Earl VanHook was right out of school and was eager to learn a business. Like so many young men, he sought the advice of a seasoned businessman. O. M. Atkins was the most successful businessman in Paragould, Arkansas, and admired by VanHook. Since he had no experience, VanHook offered to work for six months without pay if Mr. Atkins would agree to mentor him into the retail profession. After one month Earl VanHook had proven his worth and was put on salary. In fact, after six months he had earned the position of store manager. With his proven record, Earl VanHook and Mr. Atkins in a 50/50 arrangement purchased a store in Walnut Ridge, Arkansas. Mr. Atkins put up the money, and Earl VanHook did the work.Even though the store was named "Joseph's," the new corporation of Van Atkins was born. World War II changed everything, and Joseph's was sold.Warren Cooper, a poor country boy, grew up just outside Paragould, Arkansas. His mom died when he was 7 years old, and his father moved him to Paragould along with his 4 siblings. He took a job managing the town cemetery. Maudell VanHook was the younger sister of Earl VanHook and grew up in Dixie, Arkansas. Dixie had a school, one general store, and two cotton gins. Maudell was a farm girl and had her daily chores that included picking cotton in the fall. She met Warren Cooper their senior year of high school and married him February 6, 1941. By early 1942, Warren and Earl were servicemen during World War II and returned to Arkansas after the war. Earl VanHook, Warren Cooper, Mr. Atkins, and Earl's younger brother, Alvin purchased Rhea's Hardware and Furniture in Corning Arkansas. In 1949 the first officially named Van Atkins Dry Goods store opened in Walnut Ridge, Arkansas. Soon stores were opening across Arkansas. Warren recalls the day several merchants came to him and asked him to close his store on Wednesdays at noon as they were doing. Right next door, there was a five and dime store owned by a bright young man named Sam Walton. Upon asking Walton's advice, he replied, "You can't do business when you are closed!" Van Atkins never closed on Wednesdays at Walton's advice. In 1959 Warren and Maudell Cooper moved to New Albany, Mississippi, to run Mississippi's first Van Atkins.