A local shop that has served as a community hub for more than three decades is set to soon close its doors.
Dark Star Visuals, known for its collection of Grateful Dead memorabilia, tie-dyed clothing, handmade jewelry, crystals, beads, incense, artwork, more, announced that the business will permanently close this spring.
Owner Stacey Wieties opened the store while she was still managing Restaurant on the Corner on Dickson Street in October of 1991.
The original store was sat in the space currently home to World Treasures just a few doors down from where it is now located. Just 18 months after she opened in the original location, Wieties was ready to expand.
“I got started because I’d been following the (Grateful) Dead for about 20 years, and when I’d go to the shows I’d bring back all this cool stuff,” she said. “People at the restaurant would ask, ‘Oh where’d you get that. I want one,’ and I realized I could probably open up a shop with all this stuff I was bringing back.”
It was an almost instant hit. The shop quickly caught favor from locals and creative folks involved in the jam band community in Fayetteville, which despite the city’s small-town feel at the time, made up a considerable percentage of the city’s population.
Wieties and her then husband for a time were also involved in putting on blues and other live music shows – first in the ballroom at the nearby Hilton hotel, and later at other venues including LJ’s on College Avenue and Chester’s Place on Dickson Street – that turned out to be perfect networking opportunities to remind customers of what was new at the shop.
“Bue and Margie at Chester’s Place told us we could do anything we wanted there as long as we paid the bands and helped them sell liquor,” she said.
That was a high point, Wieties said. “We would sell tickets to the shows here at the shop, and we used to sell men’s and women’s clothing so the networking I could do (at those shows) was a great match.”
The store eventually expanded into the space next door, and grew to employ seven people during about a 10-year stretch between roughly 1998-2008.
Wieties said during the recession in 2008, she decided to contract the store back down into the footprint it currently occupies.
The store has always been a hub for community, and remains so to this day. The shop has served as a gathering place for jewelry making and other types of classes over the years. During Farmers’ Market Saturdays, you’ll be hard pressed to find one of the handful of hula hoops out front of the store available at any given moment, as most of them stay occupied during busy times.
Earlier this spring, the building on Block Avenue where the store is located was purchased by Cameron Clark of Block Street Corner, LLC, and the new landlord informed Wieties before her lease expired that her rent would be increasing by about 85% if she decided to stay on.
It was at that point that she decided to close the store and retire a few years earlier than planned.
“I realized this business model can’t support that,” she said. “I hold the person that bought it at no fault. They paid a lot for the property and that’s what you do in business. You get your renters to pay your mortgage.”
A few weeks after she decided to close the store, it was broken into, which solidified her decision.
“That was kind of the nail in the coffin,” she said.
The store will host a “Fare Thee Well” party from 4-7 p.m. on May 7. The event will serve as a customer appreciation to allow regulars to come hang out at the store and tell stories. There will be music on the speakers, a special cocktail from Maxine’s along with wine and other refreshments, hula hooping, possibly a fire twirler, and other festivities. The event will also include a silent auction to raise funds for NWA Harm Reduction.
“We just want to make memories and see people we haven’t seen in a while,” she said. “Though folks have been coming out of the woodwork since we announced this.”
Wieties originally planned to stay open through the end of June, though she now says they may close as soon as May 25 depending on how things go over the next few weeks.
Wieties said she is looking on the bright side of the situation, and plans to travel to visit her new great grand baby, as well as to get “back to her roots” traveling to see live music again.
“I’ve got tickets for the Dead in Dallas, and I’m hoping to get in on Chicago, St. Louis, and wherever else,” she said.
After a short break, she plans also to continue to do jewelry repairs for her customers and friends she’s met over the years. She plans to keep the store’s phone number as her personal number as an easy way for those folks to get in touch.
“They can call me in July,” she joked.
In all, she is taking the changes in stride.
“I am thankful for the love, support, and community,” she said. “The community here has been so awesome.
“I feel optimistic that the universe is offering me an early retirement. Though I’ll be 67 this summer. It’s not that early,” she said.