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Examiner
  • David Jackson: Remembering Wild Woody's

  • In 1952 Ray Holder, a local auctioneer and businessman, constructed a cattle auction barn at the southeast corner of Noland Road and Interstate 70. He soon sold it to a tractor-and-combine company. Edgar C. Wood, nicknamed “Woody,” age 42, purchased the barn in the middle of a 22.8-acre alfalfa field, and opened Wild Woody’s Bargain Barn in 1955.

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  • In 1952 Ray Holder, a local auctioneer and businessman, constructed a cattle auction barn at the southeast corner of Noland Road and Interstate 70. He soon sold it to a tractor-and-combine company. Edgar C. Wood, nicknamed “Woody,” age 42, purchased the barn in the middle of a 22.8-acre alfalfa field, and opened Wild Woody’s Bargain Barn in 1955.
    Before there was a Kmart, Wild Woody’s was the first cut-rate, no-frills bargain center in the area. His main philosophy and formula for success: “I will not be undersold.”
    Prices were slashed “beyond reason,” well below manufacturer’s suggested retail prices at a time when this was a radical approach to merchandising. Advertising often prominently led with, “Wild Woody’s Sez ...”
    Through the year, more and more merchants joined the barn that grew from 5,000 to 200,000 square feet and had the appearance of “a congregation of lean-tos” – but it was “no marble palace.”
    Shelly Smith Fisher remembered “the extreme DUST on house ware shelves & glass display cases. Mom and I didn’t like shopping there too much; we just wanted to bring in our Lemon Pledge and Windex and start cleanin’! But, when I was 20 (1980), I furnished my bachelorette pad from Wild Woody’s-so cool & cheap! Also bought my first tambourine from their dusty glass display case.”
    Bare concrete floors sloping up and down at random were still better than some areas of the complex that had dirt floors. The store was decorated with a wide assortment of vintage 19th century household and farm artifacts.
    Outside, where a faint odor of oil, tires and leather wafted through the air, Wild Woody’s street included a graphic of a cowboy shooting both pistols (the tips flashed red at night). Below that was another graphic of a porky pig-look-a-like that read, “A Hog for a Bargain.” An old tractor sat out front, too.
    The main entrance had a wide concrete ramp with metal pole railing that kids liked to swing on, and it was the scene of many a runaway cart.
    “Merchandise (was) tossed haphazardly on top of other merchandise…some of which was sold from empty water tanks, horse troughs and crates.” My grandfather, Lloyd Campbell, who frequented Wild Woody’s for bargains, purchased two family pets there over the years, and also got a tombstone there after his son died three days after birth. Not to be too morbid, there once were even small childrens’ coffins hanging from the rafters. Everything from butter to washcloths and washbasins – you name it – you could likely find it at Wild Woody’s. You just couldn’t find the same thing every time.
    By 1978, the business was grossing $12 million (they moved a lot of merchandise) and employing from 200 to 300 people.
    The next year J.R. Stewart Construction Company purchased Wild Woody’s. For a time Wood continued to manage the clothing and boots shop in the Bargain Barn. In 1986 plans were announced to close Wild Woody’s on July 5 to begin re-developing the site into a new, 10-building, $17 million shopping center, The MarketPlace.
    Page 2 of 2 - The first anchors were Service Merchandise and Price Chopper, which was touted as being the largest grocery store (80,000 square feet) within 250 miles of Kansas City. Rustler’s Hickory Pit Bar-B-Q at the northwest end of Wild Wood’s was spared from the initial demolition until a new, free-standing building was completed for the restaurant at the center.
    Today some 30 to 35 shops and free-standing buildings surround establishments that will undoubtedly change as the years go by.
    The Jackson County Historical Society is seeking donations of original photographs of Wild Woody’s, Noland Road, old 40 Highway, etc., in order preserve them and make them available to the public into the future.
    “Wild Woody’s Sez ... donate today!”
    David W. Jackson is archives and education director of the Jackson County Historical Society.
     
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