The venerable Terry’s Finer Foods in the Heights lives now as the Heights Corner Market, a rebirth greeted with relief by all who relied on Terry’s for great meat, seafood, desserts and its selection of hard-to-find groceries.
Eric Herget, who grew up in the neighborhood, and his wife, Lou Anne, took over the small grocery store, founded in the 1940s, after it was closed in February by Lex and Ellen Golden in the wake of their financial troubles.
“It was important to keep that store going,” said Herget, who’s in the insurance business in Arkansas.
The Heights Corner Market, at 5018 Kavanaugh Blvd., has retained all four Terry’s employees, including Nathan Horn, the meat department manager, and store manager Jim “Bubba” Justice.
“I’m from the Heights, so I know the importance of that location,” Herget said. “My wife said that 18 years ago when we met, we were driving around and I told her that I would have that store someday. And I’ve told people that for years, that if Terry’s ever became available I would like to jump in there. For some reason, it’s just always been something I wanted to do.”
Lou Anne Herget, formerly head of design at Cobblestone & Vine, is similarly excited about the venture. With a career in retail, she is president of the store and is the “day-to-day boss,” Eric Herget said.
The Hergets plan to expand the grocery and to maintain the store’s reputation for high-quality meat and seafood, improving the offerings where possible. They want to offer more organic products, and they’re committed to selling Arkansas products whenever possible, working with Wilson Gardens of Wilson (Mississippi County) and the New South Produce Cooperative of Little Rock.
The former pizzeria at Terry’s — at the south end of the 8,050-SF building — now has places for customers to sit and drink coffee and will transition into a deli-type cafe.
The Hergets also plan to reopen next month the old Restaurant at Terry’s — at the north end, the former Foster Cochran space. It will serve what Eric calls “Southern comfort food,” and the announcement of a chef is likely any day. They plan to serve breakfast, lunch and early evening dinner, but because the Hergets want to be good neighbors, he said, the renamed Heights Corner Restaurant will close at 8 p.m. They’re also discussing a Saturday brunch.
The market plans to offer delivery through Chef Shuttle, along with a meal kit delivery service.
Eric and Lou Anne plan to be hands-on at the market, into which they have invested $250,000-plus, having realized that owner presence can contribute powerfully to a business’ success.
Herget is from a well-known Little Rock family. His father is Dick Herget, a retired insurance executive who now lives in Heber Springs, and his son is Ryan Herget, one of the owners of Chef Shuttle. Eric’s cousin is Ted Herget, founder of Gearhead Outfitters in Jonesboro. And Eric’s stepfather was Richard Allin, longtime newspaper columnist for the Arkansas Gazette and later the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
Eric and Lou Anne lived in Heber Springs but now plan to make a home in the River Market District.
The reception to the store has been excellent, Herget said. “It’s a constant ‘thank you so much for keeping this going.’ People are very much appreciative of that.”
A Little History
The Goldens bought Terry’s in 2009 from Gene Lewellen, who had bought it from the original “Mr. Terry” — if anyone knows his first name, you’re invited to share — in the late 1960s. Gene Lewellen, who died last year, started in the grocery business as a “sack boy” at the old Black & White Store in the Heights and went to work for Mr. Terry sometime in the early ‘60s, working his way up to manager, according to his son, Jeff Lewellen of Little Rock.
After Lewellen bought Terry’s, his other son, Ed, became manager. Ed Lewellen died in 2006.
Jeff occasionally worked part time in the store, but his father urged him not to follow in his footsteps, saying, “Whatever you do, stay away from perishables.” Whenever a storm knocked out power to the store, Gene Lewellen had to take action to save the perishable goods, his son explained.
Jeff Lewellen is glad Terry’s is seeing new life as the Heights Corner Market. “Absolutely,” he said. “I’m glad for the neighborhood, that there’s a neighborhood market still in the Heights.”
“My dad always said he couldn’t have done it without my mother,” Mae Bell, Jeff said. His father “went from sacking groceries to owning his own store. I don’t know if you can even do that now. They did it.”