We Are Fort Thompson
We are a diverse group dedicated to providing you with years of combined experience and know-how. Our history speaks for itself. Read below to learn more about the history of Fort Thompson Sporting Goods.
The Beginning – 1931
In the late 1800’s, Oscar Thompson opened a store in Pecos, Texas. Oscar loved the business, but after a few years he was wiped out by several bad credit accounts and the depression. His son, Clyde Thompson, never forgot the joy of having the store and being able to hang out there as a kid. He had dreamed of one day having a store of his own. The picture below is of Oscar's store in Pecos, TX
Oscar Thompson’s store in Pecos/Barstow, Texas in 1907. Oscar is on the right.
The years went by, and after World War I, and eight years as a roustabout in the Smackover oil fields, Clyde finally got his wish. After looking all over the state of Arkansas, to find the most traveled highway in the state, he found it where Highway 70 and Highway 67 came together for 3 miles on Broadway, in the Rose City area of North Little Rock, Arkansas. Clyde opened his store in 1931, and it was all he ever wanted and had imagined. Thompson’s Super Market originally opened as a community grocery and hardware store, but Clyde realized he could earn a little extra money selling guns, ammo, saddles and traps out of his back storeroom (at just barely above his own cost). Around 1953, things began to change for the store. As these customers became repeat purchasers of firearms, the news of available guns and ammunition spread by word of mouth, prompting Clyde to increase his stock of firearms and ammunition. More and more customers were requesting hunting items, which meant more business for sporting goods and the potential for expansion. Eventually, Thompson’s “back door” gun retail enterprise developed into his primary source of income. Clyde applied for the legal permits necessary to become an authorized gun dealer and Thompson Outdoor Sporting Goods was born. There were 6 other types of stores that had sprung up along Broadway, but Clyde’s had become the biggest and the best! That was great to C.B. Thompson Jr., who had just gotten back from a tour in the Air Force. C.B. became very involved in the hunting business and the store after his return, eventually taking over the business from his dad.
Then in 1970 or so, along came Tom. Tom went to school and college with Roy Thompson, C.B. and Melba’s son, and he loved to hunt more than anyone you will ever meet. Tom loved to stay with the Thompsons, who thought of him as a son, and he all but moved in with C.B. and Melba. Roy, who felt he was being called into the ministry, made a Cracker Jack preacher, and thus his life took a different direction. Well, Tom wanted a sporting goods store, so in 1984, Tom asked C.B. “when he could have the store?” C.B. said, “NOW” and “The Fort” was under way. Plans were to erect a new building so that the sporting goods and grocery stores would be separated. In January of 1985, the men started building the sporting goods store, on an adjacent property, with 40,000 lbs. of lodge pole pine from Yellowstone National Park. During the build, an American flag was erected on top of the front wall. A comment was made that it “looks like a fort”, and the name stuck. Fort Thompson was born. The store was ready for business by June 1st, and had 4,000 square feet of retail space. It was great from the very start, and many more changes were to come.
On Memorial Day, in 1989, the original Thompson’s (Grocery Store) Super Market burned to the ground. Fort Thompson was left as the standing legacy of the then 58 year old business. It remained at the Broadway location until 2006, when growth made change, once again, inevitable. After 75 great years in Rose City, we moved. Why move a business that is doing great and has a great future? Well, it started way back in 1931, when Clyde Thompson wanted the location with the most traffic in Arkansas, and back then it was the Broadway junction. Things have changed since then, and now the McCain Mall area is the traffic center in the North Little Rock and Sherwood business district. So, that’s where we moved. The old Tractor Supply building and property was acquired, with approximately 19,000 square feet of store space. Tom and his Fort Thompson crew spent months gutting and refinishing the inside of the building to give it an expansive and open space, and the front of the building was dressed to give homage to the name that stuck in 1985, “The Fort”. In 2011, a new warehouse consisting of 5,000 square feet of new space was built behind the store, on a piece of vacant property. This gave us more room to stock an even larger assortment of the hunting equipment and accessories that our customers desire. Tom has turned Clyde’s original dream into a full line retail hunting store, with just about anything you can imagine available. If you’re driving through Sherwood, on Hwy 67/167, you can’t miss it. And, you can still find the same crew of hunters to help you with all of your questions, just in a bigger store with better parking!
C.B. Thompson’s Grocery during its heyday in 1948. The store was opened by Clyde (C.B.) Thompson in 1931, and thrived in the same location until it was lost to a fire on Memorial Day, in 1989.
(Photo taken by William A. Justin, North Little Rock, 1948.)
Clyde Thompson (right), Daisy Thompson (center) and C.B. Thompson Jr. (left) in the store around 1947. C.B. Thompson Jr. eventually took over the store, after his return from a stint in the Air Force, and ran it until it was lost to a fire in 1989. The sporting goods section of the store (Thompson Sporting Goods) had been moved to the new Thompson Sporting Goods building, next door, after it was built in 1985.
C.B. Thompson Jr. standing outside of the store in 1983.
(Photo taken by Hank Wilson, for an article in
the Arkansas Democrat newspaper, 1983.)
Tom Denniston, assisting a customer in the grocery store, in 1983. Tom would eventually split Thompson Sporting Goods from the Grocery store, in 1985, with the assistance of C.B.
(Photo taken by Hank Wilson, for an article in the Arkansas Democrat newspaper, 1983.)
Firefighters try to save Thompson’s Super Market, on Memorial Day, 1989. As you can see in this picture, Thompson’s Grocery had been expanded upon many times since it first opened in 1931, and from its prior size as seen in the above picture from 1948. The old Clyde Thompson home behind the store, as well as a Fish-n-Tackle next door, were also consumed by the fire, which firefighters determined had started deep within the grocery store. Had Thompson Sporting Goods not been split off and built on an adjacent lot 4 years prior, it would have been lost as well. And so as fate would have it, Thompson Sporting Goods would carry on the legacy that started in 1931.
A young Tom Denniston, standing on what was the future site of Fort Thompson, in 1985, Rose City, Arkansas.
A truck carrying some of the 40,000 pounds of Lodge Pole Pine logs from Yellowstone National Park, brought in to serve as the primary base and walls of the first store. If only we could get back the price of gas in 1985!
A few of the guys assembling the logs. The guys had to place and fit the logs, cut some to length, and then unstack and glue them as they went, putting the building together like a puzzle.
Here the base walls with the logs are fitted and the doors cut, awaiting trusses for the roof. Framed walls were added inside to make separate rooms for various needs.
This is where Thompson Sporting Goods essentially became “Fort Thompson”. The guys erected a flag and staked out the walls during a moment of rest, and someone said, “It looks like a fort”. Tom is to the left, protecting the fort.
As the trusses went up, the flag rose higher. You can imagine the sense of pride that went into building such a unique building and store. Fort Thompson was the pride of Rose City, for many years to come.
Tom, taking a break and soaking in the reality of his new business. Was he nervous? Excited? Awestruck? A safe guess would probably be a combination of the three.
Painters put on the initial coat of stain that gave Fort Thompson it’s dark and aged, log-cabin appearance. The store remained in this basic, rectangular cabin formation of approximately 4,000 square feet for quite some time, but it was added on to many times in the coming years.
An aerial shot of Fort Thompson, as it appeared in the late 90’s, in Rose City, Arkansas. This was the final configuration of the old store and how it remained for many years, until the business moved to the new location in Sherwood, Arkansas.
The original log building is the one on the left with the brown roof.
Fort Thompson as it appears today in the new location, at 5802 Warden Road, Sherwood, Arkansas. This building was formerly the old Tractor Supply, and the guys spent many months renovating it, both inside and out, as well as upgrading the front facade to look like a fort. The majority of the work was done by Tom, and the employees of Fort Thompson. The work was completed and the store reopened in 2006, with approximately 19,000 square feet of retail space.