Arkansas based company to purchase The Markets, continue on community grocer reputation

Published 5:02 pm Monday, October 24, 2022

SPRINGDALE, Ar — Harps Food Stores, the largest employee-owned company in Arkansas and headquartered in Springdale, announced it has entered a purchase agreement with the Miss-Lou’s locally-owned grocery chain The Markets. Harps Food Store’s CEO and Chairman Kim Eskew made the announcement in a press release Monday afternoon. 

The timing of this transaction has not been finalized but both parties anticipate completion by the end of 2022, the statement said.

“We are excited to enter into these new markets for Harps in Louisiana and Mississippi,” Eskew said. “The Market stores have served these communities with excellence for many years, and we are thrilled to add them to the Harps family.”

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Barry Loy, president of The Markets, said in the release that its store banners, employment and operations of stores will continue with minimal changes.

Harps has a similar story to the Loy family. Family ran and operated, the company started in 1930 and has since expanded to 135 stores under the Harps name. 

The Markets includes seven stores with three in Louisiana, one in Ball, Ferriday and Vidalia in addition to four in Mississippi, three in Natchez and one in McComb. Until Harps bought The Markets, it has been locally owned by the Loy family since 1969.

Barry said he and his brother Jeff Loy, vice-president, have been involved in the grocery store business their whole lives. Natchez is their home, so the choice to sell to another company was a tough one, he said. 

“It is hard to let go of something you have built. Harps is an awesome company, and we decided to sell to them because we think they will take things to the next level,” Barry said. “No one else made us feel as comfortable as they did. We think it will be good for our team. They can grow. They are employee owned which is good for our employees. Their values lined up with us and they are so similar to us. They do a good job and are in a growth mode.” 

For the last 47 years, Barry has worked in grocery and been involved in the community. He will continue to be in the community but plans to take time off to refresh and retire. Grocery is a demanding business but they have been blessed beyond measure. 

Harps Spokeswoman Sarah Thacker said the family was excellent to work with during the process of the purchase. Harps was previously a family owned company before becoming employee owned in 2001. She said they understand the commitment to running a family oriented business and staying true to their values and mission set in place by the Harps family. 

“At Harps, we value our communities and know that they are a cornerstone of our mission,” Thacker said. “We are excited to be a part of the Miss-Lou area and are looking forward to being able to serve our customers in these communities.”

Most importantly, the Loys could not have done the grocery business without the hundreds of people who have worked with the company over the years. The same community involvement is why Barry found it easier to pass the business on to Harps.

“They will do a good job taking care of our community,” he said. “We rebranded 25 to 30 years ago and took on the name of each community we are in. All of our employees and customers know this is our hometown. We believe in giving back and we have been good partners. We really appreciate the Miss-Lou for their support. We appreciate them for choosing us. We believe Harps will continue on our reputation.”