@story MARLA CANTRELL
@images PINNACLE STATION LOCAL MARKET
The lucky traveler will run out of gas within coasting distance of Pinnacle Station Local Market in Rogers. After filling the tank, the even luckier traveler will go inside to pay. Because inside this gas station is one of the best gourmet markets in the area.
Pinnacle Station Local Market is an eclectic combination of gas station, restaurant, gourmet food shop and convenience store. It even has an executive chef. Jesse Fox trained under Miles James of James at the Mill in Johnson before signing on when the market opened in 2008. Jesse oversees the food staff, including two other chefs, who serve up everything from fried grits, potato pancakes, grilled Rib-Eye, crab cakes, and their signature Train Wreck Burrito.
One of the best sellers is the Pizza Rustica, which includes the wildly popular chicken parmesan variety. One slice fills an entire plate and costs less than $5.00. The pizza is part of a South Beach, Florida, franchise, but is made from scratch on site several times a day. There are also daily specials like the meatloaf plate, as well as burgers served on fresh baked Focaccia, roasted chicken, seafood, a fourteen foot salad bar, a sandwich station, and the ArkMex center, where flour tortillas are made by hand.
Every day there are thirty meals for under $6.00. “We are very conscious of our price point,” said Nathan Strayhorn, market director. “And it’s worked. We’ve had steady growth since we opened. ..People come in all the time and say this place is not what they expected. We’re excited about that.”
The 9,000 square foot market was designed to draw in those used to shopping in bigger cities. “Some of our best customers relocated here to work at Wal-Mart and Tyson’s headquarters,” Nathan said. “They’re used to these kinds of high-end markets like ours where you can eat, grocery shop, order birthday cakes, and get prepared food to take home for dinner. ..They’ll come in and tell me they grew up in Chicago and they can’t get the same kinds of food here, so I’ll special order items. ..And I have a couple of German ladies I order special cheeses for.”
But the owners also understood those of us who’ve lived here our entire lives would also come to the market. “The locals have given us great feedback. The area from Fort Smith to Springfield, and some in Oklahoma, come here to shop. ..A lot of local chefs shop here, and people bring in recipes with ingredients they can’t find anywhere else. We have everything from fresh fish that’s brought in several times a week from the East Coast, the West Coast and Florida, to the fresh produce section, a gluten-free area, and a Mediterranean aisle.”
They’ve even saved the day for those looking for the perfect gift at the last minute. “Our baker keeps cakes ready with “Happy Birthday” written on them,” Nathan said. “We sell several of those a week. ..I help customers pick out gifts, mostly with gourmet foods like specialty olive oils, vinegars, teas and some of our other specialty brands like the Barefoot Contessa.”
It’s this kind of service that matters the most to Nathan. “We want to be the place that you can come and we know you by name and we know how you like your fish prepared. We’re definitely that small town place.”
Pinnacle Station also supports area businesses. “I don’t think I’ve ever turned down a local person who’s come in to sell their products,” Nathan said. “From pizza sauce to dog treats, we love the local vendor.” The evidence is right on the shelves. Shirley’s Flowers has a case filled with arrangements ready to take home, War Eagle Mill has its own display, pasta made in Tontitown is sold next to national brands, and Global Beans, a Fayetteville coffee company, sells its wares next to the likes of Dean and Deluca.
All the hard work is paying off. The market now has products from all fifty states, many from small companies. “When I call Laura’s Granola in Arizona, Chef Laura is the one who answers the phone,” Nathan said.
Shoppers mill around the store, checking out the daily specials in the Chef’s Case, finding things like eggplant parmesan and shrimp cocktail. In the drink section, a man dressed in a suit lifts a six-pack of Fizzy Lizzy soda out of the case. A mother with two young boys points out the gargantuan Monkfish in the seafood section, and two middle-aged women look at the Food Should Taste Good Chips.
A fondue kit called Fun-Do To Go is getting a good reception right now, but it’s far from the most exotic item the store has sold. The market once carried bottled water from Beverly Hills, called Bling H20. It was $22 a pop and had Swarovski Crystals on the bottle.
The array of good food and high-end products has earned Pinnacle a tongue-in-cheek nickname: the Gucci Gas Station. “We love that,” Nathan said. “It tells me our customers are comfortable with us and they know we’re unique.”
So unique, in fact, that Rachel Ray called Nathan to thank him for the cheese platter he’d prepared when she came to the area on a book signing tour. “I’d typed up a letter to go with it and we sent it over to her. I’d just left to pick up my daughter when she called so I missed it but she was very gracious.”
Quite an endorsement for a gas station in Arkansas. But then again, it’s quite a little gas station.
Pinnacle Station Local Market is at 2000 Promenade Boulevard in Rogers. More information can be found at PinnacleStationLocalMarket.com.