliams family has not only preserved the look of the store, but the function. Walking inside the Mercantile is like stepping back in time. The structure is filled with jellies, jams, snacks, sodas, antiques and gifts of all kinds.
Gary stated that they are looking to host old time festivals at the Mercantile, as well as provide demonstrations on primitive living.
The Mercantile also has a living quarter in the back which the McWilliams family will be renting out.
“We want this to be a place people can come and stay while floating the river, or visiting family. Whatever, your reason we would love to see you at the Mercantile.” Greg shared.
The Mercantile is located in Caddo Gap at 35 Vaught Street. They can be found on Facebook as well as by phone at (870) 356-2100.