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You might think that it would be hard to find crisp cotton underpants with cotton eyelet lace. It was the underwear of choice in the middle of the 20th century, and I can testify that I dashed over to the Toggery myself when my child was a toddler 15 years ago and was thrilled to find them.
That's the thing about the Toggery: It is a constant in life, or at least it seems so. It opened in 1948, and thus is the oldest children's clothing store in the state. It's always been in the Heights neighborhood. And for the last 30 years, it's been run by the same owners: Phil and Penny Olinghouse. All that time it's kept its name, a noun not used by anyone unless they are talking about the Toggery.
But the Toggery has kept up with the times. Once, children's clothing size 7-16 was the top seller in the store. But children are dressed less formally now, and in 1995, the Toggery turned to that new school outfit, the uniform. Uniforms are its biggest business at its (nearly) new second location in the Pleasant Ridge Town Center.
Three years ago, Olinghouse said, "business was stagnant and we asked our managers, what can we do?" The answer: shoes. He said maybe, his wife said now. And shoes are now the biggest seller in the Heights store.
Shoppers can thank Sue Agnelli, who operated the Cheshire Cat bookstore for years, for the ever-growing selection of children's books in the Heights store. Shelves are taking over the east wall. The store has a book club with member discounts. "You have to stay current," Olinghouse said.
While the Toggery isn't the most expensive place to shop for children's clothing, it's not cheap. A beautiful Bearington Bear fake animal fur jacket now in the store retails for $50, which might not sound like a lot — but it is sized 6 months.
Other items the Toggery carries: Razorback outfits for boys and girls, stuffed animals, christening gowns, onesies, bags, dresses for weddings, books baby can chew on, books to read to baby. And, thank goodness, crisp cotton with lace eyelet underwear.
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