When you first drive up, you may see a dog or cat on the porch. There’s a sign on the door letting you know it’s okay to let them in. The place has its own cats and a friendly dog, too. Newt Lale will be the first to tell you that the cats won’t knock anything over. They’ve grown up between the stoneware mugs and plates on the shelves. They grace the building like ghosts in an old house.
Though it was early in the afternoon, there wasn't a soul outside enjoying the pretty April day. When I walked up the steps I saw the sign that said "It's OK to let the dog in." This time around, there was no dog (there had been in December) but there was amongst the dishes in the window a longhaired cat, enjoying the sunlight.
A couple had come in by this point, and Newt had started up a conversation, sharing the story once again about the store and its contents. The folks, who were from out of state, showed great interest, especially when Newt sat down at the wheel to throw a pot. It doesn’t take him long to make a pot, that's for sure. He’s been at the wheelthrowing for nearly 30 years. It's fun to watch. He'll sit down right at the wheel in the middle of the store and thump a lump of red clay onto the turntable in front of him. Then away the wheel goes, and he smacks the clay with water and works it up with his hands, first forming a depression in the center and then shaping the outsides with his palms. As he presses, the clay rises up above his fingers, and he expertly turns it down again. Within a minute a pot is formed, and he stops the wheel, cuts it from its base with a piece of wire and sets it to drying. These pots will cure for a while until he has enough to run the kiln. They’ll then receive a glaze and go back in the kiln. The final product is hardy, dishwasher and microwave safe and surprisingly hard to break.
The old general store is the perfect place to display his pottery. The unique mugs fit separately each in its own cubby that used to be the postal boxes that served the town. Every surface is utilized for something. And where there aren't pots and plates, there are items from the old general store, cereal boxes and implements of whatnot and an air of being placed out of time.
This article brought to you by First Security Bank. For more great Arkansas stories on food, travel, sports, music and more, visit onlyinark.com.