Northwest Arkansas is expanding on a daily basis, and one man in Bentonville has seen many of those changes firsthand.
Bentonville is known worldwide as the home of Walmart. It’s no secret it all started on the square with the Five and Dime, but before Sam Walton ever made his way to Arkansas, a man named Ralph Overstreet started a jewelry business downtown. That business is still going strong after more than 60 years.
“This particular building here, we’ve been in it since 1980,” Overstreet said.
The history of Overstreet’s Jewelry actually dates back to the 1940′s. Many years of success – thanks to Overstreet, the 97-year-old owner, who can still be found hard at work.
“I oversee the watch repairing,” Overstreet said. “I look forward to it every day.”
His path to success begins in 1941 when he graduated from Elgin Watch College. Overstreet got married and became a father, but everything changed in 1943 when he was drafted by the Navy and sent overseas.
“I spent a year on Saipan, and I would repair watches when I wasn’t doing guard duty,” Overstreet said.
After returning home, Overstreet worked in South Dakota for two years and eventually traveled to Northwest Arkansas for a wedding. During the trip, he visited a watch repair shop in Bentonville.
“I asked the man if he was interested in selling it, and he sure was,” Overstreet said. “I said, ‘What do you want?’ He said, ‘I want $4,000 and I’ll walk out.’ So I gave him $4,000 and he walked out, and there I had a business.”
It was located in the northeast corner of the Bentonville Square in a building now occupied by Arvest Bank. That was November 1948. Two years later, Sam Walton came to town, marking the beginning of an otherwise unlikely relationship between two competitive businessmen.
“We were friends,” Overstreet said. “His kids and my kids all ran around together and went to school together. When we had snow, my kids would go out to his house and slide.”
Overstreet would eventually move to the northwest corner of the square where he`s grown his business through the years. Overstreet’s Jewelry may not be as well-known as Walmart, but it sets the bar very high for other businesses in Bentonville. And, like clockwork, Overstreet still shows up to work whenever his shop is open. He’ll be 98-years-old in October, but has no plans to retire.
“Because I enjoy it!“ Overstreet laughed. “Every day, something comes in that’s different.”
Overstreet says he’s always given 10% of his money to the church and still attends the services every Sunday. He believes that’s one of the reasons he’s still in business today.