Table of Contents
THE ANNUAL Arkansas Goat Festival brought in nearly 10,000 people to Perryville this year. Showcasing the latest in goat costumes and a “Nannies at Night” goat lingerie show, it’s a lot for a small town outside of Little Rock that has one grocery store, two convenience stores, and has never had enough traffic to earn its first stoplight.
“It’s remarkable how many people are attracted to the idea of going to a goat festival,” says Bill Weiss, who retired as a co-owner of Perryville’s Weiss Lumber & Building Supply in July after the company was sold to Nation’s Best in March. “To me, (there’s) such a contrast of what things are usually like—and then you get a goat festival and 10,000 people show up for it. I guess there’s not many places you can go and talk about goats with other people.”
When goats aren’t parading through town, Perryville is a much quieter place. With nearly 1,700 people calling it home, and the Razorback football season a close second to deer season as the most popular activity of its townspeople, everyone knows if you want to know anything, you should ask the folks at Weiss Lumber.
“I will go to the grocery store and there’s all my customers,” says Bill, who retired after 45 years onto eight acres near the Arkansas River, about 16 miles outside of Perryville. “They’re asking me, ‘Are you going to be in this afternoon?’ I say, ‘No, I’m retired now.’”
This isn’t new for Bill, however, recollecting the calls he used to regularly receive at Weiss Lumber. “‘That store next to you, Bill, what’s their phone number?’ or, ‘What’s the score on the football game last night?’”
And if the phones weren’t ringing, Bill was often catching up with his customers or guests, including Henry Graydon, a local writer for a small turkey hunter publication who liked to sit on the bench inside Weiss Lumber talking with Bill and co-owner Jack Weiss. His articles often featured a rundown of all the people who came into the store.
Weiss Lumber has always been a stable place to come to. With the same employees working there since 1995 and Weiss family members at the helm, relationship, service, community, and competitive pricing have been the keys to the company’s success.
“We knew we were dealing with a small state population, and we better keep as much of it as best as we can,” Bill says. “We also knew that there were only so many people we could attract a little bit farther away than our county.”
In fact, up until 15 years ago, Perry County, which Perryville resides in, had a very stable population—people didn’t move in or out of the county, Bill explains. Weiss Lumber, therefore, focused on making sure “we retained anyone that we could get into the doors—we (had to) keep them happy. We always emphasized being friends, tried to figure out who you got coming in, called them by name—just the typical skills that most businesses with any longevity learn.”
Community connection was another big part of customer retention. “We always supported the football, basketball—anything that was going on in the entire county. We were active as volunteer firefighters,” Bill says.
And although Weiss hasn’t faced a lot of competition since it was founded by Bill’s father, Donald “Don” Weiss in 1964, there was one Perryville lumberyard/ready-mixed concrete business in the early ’80s that taught Weiss Lumber how to compete. “We learned that we had to make ourselves as attractive as we could,” Bill recalls. “We very pointedly tried to make sure that we were competitive to what most people were looking for.” Bill admits they may not have been “necessarily the cheapest,” but at least, when a guy walked in, “he knew he was getting a competitive price,” he says.
Then a few years ago, the direction of the company changed after Bill’s brother, Jack, retired on January 1, 2021, after 44 years with the business. Bill could see that his “days were numbered,” and he had to do something. Bill contacted Nation’s Best because he was attracted to the idea that “we could maintain the city tie.”
Having finalized the sale, Weiss Lumber, with its deep roots in Perryville, continues to thrive. Jack’s son, Russell Weiss, is the manager/supervisor. “We tried to make sure that everything remained the same—that was important to us. It’s still Weiss Lumber, but it’s a little different version of it,” Bill adds. “They are still trying to maintain the community, backing the football, school, anything to do in town.”
Meanwhile, life in Perryville goes on. Bill and 64 other graduates of the 1965 high school class are getting excited about their upcoming reunion—the biggest class to come out of Perryville at the time. But, it’s not like they don’t see each other often. And if they do miss one another in town, they can always ask someone at Weiss Lumber to “tell Roger to give me a call.” MM
Sara Graves, senior editor, is interested in your story. Contact her at email@example.com.