After nearly 32 years, EM Jeans owners Liz Snipan and Larry Rogers have decided to close the store — a massive landmark of downtown Conway on the corner of West Oak and Chestnut streets.
"Thirty-two years ago, I promised my wife that if I retire when I’m 60, she didn’t have to work until she turns 60," Larry said. "She’s 57 now, so she gets to quit with me."
Larry turned 60 in June, which prompted him to retire and close EM Jeans.
The couple opened EM Jeans on April 1, 1986, when the couple bought a store in Batesville, and then relocated to Conway.
After successful collegiate coaching career in cross country and track and field, Larry decided he was going to train for the Olympics in Oregon.
However, he fell off a stage at a Christmas party and hurt his knee badly enough he couldn’t train. Another opportunity led to the purchase and relocation of EM Jeans.
"There was a small store in a bus station in Batesville, called Men’s Only," he said. "They wanted to retire, so we bought it and moved it to Conway. We had a 1,000-square-foot store behind [University of Central Arkansas] near Subway."
From there, the store’s location was moved to Conway Towne Center where the couple started with a similar-sized store. Eventually, EM grew in that location to 5,000 square feet.
"We were out there for 18 years before the city came us in an effort to revitalize downtown Conway 12 years ago," Larry said. "We opened this 10,000-square-foot store and have been here since. Over the years, we’ve gotten bigger and have had a lot of fun doing it."
Now that EM Jeans is closing its doors, Larry said he and Liz will be able to stay at their Costa Rica condominium when Larry isn’t riding bikes with "younger guys" or offering private coaching lessons for participants in high school cross country and track or coaching his Express Running team.
Larry complimented Conway, saying it has been beneficial to have a business in the city for more than three decades.
"Conway has been a great place to have a business," he said. "Liz and I work seven days a week. If we’re not here, we’re talking about work or trying to figure out what the next, new, hot item is.
"We really enjoy what we do. We like going to work and that’s probably the biggest thing. The people here are great, there are lots of colleges and it’s a positive vibe for a business."
Larry said the store doesn’t have an official closing date, but with a planned sale starting Friday during downtown Conway’s Moon Light Madness event, the store could close soon.
"When everything is gone, we’ll be done," he said. "I’ve never retired before, so I don’t know how long it takes. If I come in Friday, and we get wiped out, I’ll be done Friday. My wife says she wants to feel what is like to be bored."
As part of the closing, EM Jeans’ liquidation sale will include fixtures, merchandise and other items in the store.
He said there is no one to buy the location yet, but Larry wouldn’t shy away from the idea that he could sell the building.
"If someone wants to come in and buy the place, I will sell it to them," he said.
In the meantime, he said there have been inquiries to leasing the space.