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Gun shop triggers concern in Eureka Springs

Unease triggered in Eureka Springs by Bill Bowden | June 4, 2023 at 7:41 a.m.
Keeling Grubb, owner of Eureka Gun & Pawn, which has applied for a permit to sell guns and pawn-shop items in Eureka Springs. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Bill Bowden)

EUREKA SPRINGS -- A gun and pawn shop has opened in this artsy tourist town, which had no gun or pawn shops.

But it isn't selling any guns or taking anything for pawn.


Keeling Grubb said he'll go before the City Council on June 12 seeking a permit to sell guns and operate a pawn shop at Eureka Gun & Pawn.

In the meantime, he's selling other things including ammunition, shooting accessories and fishing poles under a "sporting goods" business license from the city.

He described Eureka Springs as something of a sporting-goods desert. It has plenty of stores that sell art, antiques and jewelry, but not fishing poles or camping gear.

"We want to be a triage sporting goods store for Eureka Springs," he said. "Eureka is a diverse city. We want to have something for everybody."

Eureka Springs has no pawn shops and no stores currently licensed to sell guns, said City Clerk Ida Meyer.

The very idea of a gun shop in what may be Arkansas' most progressive burg has some people up in arms.

"A GUN shop? Absolutely no!!!" Marty Cogan wrote on a Facebook page called Eureka and Local Politics.

"A gun shop?!? Completely unacceptable!" responded Susan Wales Williams.

"Nothing says welcome to Eureka like a gun shop," wrote Pat Matsukis.

In another post, Cogan wrote, "Does ES even need a 'pawn shop'? I thought those were only in dodgy places or places like Las Vegas or Atlantic City, where tourists were outta cash. What's next -- rooms by the hour?"

In a telephone interview Friday, Cogan said many people are against the gun and pawn shop, but they may not be vocal about it.

"I believe there are a number of people in town who do not want the gun shop, but most people are afraid to speak out because they're afraid the yahoos will come after them with their guns or throw rocks through their windows," she said.

The Facebook page commenters noted that there are plenty of places to buy guns 12 miles to the east in Berryville. And there's a gun shop eight miles to the north near the community of Busch.

Eureka Springs had a pawn shop that sold guns -- Two Jacks Pawn Shop -- but that business closed about five years ago, based on its Facebook page.

Grubb said he opened his shop on May 27 and hung a sign out front reading Eureka Gun & Pawn. He has also installed an elaborate video surveillance system.

For the past six years, Grubb and his wife have operated Metal Feathers, a gift shop next door to the gun shop. It's guarded by large, colorful, metal chickens that line U.S. 62 in front of the shop.

Meyer gave Grubb a permit to operate his new business as a sporting goods shop until he can get a conditional-use permit, which is required by the city to operate a gun or pawn shop.

Grubb's gun-and-pawn-shop proposal went before the city's Planning Commission on May 23, but it deadlocked in a 3-3 vote. One commissioner expressed concern that the public may not have known that the permit was for a gun and pawn shop, just that a conditional-use permit was being sought. In Eureka Springs, bed-and-breakfast inns have to have conditional-use permits, and the application Grubb was given to fill out appeared to be geared toward lodging.

Grubb's next option is to appeal to the City Council. He's hired a Rogers lawyer, Will Kellstrom, who will appear with him before the City Council.

"We're not going to carry hundred-dollar guns," Grubb told the Planning Commission. "I've got a pretty extensive gun collection currently. We're looking at having more collector-grade firearms."

Grubb told the commission he figures to bring in about $2 million in sales the first year, adding that some of the guns he'll be selling will go for $10,000 or $20,000 each. Some of those guns will be sold on the internet. Others will be sold in the shop.

Grubb said he had to send letters to everyone who lives within 200 feet of the property line of the shopping center where the gun shop is located, notifying them of his application.

One person spoke during the public comments at the beginning of the Planning Commission meeting.

"I don't think we need a gun shop in Eureka Springs," Clyde Leach told the commission. He said it would be a "temptation ... to a rowdy crowd for a break-in."

Three letters were read to the Planning Commission at its May 23 meeting -- one for the gun shop and two against.

"Gun and pawn shops attract the type of people that need money and are likely to creep around homes and steal or break in," wrote Anita Kimbrell. "Often these people are high on meth, or any street drug they can get."

But Arthur Bruno, owner of Common Sense Technologies, sent a letter in support of the gun shop.

Bruno's business is the closest neighbor to Eureka Gun & Pawn, he wrote in the letter. He has known Grubb for years and considers him a good neighbor who keeps his storefront clean.

"I like the idea that he is selling collector-grade firearms, which will naturally attract the quality of clientele I like to see in the plaza," wrote Bruno, referring to the shopping center. "While I admit I was a bit hesitant at first having a store selling guns next to mine, I was fully reassured when I learned of his security measures and his plan for strict adherence to state and federal regulations and licenses."

The Planning Commission meeting video is available at

"We're only going to pawn guns, gold and silver," Grubb told the commission. "We will buy anything of value, and we have several flea markets that are set up that will take anything that we buy and put it in their flea markets. So we're not going to have boats, cars, junk sitting out in front of the store. It's just not going to happen."

Grubb said the guns will be locked in a safe every night.

"We're not looking to cause any danger," he said. "We spent a great deal of money on a camera system."

In response to a question from a commissioner, Grubb said, "We're not going to carry machine guns or suppressors in this store."

In an interview on Friday, Grubb said the store has been open so far only on Fridays and Saturdays, and by appointment. But those hours may be expanded this week.

"We hope by the 15th to have an FFL and be here six days a week," he said, referring to a Federal Firearms License.

If the City Council approves his application on June 12, Grubb said it will take a couple of weeks before he begins selling guns in the shop because of computer software that will be installed to handle the paperwork.

  photo  Keeling Grubb, owner of Eureka Gun & Pawn, which has applied for a permit to sell guns and pawn-shop items in Eureka Springs. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Bill Bowden)

Print Headline: Town’s only pawn, gun outlet sets up


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