The Fouke Monster has been good to Fouke Monster Mart in Fouke, Arkansas. Reported to haunt the web of creeks from the Sulphur River bottom near Fouke, the Sasquatch-type creature features prominently in the convenience store’s merchandise and drives traffic to the store from all across the world.
“We’ve had visitors from all 50 states and 29 countries come to see our monster,” said Denny Roberts, who owns the store with his wife, Brenda. “It’s evolved from a restaurant only into a tourist destination and monster museum, as well as a convenience store.”
A MONSTER BEGINNING
When the Roberts purchased the building in 1984, they only wanted to open a restaurant. But soon, Roberts added packaged chips and drinks to the restaurant to meet customer demand. Several years later, his brother suggested renaming themselves as the Fouke Monster Mart. “I thought it was a good idea, since we were starting to have more tourists stop by in search of a sighting,” Roberts said.
Before long, Roberts began acquiring more paraphernalia related to the Fouke Monster to satisfy the curiosity of customers. “I had kept newspaper clippings from the 1970s, which was the heyday of monster sightings,” Roberts said. “I realized that if we were going to call ourselves the Fouke Monster Mart, we needed to fully embrace the monster aspect.”
To that end, Roberts hired an artist to paint several in-store murals depicting the hairy monster, memorialized in the 1972 film, “The Legend of Boggy Creek.” He also had the front of the store redesigned to include the head and shoulders of the monster looming over the business name.
As word of the store spread, Roberts reorganized the interior to include a small “museum” area for the creature. “I framed the old newspaper articles and movie posters, commissioned a life-size ‘family’ of monsters for photo ops, and added other memorabilia people donated from all across the country,” he said. “It’s morphed into quite a nice little museum that tourists love to visit when they stop at our store.”
Even the pandemic couldn’t put a stop to interest in the creature. “Last year, I had one of the best years I’ve ever had, even with having to close on Sundays,” he said. Sales of monster and Boggy Creek souvenirs tripled, while sales of pizza rose 20% in 2021. “To me, that shows the enduring popularity of our hometown monster,” Roberts said.
BEYOND THE MONSTER
Fouke Monster Mart might have “monster” in its name, but it still provides locals and tourists with traditional convenience store fare, made-to-order pizza, groceries, coffee, drinks and fuel. Roberts recently expanded the kitchen to provide a fuller menu. “I brought in hot dogs, burgers and fries— air fried for a healthier option,” he said. “Right now, I’m focusing on breakfast and lunch, but plan on keeping the full kitchen open into the evening soon.”
He stocks more than 400 beverages in all sizes and styles except for alcohol, since the store is located in a dry town. Among the more popular—and unusual—items are pickled vegetables and eggs. “We sell quite a few pickled quail and hen eggs, as well as 30 to
40 varieties of pickled vegetables,” Roberts said. “People traveling like the uniqueness of the pickled products.”
Employees are a key element to keeping the customers coming back. “When I worked for the FBI back in the 1960s, someone told me on orientation day to leave your home at home and your work at work,” Roberts said. “I try to tell my employees that as well—take time off if you need it, but bring a positive attitude to work.”
For Roberts, creating a positive environment for both customers and employees is his No. 1 goal. “I want my customers to leave having had a good experience,” he said. “We want travelers, tourists and locals to view Fouke Monster Mart as a fun stop.”
Fouke Monster Mart has capitalized on its connection to the mythical creature by stocking a vast assortment of Fouke Monster and Boggy Creek souvenir items. Bestsellers include t-shirts with various logos and sayings, cups and shot glasses.
Owner Denny Roberts is constantly trying new branded items and variations of current items. “I’ve probably had 40 to 50 different styles of t-shirts,” he said. “I’m always trying a new design to see how it will sell.”
He also creates his own merchandise at times. “I sell these little vials of swamp water that I actually go out to the swamp for the water, then bottle and label it,” he said. “It’s a popular novelty item my customers love.”
Roberts isn’t afraid to try a new product. For example, last year, Roberts brought in 20 different kinds of keychains, which sold well. “If I hadn’t tried those, I would have lost a lot of sales,” he said.
Ideas 2 Go showcases how retailers today are operating the convenience store of tomorrow. To see videos of the c-stores we profiled in 2022 and earlier, go to www.convenience.org/ideas2go.