IN THIS ISSUE THE BEST PIZZA IN ARKANSAS EL DORADO: THE NEXT BIG THING IN SEARCH OF EBBY JANE
ARKANSASâ€™ LIFESTYLE MAGAZINE
Sissy Jones Survivor
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contents SEPTEMBER 2017
departments Home & Garden
66 FAMILY-OWNED BUSINESSES
AY is proud to feature several family-owned businesses across the state. Some of these companies have been passed down through generations, and continue to change and evolve every year. These businesses consistently work to be successful and are owned and operated by amazing local families. We are thrilled to give them the recognition they deserve.
88 SPECIAL FEATURE
FIND EBBY JANE: IN SEARCH OF THE VANISHED
15 The Many Facets of Mark Zweig 22 P. Allen Smith: An Easy Way to Start a Garden
Art & Culture 26 33 77 83
El Dorado: Arkansas’ Next Big Thing What’s Next for Miss America Savvy Shields Walk on the Wild Side with Georgia Pellegrini Kevin Delaney: Playing a Scientist on TV
Part two of a three-part series
Food & Drink 08 Publisher’s Note 10 Plugged In 12 The AY Agenda
on the cover AY is truly honored to have Sissy Jones, founder of Sissy’s Log Cabin, on the cover of our September issue. Jones has battled breast cancer and represents many strong women who have gone through the same fight. Photo by Jamison Mosley
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38 The Best Pizza in the State 44 Opening the Vault 46 Chef Matthew McClure of The Hive
About You 36 Dream Factory: The Innovation Hub 50 Breast Health: Runway for the Cure
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WRITERS & PHOTOGRAPHERS
SEPT 2017 | VOLUME XXX | ISSUE 5 | AYMAG.COM VICKI VOWELL • VOWELL, INC. CEO
P. ALLEN SMITH
P. Allen Smith, an author, television host and conservationist, is one of America’s most recognized garden experts. His show Garden Home airs on AETN. You can watch Garden Style on KATV. Smith uses his Arkansas home, Moss Mountain Farm, as an epicenter for promoting the local food movement, organic gardening and the preservation of heritage poultry breeds. He created his farm to serve as a place of inspiration, education and conservation and provides visitors from around the country with tours of his property, which may be booked at pallensmith.com/tours.
Kat Robinson is a food historian and travel writer based in Little Rock. She is the author of three travel dining guides. Her work appears in regional and national publications and websites including Food Network and Forbes Travel Guide. Robinson is currently working on Make Room For Pie: A Delicious Slice of the Natural State with Kat Robinson, scheduled to air March 2018 on AETN.
EDITOR Melanie Kramer • email@example.com ASSISTANT EDITOR Amanda Nettles • firstname.lastname@example.org ONLINE EDITOR Maggie McNeary • email@example.com ART DIRECTOR Jamison Mosley • firstname.lastname@example.org GRAPHIC DESIGNER Marrissa Miller • email@example.com AD COORDINATOR/ASSISTANT GRAPHIC DESIGNER Morgan Horton • firstname.lastname@example.org
Meredith Mashburn has worked as a professional photographer for over 15 years. She began her career as a portrait photographer in 1997, where she refined her style and lighting techniques in a commercial family-friendly studio and quickly opened a business.
PUBLISHER Heather Baker • email@example.com
Dwain Hebda is president of Ya!Mule Wordsmiths in Little Rock. A writer, editor and journalist of some 30 years, his work appears in more than 30 publications in four states. Nebraskan by birth, Southern by the grace of God, he and his wife Darlene have four grown children and two lovely dogs.
ACCOUNT EXECUTIVES Linda Burlingame • firstname.lastname@example.org Wendy Reed • email@example.com Stephanie Brown • firstname.lastname@example.org Rhonda Price • email@example.com Gina Daniel-Sain • firstname.lastname@example.org Andi Brown • email@example.com Stacey McClellan • firstname.lastname@example.org CUSTOM PUBLICATIONS MANAGER Jay Sorrows • email@example.com CONTRIBUTORS Kody Ford, Meredith Mashburn, P. Allen Smith, Kim Dishongh, David Yerby, Antoinette Grajeda, Kat Robinson, Dwain Hebda
AY Magazine is published monthly, Volume XXX, Issue 3 AY Magazine (ISSN 2162-7754) is published monthly by Vowell, Inc., 910 W. 2nd St., Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201. Periodicals postage paid at Little Rock, AR and additional mailing offices.
Antoinette Grajeda is a reporter and producer at KUAF 91.3FM, the NPR affiliate in Fayetteville. She grew up in Northwest Arkansas and has enjoyed sharing the stories of her community and its residents through her work in newspaper, magazine and radio. In her free time, she loves exploring and believes a new adventure is just a road trip away.
Kody Ford is the editor of The Idle Class Magazine, a quarterly publication devoted to the arts in Arkansas. He lives in Fayetteville and spends his spare time reading and writing fiction. Follow him on Twitter or Instagram: @theidleclass
Postmaster: Send address changes to AY Magazine, 910 W. 2nd St., Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201. Subscription Inquiries: Subscription rate is $15 for one year (12 issues). Single issues are available upon request for $5. For subscriptions, inquiries or address changes, call 501-244-9700. The contents of AY are copyrighted, and material contained herein may not be copied or reproduced in any manner without the written permission of the publisher. Articles in AY should not be considered specific advice, as individual circumstances vary. Products and services advertised in the magazine are not necessarily endorsed by AY. Please recycle this magazine. Please recycle this magazine. To advertise call 501-244-9700
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Empower, Educate and Explore
of this impactful and important event.
This month, we celebrate the 15th anniversary of Runway for the Cure, a fundraiser benefiting the Arkansas affiliate of Susan G. Komen. We are proud to be the founding sponsor
We’re bringing you a sneak peek of some of the models who will walk in this year’s show as well as other survivors who are brave enough to stand up and help raise money in support of breast health and breast cancer prevention. A notable addition to this year’s pages and to the Runway event is first-time model Bill Robertson. Robertson is the first male breast cancer survivor to participate in the fundraiser. We applaud his courage and lend our support to all of this year’s participants. It’s going to be a great show. Arkansas’ Miss America Savvy Shields will say goodbye to her time as the reigning Miss America this month. After a yearlong whirlwind tour that has taken her to just about
The Murphy Arts District will celebrate its September opening with an array of musical acts. Don’t miss this historic event.
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every state in the U.S., she will pass the crown and sash on September 10. Throughout the past year, Shields has worked hard to promote her personal platform: “Eat Better, Live Better.” She encourages the people she meets to embrace a healthy lifestyle; during her time as Miss America, she has visited thousands of schoolchildren, talked to rice farmers, appeared at American Heart Association events and numerous other events. She has made Arkansans proud. Also this month, we share part two of a three-part series on the disappearance of Little Rock woman Ebby Jane Steppach. Ebby has now been missing for nearly two years. Her family and detectives still frantically search for clues in this mystifying case. The reward for information on her whereabouts remains at $50,000. Please follow the Official: Find Ebby Steppach Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ groups/527410417434961/.
Arkansas’ Miss America Savvy Shields discusses her next steps after she passes the crown.
If you have information leading to the recovery of Ebby Steppach, please call 501-371-4636 or email email@example.com.
STEVE MILLER RETURNS TO BAPTIST PREP
aptist Prep is proud to welcome Steve Miller back as athletic director. Miller previously served in the position for 15 years. Miller first came to Baptist Prep in 1994 as the head basketball coach and athletic director. For the first three years the team did not have a gymnasium and rented out gyms for home games. “Our players were so resilient and simply adjusted to wherever we would go,” says Miller. “It built mental toughness in our players and they simply would be willing to practice or play games in whatever setting we threw at them.” During the 1997-1998 school year, Baptist opened a new gym. Miller continued coaching the basketball team through 2009 and served as athletic director, golf coach and cross country coach.
I had the privilege of coaching fine young people and being around fantastic families.” “I had the privilege of coaching fine young people and being around fantastic families,” he says. “I also enjoyed the coaching relationships we had at Baptist. One of my former players, Brian Ross, is even the current head basketball coach.” In 2009 Miller accepted a position at Trinity Academy in Wichita, Kansas where he served as athletic director, head basketball coach, assistant cross country coach and golf coach. “I feel like I am coming back home,” says Miller. “I am so excited to work with the coaches, student athletes, faculty, staff, administration and the families of Baptist Prep.” For the 2017- 2018 school year Miller hopes to get to know the Baptist Prep school community. “I desire to come alongside our parents to aid them in the total growth of their young person: spiritually, relationally, mentally and physically,” he says. “I want to assist in helping our coaches grow in their walk with Christ and to have a transformational impact on our student athletes.” Miller and his wife Kathy have been married for 33 years. “She is a wonderful wife and has been very supportive of all the many nights I was out coaching and being athletic director,” says Miller. “We have five kids who spent many days at Baptist Prep in the gym or out on the field. Our oldest son Levi even teaches at Baptist Prep.” The couple has four grandchildren and a fifth on the way.
Athletic Director/Assistant Head of Schools
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Join in on the fun! @ayisaboutyou
As parents of children with NF, myself, along with Myleigh’s mom, Ginger, [and] all parents and families affected by NF are grateful for the HOPE that we gain as we raise awareness and funds for NF Research through the Children’s Tumor Foundation. Thank you AY Magazine for featuring the Children’s Tumor Foundation’s Dancing with Our Stars Gala! We are excited for the 10th Anniversary! LESLEY GERKE OSLICA Great article on my upcoming #AdventureGetaway by AY Magazine. So excited to be working with our partners The Capital Hotel, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, Ralston Family Farms and South on Main to make this a special event. GEORGIA PELLEGRINI
Contest deadline is September 15! Go to aymag.com and click on the “Contests” tab at the top of the page to enter. Entrants will be subscribed to our mailing list. See the Contests page on our site for rules and regulations
1. SAMANTHA’S TAP ROOM & WOOD GRILL Dine on wood-fired food at Samantha’s with a $25 gift card. It is the only Arkansas restaurant to have all beer and wine offerings available on tap. CODEWORD: TAPROOM
2. HOT SPRINGS DOCUMENTARY FILM FESTIVAL Win two all-access passes to films and parties in Hot Springs. You’ll be there for opening night, VIP-only events and more. Each pass is worth $250. CODEWORD: FILM
3. LOBLOLLY CREAMERY Try some locally made ice cream at Loblolly Creamery with a $50 gift card. Stop by their new Scoop Shop in SOMA for an ice cream flight or to pick up a pint of your favorite flavor. CODEWORD: CREAMERY
winners Congratulations to our August giveaway winners:
Mrs. Teresa Craig, winner of a $25 gift card to Samantha’s Tap Room & Wood Grill, Little Rock Mrs. Phyllis Auletta, winner of a $50 gift card to All Aboard Restaurant & Grill, Little Rock Mrs. Amy Ring, winner of a $50 gift card to Loblolly Creamery, Little Rock Congratulations to the winner and runners-up of our photo contest:
Shannon Shepard won a $100 gift card to Eggshells Kitchen Co. for the photo of her daughter on the left. Runner-up Libby Doss Lloyd submitted the photo of her son in the middle. Lindsay Bourns Coon submitted the photo of her daughters on the right.
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ALL-STAR SPECTACULAR LITTLE ROCK
Dance the night away at Little Rock’s Dancing with Our Stars 10th Anniversary Spectacular. The fundraising event benefits the Arkansas chapter of the Children’s Tumor Foundation. Alumni stars and new stars will compete for this year’s Mirror Ball trophy. Sponsorship prices vary but individual tickets are $200. Voting is currently open at www.ctfarkansas.org
HOT AIR BALLOON RACE HARRISON
The Harrison Regional Chamber of Commerce will host the 21st Annual Arkansas Hot Air Balloon State Championship and festival in the magnificent Ozark Mountains. Events throughout the weekend include: a Hare and Hound race, a balloon glow activity on Sunday evening and other balloon race competitions throughout that day. All balloon events are subject to weather conditions.
JANET JACKSON: STATE OF THE WORLD TOUR NORTH LITTLE ROCK
Janet Jackson will begin her eighth concert tour on Sept. 7. Her tour begins in Louisiana and then Jackson will quickly make her way to North Little Rock’s Verizon Arena. The multi-talented singer, songwriter, dancer and actress will perform songs from her most recent album, “Unbreakable.” The concert will begin at 8 p.m. www.janetjackson.com/tour
ARKANSAS PEACE FEST LITTLE ROCK
The Arkansas Peace Fest features several nonprofit organizations and gives them the opportunity to discuss with the public how they promote peace and justice in Arkansas. Some of the activities include speeches promoting peace, local musicians, face painting and art. The event will also coincide with the 60th Anniversary of the Integration of Central High.
Photo credit: Eric Levin 12 . SEPTEMBER 2017
MURPHY ARTS DISTRICT EL DORADO
El Dorado is in the process of building an innovative arts and entertainment district aptly named the “Murphy Arts District.” The grand opening on September 27 will feature popular musicians such as Lyle Lovett, Robert Earl Keen, John Hiatt, Train, ZZ Top, Ludacris, Brad Paisley, Migos, Smokey Robinson and more. The dynamic downtown area will include new restaurants, music and activities for locals and visitors. www.eldomad.com
ZAC BROWN BAND ROGERS
Do you like your chicken fried? Enjoy some American country music at 7 p.m. at the Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion in Rogers. Zac Brown Band is currently on the road for their “Welcome Home” tour. Darrell Scott is the band’s special guest for the evening. Enjoy a cold beer, breezy weather, country music and the beautiful outdoor AMP in Rogers. Tickets start at $39.50.
RUNWAY FOR THE CURE LITTLE ROCK
Breast cancer survivors are preparing for the 15th Annual Runway for the Cure, a Susan G. Komen Arkansas fundraising event. Runway for the Cure is a statewide event for breast cancer support and awareness. The luncheon and style show will be held at Clear Channel Metroplex.
P. ALLEN SMITH FALL POULTRY WORKSHOP LITTLE ROCK
If you raise chickens and are interested in learning more about having a healthy flock, or if you’re a newbie just looking to add some chickens to your backyard, the poultry workshop is for you. See live demonstrations and get advice from poultry experts. Lunch will be provided and individuals can experience a guided tour of “Poultryville.” The workshop will take place from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Moss Mountain Farm. Tickets are $96.75.
CENTRAL HIGH SCHOOL INTEGRATION CELEBRATION
Little Rock Central High School is celebrating 60 years of integration. Events include a panel discussion with the children of the Little Rock Nine, a sculpture dedication, a commemoration ceremony and more. These activities will examine the influence of the 19571958 school year and how the school has changed over the past six decades. www.centralhigh60th.org
ARKANSAS SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA LITTLE ROCK
September 30 Conductor Philip Mann and the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra will open their 2017-2018 season with music from “Go” by Adam Schoenerg, “Concerto for Violin in D Minor” by Jean Sibelius and “Symphony No. 1 in C Minor” by Johannes Brahms. The show starts at 7:30 p.m. at Robinson Center. A few other highlights from this year’s performances include: “The Magical Music of Harry Potter,” Prokofiev’s “Romeo and Juliet” and “Raiders of the Lost Ark: In Concert.” www.arkansassymphony.org
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THE MANY FACETS OF MARK ZWEIG SUCCESSFUL ENTREPRENEUR BRINGS EXPERTISE, STYLE AND CHARM TO FAYETTEVILLE BY ANTOINETTE GRAJEDA PHOTOGRAPHY BY MEREDITH MASHBURN
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orget a room with a view. Mark Zweig’s entire home offers a spectacular vista of Fayetteville’s western skyline. Sitting atop a hill in the Summit Place subdivision, the home overlooks bustling North College Avenue. The three-story home’s exterior is a combination of gray lap siding, white trim and cedar shingles that blend into the wooded neighborhood. “My style is really influenced by trying to build quality buildings that look like they should be part of the landscape,” Zweig says. “I don’t like buildings that jump out and say, ‘Look at me. I’m completely different than everything else. I’m out of context.’” The entrepreneur has been renovating and building houses in the Fayetteville area for more than a decade. In 2005, the Northwest Arkansas transplant created Mark Zweig, Inc., a company that creates “unique, large public art projects in the form of residential architecture.” This particular piece of art serves as Zweig’s personal abode and includes an exterior clock, which can easily be seen by passersby. “It just sort of identifies the house of being something unique,” he says. The designer is fascinated by time and likes the look of clocks on a building. “I like the movement; I like the light,” he says. “I just think it’s cool.” Zweig also enjoys signs, so one that reads “Clock House” in gold lettering has been installed above his garage door. This home was originally built as a spec house, but Zweig moved in following his divorce. Although he hadn’t intended to live here, he enjoys the place because it’s one he designed from the ground up. “Every house I build, I think who’s likely to live there and would I want to live there,” he says. “If I wouldn’t want to live there, I probably don’t do it.” Zweig describes his home as a gable-entry townhouse whose design was inspired by Victorian era workers’ cottages. The interior design uses a warm, offwhite color scheme with white trim that the owner says reminds him of vanilla ice cream. Zweig says while it may seem unimaginative, it makes decorating easy. “That makes it really nice then to just throw your art and your rugs and furniture in here and anything looks good in this kind of environment,” he says. Colorful paintings hanging on the walls really pop against the white background. Some of the art pieces are his own, including an illustration of a hot dog that hangs over the kitchen sink between rows of white cabinets. A collection of cookie jars is displayed atop his cherry butcher-block countertops. Brightly colored mugs and dinnerware are stacked on white shelves above the jars. “The open shelving is something I really like because it gives me a place to put the sort of weird junk that I tend to accumulate,” Zweig says. More shelving along the entry stairway provides a convenient location for framed family photos. Much 16 . SEPTEMBER 2017
Zweig’s home includes open shelving and wall space: two spots he can display hats, wall art and a collection of cookie jars.
Zweig enjoys the open space and windows throughout the home, which allows a lot of natural light to shine inside.
Michael used light-colored accessories to help balance out the dark wood in the home. Photo by Janet Warlick
Mark Zweig is a firm believer in hard work. He is the founder and chairman of Zweig Group, which recently collaborated with him to release Zweig American Ale — a beer that defines his strong entrepreneurial character.
of the flooring throughout the house is composed of blue spruce. The wood is full of knots and lacks tongue and groove edges, which Zweig says adds character. “That was one of the things that kind of gave it that farmhouse feel and makes it feel like an old house,” he says. Another attribute creating a sense of maturity is the addition of transom windows over doorways. Coupled with a plethora of others windows throughout
the house, Zweig has designed a dwelling space with lots of natural light, which he likes. Overall, Zweig feels like he has created a quiet, pleasant environment in which to live. “It’s great; I love living here,” he says.
PUTTING DOWN ROOTS Living in different regions of the country has undoubtedly influenced
Mark Zweig’s style. After growing up in Kirkwood, Missouri, he earned a Bachelor of Science in Organizational Behavior and an MBA from Southern Illinois University Carbondale. He went on to reside in St. Louis, Memphis, Boston and the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Perhaps the most significant place to impact his designs, Zweig says, was Boston, where he lived for more than 16 years. He says that area has a lot of great historic buildings and some of his favorite architecture in the country is there. While living in Massachusetts, Zweig was given the opportunity to teach entrepreneurship at the Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas. “Entrepreneurship’s a great subject,” he says. “You can really change people’s lives for the better.” Initially, Zweig flew from Boston to Fayetteville once a week to teach his course. Zweig’s ex-wife had family in the area, so in 2004 he sold his business and they moved from New England to Northwest Arkansas. The people, climate, topography and entrepreneurial spirit of the region are all reasons Zweig has stayed and made Fayetteville his adopted home. He says he’s found the people here to be very nice AYMAG.COM . 17
The open all-white shelves are displayed on top of the all-white walls and cabinets. Zweig added pops of color with his many bowls, dishes and cookie jars displayed.
and welcoming of outsiders, more so than other places he’s lived. Zweig says it’s very easy to have a feeling of community here. “It’s a very, very friendly place really, very easy to feel at home in,” he says. “So that’s why I’m here.”
BRANCHING OUT Mark Zweig sees himself as a creative person and an entrepreneur. The region has been a good fit for him because it’s allowed his entrepreneurial spirit to flourish. In addition to creating Mark Zweig, Inc., he is also the founder of Zweig Group, a management consulting, publishing, media and training firm dedicated to serving the architecture, engineering, and environmental consulting industries. The latter company was formerly known as ZweigWhite, the business he sold in 2004. He came back to the company in 2010 and renamed it Zweig Group in 2014. Both of Zweig’s current businesses have been part of the Inc. 5000 List of America’s Fastest-Growing Companies. Being the owner of two businesses means he has lots of experience to draw from when teaching his students. Zweig says a common misconception for entrepreneurs is that you have to do something completely new. “You do have to do something better than other people are doing it or differently if you want to be successful,” he says. “You don’t have to do something that’s never been done before. 18 . SEPTEMBER 2017
That belief keeps a lot of people out of entrepreneurship.” He says you can work in an industry where there’s demand, you just have to do something a little bit better than your competitors. Zweig credits dedication to well-constructed, energyefficient homes to his company’s success during the recession. He said they did well because they weren’t building the same thing as everyone else. “If demand falls off, that’s the last thing you want to be is one of many,” he says. “When demand falls off you want to have something that nobody else has.” Zweig sees his role in the community as contributing to its improvement. Part of that includes teaching students skills that will be useful regardless of whether or not they start their own business. “The other part of my role is just trying to create good buildings that people can live in, work in, that enhance the overall environment and hopefully set a standard that other people will then use to elevate their standards or ideas about what we can do,” he says. Over the last decade, Zweig and his projects have woven themselves into the fabric of Fayetteville. He says he’s always felt welcomed and appreciated here and has no intention of leaving. “I’ve been living here now for 13 or 14 years and it definitely feels like home,” he says. “I don’t think I’ll ever live anywhere else at this point in my life.”
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A blown glass chandelier designed by James Hayes hangs over a hammered metal table in the breakfast nook. Photo by Janet Warlick 20 . SEPTEMBER 2017
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P. ALLEN SMITH
THE EASY WAY TO START A VEGETABLE GARDEN
BY P. ALLEN SMITH
P. Allen Smith believes September is a wonderful month to build raised beds for cool-season vegetables.
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hen you come to Moss Mountain Farm, you’ll notice that the vegetable garden is a series of raised beds. Spread over an acre, I arranged the garden this way to make planting, harvesting and maintaining easier. What’s great about this design concept is that it can be applied to small and large spaces. September is a great month for building framed beds to grow coolseason vegetables like lettuce and broccoli. Raised, or framed, beds are ideal for vegetables because they allow you to control the soil quality, don’t require much digging and make it easy to care for plants. Here are five tips to get you started:
1. BUILD THE FRAMES. Size your beds so that you can reach the center easily without stepping into the bed. A soil depth of 10 to 20 inches will grow most garden plants. And there are plenty of choices in material for framing: cement blocks or stones offer longevity; moisture-resistant wood (sustainably harvested cypress or cedar and plain pine boards) is long-lasting.
2. GOOD SOIL IS THE SECRET TO SUCCESS. One of the biggest mistakes people make in the garden is planting in poor soil. Healthy soil equals happy, productive and lowmaintenance plants. Fill your bed with a blend of half garden soil, one-quarter well-rotted manure and one-quarter compost or humus.
3. MAKE WATERING EASY. Vegetable gardens need constant moisture to be productive. This task can quickly become a chore if you don’t set up a system that’s easy to manage. There are many DIY drip irrigation options that are super simple to install. Add a timer to the faucet and you take out all the work of watering. Remember to mulch, mulch, mulch to conserve moisture once your soil has sufficiently warmed.
4. INSECTS AND WILDLIFE LOVE VEGETABLES TOO. Simple chicken-wire covers over hoops can keep bunnies from nibbling on your lettuce and the neighbor’s cat from using your
These are some raised beds distributed through a garden path for various vegetables.
garden as a litter box. Add an insect row cover to keep insects and moths from laying eggs that hatch into hornworms, cabbage worms and squash bugs.
5. EXTEND THE GROWING SEASON. Small “hoop-houses” made with concrete reinforcing wire or PVC hoops and covered with a sheet of plastic or a frost blanket will warm beds in early spring, protect plants from late-spring frosts and allow a final late harvest after the first fall frost.
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MURPHY ARTS DISTRICT: ARKANSASâ€™NEXT BIG THING EL DORADO UTILIZES ARTS, CULTURE AND EDUCATION TO FIX A DIFFICULT ECONOMIC SITUATION. BY MELANIE KRAMER PHOTOGRAPHY BY JAMISON MOSLEY
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n a small town with a population of a little more than 18,000, it might seem like a lot to put $100 million into upgrading the downtown area. In simple terms, that might appear to be what’s happening in deep southern Arkansas. In reality, the investment is part of a long-term economic plan to change the entire culture of El Dorado in an effort to completely revitalize the town. THE EVOLUTION OF EL DORADO
The town of El Dorado hit its peak in 1921 when Dr. Samuel Busey’s oil well erupted. The rural town was unprepared for the unexpected boom and population flood. In a matter of weeks, the population grew from 3,800 to more than 20,000. Within a span of 18 months, the population boomed to nearly 100,000. The small town was never the same. Oil money helped build downtown El Dorado and Murphy Oil Corp., which is now broken up into three properties: Murphy Oil Corp., Murphy USA and Deltic Timber Corp.
The Rialto Theater was built in the 1920s. It’s being restored and will be used for live music events, touring Broadway shows and feature films and will be the new home of the South Arkansas Symphony Orchestra.
In the 96 years since the town originally struck oil, El Dorado has changed dramatically. The oil boom stagnated, then suffered during the Depression and saw upheaval during the war years. After all this time, the three big corporations are still headquartered in the town, but many other companies haven’t been as fortunate. “We started seeing a general decline and economic malaise in south Arkansas and we lost a lot of jobs,” says Madison Murphy, son of Murphy Oil Founder Charles Murphy, president of the Murphy Foundation and Murphy Oil Corp., board member. The Murphy Foundation is a private family foundation that focuses on the education, health and wellbeing of the citizens of south Arkansas. In 2007, Cooper-Standard Automotive shut its doors and left around 400 people without jobs. Prescolite, a lighting manufacturer, closed, leaving behind 170 unemployed workers. The Texas-based Pilgrim’s Pride El Dorado plant closed in 2009, taking with it 3,000 jobs and delivering a big economic blow to the town. Murphy says people would often ask his father why he stayed in El Dorado. “His offthe-cuff response was, ‘This is where our enterprises all started and we never had the good sense to leave.’” He might have been joking, but it was home for Charles Murphy and it’s still home for Madison Murphy. “It's a pretty fabulous place to live,” he says. Despite general decline, efforts to boost business, education and tourism have been in the works for years. Richard Mason returned home to south Arkansas in 1974 after living in south Texas and Libya for 12 years. Richard, a geologist and successful oil and gas entrepreneur, along with his wife, Vertis, quickly got to work restoring and developing downtown El Dorado
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Inside the Music Hall: The Griffin Cabaret and Music Hall will seat 1,800 to 2,400 patrons when completed. The Amphitheater will hold up to 1,000 people and has reserved seating for 1,200. The great lawn will function as a park for public use.
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properties. At the time of their first purchase, building occupancy in the area was at 15 percent. The pair began to buy properties and open businesses. Their vigilant efforts paid off, and in 2009 El Dorado was awarded the top Main Street award for cities with populations under 50,000 nationwide. MAKING STEPS FOR THE FUTURE A few years earlier, in 2007, Murphy Oil embarked on an innovative education effort with the El Dorado school district. “A gentleman named Knox White walked into my office with an article about Kalamazoo, Michigan, and something called the ‘Kalamazoo Promise,’” says Murphy. The Kalamazoo Promise is a pledge by a group of anonymous donors who agree to pay up to 100 percent of tuition to any of Michigan's state colleges or universities for graduates of Kalamazoo’s public high school. White’s idea was to reinterpret the concept for El Dorado’s public schools. “A lot of people went to work on the idea, and ultimately Murphy’s management recommended the Promise and Murphy’s Board accepted it,” says Murphy. “That was phenomenal.” Murphy Oil pledged $50 million in scholarships to El Dorado High School graduates. Each scholarship helps with tuition and mandatory fees that can be used at any accredited two- or four-year public or private educational institution in the U.S. The maximum amount payable is equal to the highest annual in-state tuition rate at an Arkansas public university. El Dorado Promise scholarships have been awarded to more than 2,000 students who have attended 129 different colleges and universities in 29 states from 2007 to 2016. Before officials made the 2007 announcement to high school students, Murphy Oil Corp. kept the Promise a secret, says Richard Mason. “There were kids who never thought they'd have a chance to go to college and some of them just broke down and cried,” he says. “That was a big deal for El Dorado and it's already paying dividends. People are now coming back to El Dorado with college degrees as part of the El Dorado
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Pavilion space for a weekly farmers market surrounds the Amphitheater.
The original Griffin Auto Building, which has been remodeled into a music hall and restaurant, was built in 1928.
Promise. Those folks had the vision of education being a key. And they put their money where their mouth is.” “Soon after that, the city passed an economic development tax, then voters passed a millage and built a world-class high school,” says Murphy. “A number of positive things started happening. I can't prove a negative of what would have happened or might not have happened had the Promise not occurred. I view it as somewhat of a catalyst,” he says. In 2010, the City of El Dorado and a non-profit group called 50 for the Future commissioned a study by Seattle-based destination developer Roger Brooks. Brooks and his team developed a new economic plan for El Dorado after an intensive study of the city's demographics, challenges, strengths and opportunities. Brooks’ plan, which was primarily based on a case study of Ashland, Oregon and its renowned Oregon Shakespeare Festival, laid out actions to turn El Dorado into a cultural hub for music and art. Brooks argued that El Dorado had better demographics than Ashland, says Mason. “In other words, if you draw a circle around El Dorado, there are more people within a 120-mile radius who can get to El Dorado than Ashland, Oregon, which surprised me,” he says. It didn’t take long for Brooks to convince the powers that be that the project was their best viable option for an economic uptick. A MAD RUSH Native son Austin Barrow was the first to be brought onto the long-term project. Barrow, a drama and theater professor, was running the fine arts division at a private college in Georgia. “When I was approached about being able to move back to El Dorado and being able to utilize arts and culture as a method to have some sort of economic benefit for the city, it was kind of hard to say no,” says Barrow. “When I left El Dorado as a kid I never thought I would ever have the opportunity to go back. I had two theater degrees, so what am I going to do in Arkansas for a living? This was a unique opportunity.” AYMAG.COM . 31
From left to right, the Muphy Arts District team includes Pamela Griffin, Dan Smith, Austin Barrow, Mark Givens and Bob Tarren.
The next person brought onto the project was Terry Stewart, former CEO and president of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and former president of Marvel Comics. Within a year, they had raised $32 million. Initial contributions came from the City of El Dorado, the state of Arkansas and the Murphy Foundation, which contributed $5 million. The primary goal was to raise the money needed to complete the planned two-phase project. The ultimate financial goal is $100 million. Phase one, which will be unveiled to thousands during the Murphy Arts District (MAD) grand opening on September 27, took $65 million to complete. It includes an 8,000-capacity outdoor amphitheater, the Griffin Restaurant (El Dorado’s first fine-dining farm-to-table establishment), the Griffin Music Hall and Cabaret and a 2,000-seat music hall with a four-story stage house. The restaurant and music hall are both housed in the historic Griffin Auto Building. The five-day celebration will bring in top acts such as Train, ZZ Top, Lyle Lovett, Brad Paisley and Smokey Robinson. After the inaugural MAD opening work is set to begin on the 2-acre children’s playscape. “It will be one of the largest play areas for kids in the state,” says Barrow, who is excited for his own children to spend time at the playscape. Phase two includes the restoration of a nearby 1930s-era building into an art gallery that will feature a 10,000-squarefoot gallery for national and international exhibits. According to Barrow, the Walton Family Foundation has been instrumental in planning the space and there is a possibility that El Dorado could become the first place outside of Bentonville to feature works from the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. “They [the Walton Family Foundation] were also an early donor,” says Barrow. The crown jewel of the second phase is the reopening of the Rialto Theater, which was built in the 1920s. El Dorado Festivals and Events purchased the Rialto from Richard and Vertis Mason, 32 . SEPTEMBER 2017
who had done some previous renovations. At one point, it was a working movie theater and at its closing the lobby was used as a bar called Marilyn’s at the Rialto — an ode to Marilyn Monroe. “The night before my wife and I got married, we sat in the balcony of the Rialto and talked about what we were going to do when we were married,” says Mason. The building and the theater mean a lot to the Masons. The structure is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. “We’re excited about the $20 million restoration.” Starting on September 27, MAD executives are hoping around 20,000 people will pour into the small town to enjoy the celebration, big musical acts and irresistible new food. There are a few issues that have not quite been worked out yet; they could turn into real issues if there is a large influx of people. There aren’t many hotels in El Dorado, and there are none in the downtown area. Parking could also be a problem. Many nearby colleges will be bringing students on buses, and the county sports complex and other areas will be supplying their parking lots for use. Barrow feels that MAD has most of the parking figured out and he hopes local residents will use their entrepreneurial spirit to supply the rest. He’s optimistic for accommodations as well. Hotels in nearby towns are expected to be full. The goal is that next year new hotels will come to El Dorado to fill the need. Madison Murphy agrees with Barrow. “This kind of investment will spark private capital to be deployed there, like hotels, restaurants and shops, and hopefully that'll also improve the quality of life and it will become a very appealing business environment,” says Murphy. “I personally think that El Dorado Festivals and Events, together with all these other initiatives, like the Promise and the quality of a quintessentially charming downtown, makes El Dorado an extraordinarily attractive place to live, work and play.”
SAVVY SHIELDS SAYS GOODBYE ARKANSASâ€™ MISS AMERICA REFLECTS ON A YEAR OF TRAVEL AND SERVICE AS SHE PREPARES TO PASS ON HER CROWN. BY TRACY COURAGE PHOTOGRAPHY COURTESY OF THE MISS AMERICA ORGANIZATION
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rkansas native Savvy Shields’ reign as Miss America began last September in Atlantic City, New Jersey, and that is where it will end this month when the 22-year-old Fayetteville native returns to crown the next lucky lady. She’s clearly come full circle after a yearlong whirlwind tour that has taken her to just about every state. “I’m in a different state every 48 hours,” she says. “The countrycrisscrossing has not stopped since day one. It’s crazy.” But clearly she loves every minute of it. And as the end of this adventure nears, she has been reflecting on and savoring the last few weeks of her reign. “It’s a constant state of nostalgia,” she says. “Every time is my last now. It’s very bittersweet, but I’m forever grateful for this. There are so many opportunities I’ve had. It’s been one of the craziest and greatest years of my life.” Shields set her sights on the crown at age 13, after winning the Miss Arkansas’ Outstanding Teen pageant in 2009. During her reign, she spent time with 2009 Miss Arkansas Sarah Slocum. “I spent time watching her, and I became inspired by her role and how she used her title to influence the entire state,” she recalls.
ON BEING MISS AMERICA: “IT DOESN’T CHANGE YOUR PATH. IT JUST WIDENS IT.” - SAVVY SHIELDS Shields, competing as Miss Heart of the Ozarks, won the 2016 Miss Arkansas pageant and then advanced to the nationals where she won over judges with her jazz dance routine to “They Just Keep Moving the Line” from the American drama series “Smash.” Since then, she has been traveling, representing the Miss America Organization, and promoting her personal platform: “Eat Better, Live Better.” She has visited thousands of schoolchildren, talked to rice farmers and appeared at American Heart Association events and numerous other events, always encouraging the people she meets to embrace a healthy lifestyle. “I’m trying to reinforce the connection between what we’re eating and how we’re feeling,” she says. “Over time, it’s evolved into more of a quality-of-life issue rather than a weight-loss issue. It’s not just about working out, but making exercise a lifetime habit.” On May 1, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson appointed Shields honorary chair and statewide ambassador of Healthy Active Arkansas, an initiative that aims to help Arkansans lead healthier lifestyles and to increase the number of people at a healthy weight. It’s a message that is important to Shields. “I grew up in a healthy home,” she says. In college, she had to decide to make her health a priority; her family couldn’t do it for her. 34 . SEPTEMBER 2017
Much of Shields' time was spent supporting the men and women in our military.
Even Shields admits that healthy eating and regular exercise is a struggle that takes work and dedication — particularly when she’s on the road. She avoids fast food, sticks to whole foods and travels with her yoga mat so she can exercise in her hotel room. (She doesn’t have a personal trainer on the road.) “It took me a couple of months to figure it out,” she says. “It’s about daily decisions and smart choices because it all adds up. I go meal by meal rather than month by month.” Much of Shields’ work this year has been as a National Goodwill Ambassador for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals — the official charity of the Miss America Organization. She has worked to raise awareness and funds for children’s hospitals — and to bring smiles to the children she visits, including children at Arkansas Children’s Hospital. The Miss America Organization has raised more than $16 million, benefiting the more than 170 hospitals that are part of the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals across North America, according to the organization. “It’s been one of the greatest parts of my job,” Shields says. “I try to bring a little light and love for that moment and to take their minds off the hospital and their sickness.” So what’s next for Shields? “Hibernation!” she says with a laugh. After her reign officially ends September 10, she’ll get some downtime, and in January 2018, she’ll return to the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville
Shields in red at the 2017 Billboard Music Awards.
to complete her senior year of college. Shields, who has been painting and drawing since she was a child, is majoring in art with a minor in business and hopes to one day teach or work in a museum. What she’s learned the past year is this: “Don't let your insecurities be your limitations. It’s important to remind ourselves that we may have insecurities, but they are not limitations on what we can accomplish.” AYMAG.COM . 35
NLR’S REGIONAL INNOVATION HUB, A SHOWPIECE FOR INVENTORS AND ENTREPRENEURS BY DWAIN HEBDA PHOTOGRAPHY BY JAMISON MOSLEY
ouring the Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub in North Little Rock’s Argenta District is very much like wandering through an oversized toy box. In one corner rests a three-foot-wide Millennium Falcon scale model, constructed entirely of cardboard. In another, a row of 3-D printers stands in formation. Down a hallway, a large room sports row upon row of laptops for the day’s summer campers — grade-schoolers creating video game environments. Down that hallway, they’re wrapping up pottery class, around the corner from the T-shirt screen-printing lab. By the time you encounter life-sized dinosaur models and random “Doctor Who” props you don’t think a thing about it. But just as you start to feel like the shrunken Alice lost in Wonderland, you see gaggles of adult entrepreneurs touring the co-working space, sketching out a marketing plan at the coffee bar or taking in a vector workshop. Suddenly you realize that for all the toys it may have at its disposal, the Innovation Hub truly means business. “We make a habit of iteration,” says Executive Director Joel Gordon. “What we started out as is not what we are now. I always tell people we sort of keep our knees bent so we can move 36 . SEPTEMBER 2017
in different directions.” It’s not accurate to say Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub sprouted from any one seed; rather, it’s grafted from a number of different ideas all rooted in the notion of providing the community a place to design, create and refine, be it a new business app or a confetti-and-flame-spitting unicorn. The Hub’s 22,000-square-foot building, christened last year, already housed an art component when the maker elements and the entrepreneurial spaces (then called Silver Mine) moved in. State Rep. Warwick Sabin, former executive director for the hub, summed up the concept of the place as both a springboard and a magnet for native Arkansas talent. “It can be a powerful thing for Arkansas to develop our talent locally and to maintain our talent,” he said at the organization’s first open house following a $2.5 million renovation. “There really isn't any business or kind of idea that we cannot accommodate in some way.” The Hub’s in-house programs and services speak to this by appealing to the broadest possible range of ages and interests. “I hate the phrase ‘ecosystem’ because I think it's completely overused, but I'm going to use it in this case,” Gordon said. “Our ecosystem — really the whole idea — is to create this bridge
3-D printing and laser cutting at the hub allows a digital image to transform into a physical object.
from young learners all the way up through careers.” In that lies the Innovation’s core strategy, to transform the fascinations of youth into the passion of a lifelong career by providing the tools and technology for every stage along that continuum, a three-step process Gordon coined as “inspiration, information and application,” of which application is often the derailer. “I'm a kid of the ‘70s and ‘80s,” he said. “The ecosystem we used was museums and libraries and community spaces. Well, we lost community spaces somewhere along the line. Then in the last couple decades we've started to lose libraries, which are really in the midst of reinventing themselves right now into becoming media centers.” He continued, “So, where do you go to apply your passion and your knowledge and do something? We really feel like what we're doing on all levels is trying to be the resource center of the 21st century. It's a new model.” The spark of discovery can occur at any spot along the developmental continuum, from a youngster creating her first 3-D creation to an adult achieving proof of concept with a business product. Gordon says such discoveries are often accelerated communally, a decidedly counter-cultural concept in a society that increasingly pushes people into their own corners. “Part of the problem is that we silo ourselves and we sort of say, ‘I'm an entrepreneur,’ ‘I'm an artist’ or ‘I'm a maker-engineer.’ Well, we're all makers,” Gordon said. “The earliest stage of the idea is the ‘a-ha moment’ and that happens lots here.” Gordon continued, “We help people with that phase and we help to introduce them to the right people to take them to the next phase. There's so much knowledge here that if you have an idea and you want to make that idea real, there's many channels that you can take to do that.” The Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub continues to evolve with the growth of its members, each of whom pays $70 per month as an individual, $120 as a three-person team or $50 for senior or after-school memberships. Classes and workshops are priced individually and are either free or offered at substantial discounts to members. There’s also an incubation component called the Delta I-Fund, an early stage, proof-ofconcept fund formed to capitalize and train entrepreneurs in the eight-state Delta region. “We have a really incredible entrepreneurial community in Arkansas that is really focused on different stages of that business acceleration and the incubation of businesses,” Gordon said. “But what I think our niche really is, our real success, is we have people who come to us and they have really solid ideas and they want to build it. It's one thing to have a great idea, but it's just that, an idea, until it becomes a thing.” AYMAG.COM . 37
E L B A T C DELE SLICES OF THE L NATURA STATE
BY KAT ROBINSON PHOTO BY JAMISON MOSLEY Pull up a chair and enjoy a slice of the Quattro Staggioni from ZAZA Salad + Pizza. Photo by Jamison Mosley
38 . SEPTEMBER 2017
rkansas, unlike other destinations around the world, is not known for a singular style of pizza. From corner to corner of this state, you’ll find all sorts of variations on the classic flat tomato and cheese pie — from the thinnest of crusts at places like Iriana’s to the thick, biscuit crusts of Rod’s Pizza Cellar. The sauces vary, too — thin or chunky, spicy or mild.
Here are eight slices you need to try across the state. Photo by Jamison Mosley
THE UNCLE ROMAN
STEFFEY'S PIZZA .
THE PLOW THE GARDEN
Double-crusted and dusted with cornmeal, this thick and heavy beast is cooked in a cast-iron skillet, and it’s enough for a family and filled with your choice of items. The Steffey family moved here from Pennsylvania, where their pizzeria had already earned renown.
. The Sweep The Floor (Iriana's meat version of a supreme) is better known, but the combination of zucchini, peppers, onions, black olives, mushrooms and tomatoes atop a perfectly-spiced cheese blend on a super-thin crust satisfies. A slice at lunch is a phenomenally good deal.
627 W. Main Street • Lavaca • steffeyspizza.com
201 East Markham • Little Rock • irianaspizza.com
TOMMY'S FAMOUS… A PIZZERIA .
Tommy Miller moved to the Ozarks after a career that included being a bodyguard for Elvis Presley. His family still makes the irresistible pizzas on Detroit-style crusts with a hybrid smooth Chicago sauce. This particular pizza weighs 5 pounds and comes topped with ham, sausage, pepperoni, bell peppers, mushrooms, pepperoncini peppers and both green and black olives.
THE ARTIE, STUFFY STYLE
. While The Underdog has received national praise, this artichoke, mushroom and tomato pizza has one over on it — it may be the best “next day” pizza in the state. Get it as a stuffy (double crust) with pink sauce. You are very welcome. Little Rock (3 locations) and Fayetteville damgoodepies.com
Carpenter Road at West Main • Mountain View tommysfamous.com AYMAG.COM . 39
OVEN AND TAP
O&T’s woodfired oven burns hot enough to fry an egg — directly atop your cracker-crisp pizza. This particular pizza, which is topped with arugula and a fresh farm egg, will have you thinking twice about the marvelous idea of breakfast for dinner. 215 South Main • Bentonville • ovenandtap.com
Photo by Meredith Mashburn
Photo by David Yerby
THE FRANKIE'S CLASSIC MARGHERITA at
DELUCA'S PIZZERIA NAPOLETANA .
Fresh basil and a bright sauce against smooth mozzarella on that thin, crispy hand-thrown crust make for a remarkable pizza experience. Call ahead and reserve your dough — DeLuca’s runs out every day they’re open. 407 Park Avenue • Hot Springs • facebook.com/ DeLucasPizzeriaNapoletana
THE FLOWERING PEPPERONI
THE QUATTRO STAGIONI (4 SEASONS) at
. A full day's advance notice is required for this pie, where pepperoni and mushrooms lie under the cheese, which is then topped with “tulips” made from five-cheese balls stuffed into pepperonis, which are then stuffed into sautéed mushrooms. This pie came in second in the world at the World Pizza Championships, and for good reason.
. Loaded with Kalamata olives, artichoke hearts, prosciutto and roasted mushrooms served up either in their proper seasonal quadrants or mixed together for maximum effect, this inspired classic, which is fired in an 800-degree oven, is best shared with a good friend.
ZAZA SALAD + PIZZA
Little Rock and Conway • zazapizzaandsalad.com 109 South School Street • Gassville • nimaspizza.com 40 . SEPTEMBER 2017
Go to aymag.com for more on the delectable pizzas of the Natural State.
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OPENING THE VAULT:
TIMELESS FINE DINING COMING MELANIE KRAMER AND MAGGIE MCNEARY TO HOT SPRINGS BY
The old bank vault inside the restaurant has been converted into a private dining area.
The Vault restaurant at 723 Central Avenue in Hot Springs is set to open this fall. Built in 1909, the building was home to First Federal Bank and then Citizens Bank.
he stone building nestled in a corner of downtown Hot Springs’ Central Avenue is fairly unassuming. With its gray archways and wrought iron door there’s not a lot to make its traditional facade stand out. Unknown to many outside the Hot Springs area, the building constructed in 1909 was home to First Federal Bank and then Citizens Bank. Thanks to a local team of visionaries, the Vault on its way to becoming the new hot restaurant in Hot Springs. Co-owners Jason Taylor and Dr. Daron Praetzel knew they wanted something unique, but quintessentially Hot Springs. 723 Central is one of the few buildings in Arkansas that features “Tiffany brick.” “It has a baked-on finish – it’s a shiny style of brick,” says Taylor. The official restaurant area of the building will be located on the lower level (basement area) and first floor. The lower level is a large prep kitchen for the main kitchen and 44 . SEPTEMBER 2017
restaurant, which is housed on the first floor. The heart of the restaurant will be the bank vault. “The building is home to one of the oldest bank vaults in Arkansas,” according to Dr. Praetzel. It’s believed by many locals that this particular bank vault is “the one Al Capone kept his money in,” says Taylor. After bringing on General Manager Randy Womack, formerly of Central Park Fusion, the three knew they had to make the bank vault the centerpiece of the restaurant and a special place for private dining. This was no easy feat considering the original space was only about 9 feet by 9 feet and most of the walls in the entire building are multiple feet thick. “We had to knock a massive hole out of the side of it and open it up,” says Womack. “We didn’t want people to feel claustrophobic, and we needed a clear door there, so guests can see into the hall.” “Now it's got this beautiful opening in the side of the bank vault,” says Womack. Next, they hired local artist Patrick Cunningham to create a mural for the ceiling. “He’s magnificent,” says Womack, who also commissioned Cunningham to do some smaller pieces for the restaurant’s interior. “We will also be featuring some pieces by artist Lisa Wilson, who used to have a gallery here in town with her husband called Art Gone Wild,” says Womack. “she's now internationally collected, and has a gallery in Key West, and is going to be sharing some of her larger works that she commissioned specifically for me.” Chef Mike Easley signed on as culinary lead in April. Easley has been well-known around Little Rock restaurants for years. “He was at Cache, Maddie’s Place and 1620,” says Womack. While the official menu is still a work in progress, Womack said
The Vault team has worked hard to maintain the original integrity of the architecture while adding modern touches.
he’s elated to be working with Easley. “One minute we’re talking about liquid nitrogen, smoking drinks, popcorn and brittle and the next we’re discussing sous vide,” he says. While not yet ready to give away menu items, when pressed Womack hinted that there will be some table-side cooking, melted chocolate and “possibly a little flambe.” Other notable features of the dining area are a wine room, a VIP wine room, and an outdoor dining area featuring a built-in bench that is finished in black granite tile. The trio has worked hard to keep elements of the original bank. They kept the exposed brick walls and have had several of the fixtures refinished for repurposing. The impeccable attention to detail will be seen throughout the restaurant. “From everything down to the salt and pepper shakers,” says Dr. Praetzel. “We want to enhance the downtown for everybody and set a standard that’s competitive with the rest of the country,” he says. “For 40 years this building has sat empty with people trying to revive it,” says Taylor. “Now it’s finally going to happen.” Construction is expected to be completed soon and the group hopes the restaurant will open this fall. AYMAG.COM . 45
Matthew McClure enjoys adding different twists on classic Southern dishes. He enjoys changing things up and being creative with his recipes.
McClure says he has learned a different cultural skill in every kitchen where he has worked.
A TIME FORGOTTEN: CHEF MATTHEW MCCLURE REINVIGORATES SOUTHERN CUISINE WITH A DASH OF NOSTALGIA
hef Matthew McClure is a fan of reinventing traditions. A four-time James Beard Award semifinalist and executive chef at The Hive at 21c Museum Hotel in Bentonville, he is always studying food, searching for ways to alter flavor profiles to put a new twist on a timeless classic. “I hate monotony,” says McClure. “If I had to cook one thing over and over for the rest of my life I’d do something else for a living.”
McClure is the executive chef at The Hive at 21c Museum Hotel in Bentonville. The restaurant offers some funky décor and provides guests with divine entrées and beverages.
ROOTED IN TRADITION McClure was raised in Little Rock by white-collar parents who never forgot their country roots. While they were busy people, they tried hard to cook in the traditions of their parents when they could. “The story of the South is complicated, but I think we can all agree that the food is awesome. That’s where people can meet and talk and grow,” says McClure. “It makes for an easy conversation — a bit of nostalgia. To hear my mom and dad talking about growing up in rural Arkansas and the meals they had — squash and corn and everything else — it’s sort of magical,” he says. This legacy stayed with him. After enrolling as an engineering student at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, McClure realized that path wasn’t for him. An offhand comment by a professor about how he almost attended culinary school gave McClure the spark he needed. Soon, he applied and was accepted at the New England Culinary Institute in Vermont where he received his associate’s degree. He went on to intern in Boston at Troquet, Harvest and No. 9 Park restaurants. TAKING RISKS “To be a kid from Arkansas in a city like Boston, they definitely didn’t make it easy on me,” he says. But McClure admits he wouldn’t change anything about his experiences, good or bad. “Each kitchen I worked in, I learned a different cultural skill set. No. 9 Park had a lot of finesse in its cooking style. It was a beautiful restaurant, very high end. Troque was very technique-driven and used stellar ingredients — and we worked crazy hours,” he says. Troque also taught him to appreciate how repetition in cooking can lead you to the right and wrong way to master flavor and technique. “At Harvest the chef I worked for had that great sense of flavor combinations in his cooking,” he says. "He had a great mind for
Guests can enjoy a lounge and seating area inside the restaurant. This is the perfect spot for large parties to mingle and indulge in fantastic food.
putting unique things together that tasted amazing. In a lot of ways that’s what I draw from when creating dishes for The Hive.” A valuable teaching experience for McClure came from many late-night visits to Boston’s Chinatown. While he never worked in any Asian restaurants, McClure draws inspiration from their creativity with flavors and techniques and borrowed those that worked for his dishes. He credits cooks in the Northwest Arkansas’ Central and South American and Indian immigrant communities for making interesting food that inspires him to take risks. “A lot of what these cultures have in common is the appreciation for heat, and so do I,” he says. “I’m interested in flavor bombs like garlic and chili flake and good amounts of acid so it’s bright. That’s one thing I make sure we [do].” One example of how he incorporates international flavors is the BMF (buttermilk-fried) chicken at the Hive, which incorporates a Japanese spice blend. He also utilizes chili flakes, mustard seeds and onions to cook his collards to create something that’s different and fun, but rooted in tradition. McClure feels that ethnic communities are adding to southern traditions through their cooking. “These dishes aren’t going anywhere, but eventually, these will blend into the foods that are traditional in the South. And that sounds like a fun dinner to go to,” he says. AYMAG.COM . 47
nominations — we have credibility so if there’s something new on the menu or a special, we have the trust of our guests that we know what we are doing. They give us some leeway to be able to do something like fresh sardines or marinated seafood salad. Something we can put a different spin on. We are in a unique situation where we get to sell food that I’m excited about that’s fun and playful and they really enjoy it.” COMMUNITY APPRECIATION
McClure creates diverse dishes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner at The Hive.
THE ARKANSAS “HIVE” McClure found his way back from Boston in 2007 when he worked under Lee Richardson at Ashley’s at the Capital Hotel. A few years later, he connected with 21c Museum Hotels after learning about their plans for a Bentonville location. The company trusted McClure to create a menu that captured local flavor with national appeal. “21c has been incredibly supportive — they want a chefdriven restaurant,” he says. “I’ve earned their trust and they give me ownership of the menu and overall decision making and that works really well. They [still] give me feedback, not wild abandonment. It’s a relationship. That’s the kind of environment I really like to be in.” In the beginning, McClure woke up early to get the best ingredients from the farmer’s market, but eventually he created relationships that have endured so farmers come to him now. In the spring and summer, many ingredients come from Northwest Arkansas, but when winter rolls in, he incorporates more local grains, mushrooms and meats. “[Sourcing locally] is very important to the strategy of being an Arkansas chef and delivering something memorable,” he says. “I love living in this community, and if I can keep the money in my neighborhood, I’m all about it. I don’t want this to be ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ where I buy all my stuff from California and sell it in this venue. I want our farmers to thrive.” McClure cites the pork chop and chicken liver pâté as two of his favorite items on the menu that are popular with patrons. “I feel pretty fortunate to have a fantastic clientele,” he says. “Four-and-a-half years into this with four James Beard 48 . SEPTEMBER 2017
Regarding his success, McClure gives credit where credit is due — to his wife, Jenny Ahlen, who has been incredibly supportive, and to his staff at The Hive. “I think for me to come into a town like Bentonville, where most of the restaurant culture was chain restaurants, and be able to piece together a team of incredibly talented humans — most of whom were already here — that’s so rewarding. I can’t do what I do without a good team. We are open breakfast, lunch and dinner — seven days a week, plus banquets and catering. I need a great team to pull this off. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to hopefully foster young talent and the next generation of chefs for Northwest Arkansas,” he says. Another way he is helping to foster feature future culinary artists is through his work with the Bentonville Chef Alliance, which holds a French James Beard Dinner. This Sunday Supper is one of three in America and they use the funds raised to provide scholarships for local talent. Giving back is one of McClure’s pastimes. He works with the Southern Foodways Alliance out of Ole Miss when he can. Also, he hosts a dinner for the No Kid Hungry organization, which works toward ending childhood hunger in Arkansas. “All the money raised at this dinner stays in Arkansas,” he says. “Governor Hutchinson has been incredibly supportive of these programs. To hear one in four kids in Arkansas struggles with hunger is unacceptable. It’s worse than the national average. I think there is a solution to the problem.” The organization is equally thrilled to have a talented chef advocating for their cause. “Culinary professionals are powerful advocates, acting as the voice of hungry kids,” says Emily Roth, of No Kid Hungry. “In fact, the culinary community has been at the forefront of No Kid Hungry’s work for over 30 years. Across the country chefs act as fundraisers, advocates, connectors and educators — all with the goal of ensuring kids have access to the food they need, every day. When they share their strengths, we are able to go further, faster in the No Kid Hungry ultimate quest of ending childhood hunger in America.” Whether he’s on or off the clock, McClure’s passion for delicious food never waivers. “I want to piece together that Arkansas food story that has been lost due to the busy lives of these modern times,” says McClure. “My cooking tries to replicate one foot in the present and one foot in the past. Obviously, in Bentonville a lot of people from bigger markets are coming here to do business. When they eat at The Hive, I want them to get a true taste of what Arkansas food is. I want them to have an experience here that is soulful, memorable and nostalgic.” Visit: thehivebentonville.com
McClure enjoys establishing creative dishes. His execution and presentation of food is always successful and professional.
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RUNWAY for a
BY KIMBERLY DISHONGH
CELEBRATES issy Jones has supported Komen fundraisers for years. In 2015, she became part of the cause. “I never thought I would be one of those people benefiting from it,” says Jones, founder of the iconic, family-owned jewelry store chain Sissy’s Log Cabin. Sissy’s is a presenting sponsor of this year’s Runway for the Cure, a fashion show held to raise money for the Arkansas affiliate of Susan G. Komen. Jones, who has been in remission since March, will be among the 49 breast cancer survivors who model fashions from local retailers, including Feinsteins, Vesta's, Outlets, Dillard's, Indigo, Steamroller Blues, Kristin Chase, Beyond Cotton 2 and Companions. 50 . SEPTEMBER 2017
The annual luncheon and style show – the brainchild of Vicki Vowell, CEO of Vowell Inc., the parent company of AY Magazine – is set for 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 14, at the Clear Channel Metroplex.
A Special Day for Survivors As a model, Jones will be served lunch and offered a mimosa or a Bloody Mary. Someone from Paul Mitchell will style her hair, she will have her makeup done and be dressed in beautiful clothes, and she will have a chance to bond with other cancer survivors. Breast cancer steals your health, your calm and even your
Breast cancer survivors walk at a previous Runway for the Cure event. The women hold up signs showing the amount of years they have been survivors.
hair. This event aims to empower women who have fought it. As the Komen motto this year says, they are “More Than Pink.” “It just makes you feel really special,” says event chairman Ashlee Stephens, a breast cancer survivor and former Runway model herself. Jones was diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer in 2015 after she noticed swelling under her arm and went in for a biopsy. “It was as bad as you can have and it was in the fourth or fifth stage by then,” she says. “They scheduled the surgery for the next Tuesday, as quick as they could.” Jones’s son, Bill, called the director of the Boston University School of Medicine Cancer Research Center and had a plane waiting to take her there for treatment that very day, but she opted to stay close to home, seeking care from her friend Dr. Omar Atiq at the Arkansas Cancer Institute in Pine Bluff. She took Adriamycin, known as “Red Devil,” and then suffered a bad reaction to, ironically for a jeweler, the platinum in a new drug combination Atiq and his colleagues at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and M.D. Anderson developed for her. “It’s a journey you have to go through and sometimes the valleys get awful dark and awful muddy, but you know you can get out of it if you just keep trying,” she says. “You’ve got to keep a positive attitude through this or you will not make it.”
More Than Pink Amy Stephens, Runway chairman, knows first-hand how difficult the journey can be. She was diagnosed in 2008 with invasive ductal carcinoma, discovering a lump in her breast when her daughter accidentally kneed her getting into bed to read a story.
She was nervous the first time she modeled, battle-weary and self-conscious, her hair still not having grown back. She didn’t know many of the other women and the idea of walking the runway in front of all those people made her anxious. “It was a little nerve-wracking,” she says, “but it was the best experience.” A meet and greet is now held for the models a month or so before the show so they can get to know the other survivors they will be walking with. “I met a girl my first time and she’s one of my favorite people ever,” says Stephens. First-time Runway model Bill Robertson of Bradford is feeling a bit anxious about his debut, even about the meet and greet. “I won’t even be able to take my wife,” says Robertson, the first male breast cancer survivor to model for the event. Robertson felt a lump in his breast in early 2010 but concluded it was nothing to be concerned about. He was working for the National Cotton Council in Memphis then and went on a business trip to China, and after giving a presentation he went back to his room and noticed a dark stain on his shirt. “I thought my pen had leaked but then I realized my pocket was on the other side,” he says. Robertson isn’t sure what he will wear on the runway. In his day job he works with growers through the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Services and he and his wife have a farm with cattle, sheep, poultry, rabbits, pigs, goats and more. His typical “uniform” is a long-sleeved shirt, Wrangler jeans and boots. “I strive to buy 100 percent cotton because I really love cotton,” says Robertson, who stopped shaving and cutting his hair when it began growing back after treatment. He now has a bushy beard and is growing his hair out for donation to Wigs for Kids. “Whatever they give me to wear I’m just going AYMAG.COM . 51
to smile and try to walk the way they want me to walk. I think it’s a great cause. It is going to be an experience that gets me completely outside of my box.” Suzanne Guymon, who heads up the model committee, decided to volunteer with the event while she was working for Dillard’s and dressing models for the show. “We really want every woman who is willing to be able to have this experience because it is such a special experience for them,” Guymon says. “They’ve been through so much but there is just this feeling of joy and their passion for life is infectious and contagious.”
Faith for a Cure Lifting people’s spirits is Sissy Jones’s goal. She has plenty to be down about. Three months after her diagnosis, her husband, Murphy, was told that he, too, had cancer. He lost his fight in April. “My husband was a great cheerleader for me. He really kept me going,” she says. But she is grateful for the time they were quarantined together, seeing only each other, their family and healthcare professionals. “These 18 months were the most calming time because
even as bad as it was, it was time that I got to spend with him, getting to know him on a different basis than I did before,” she says. “There’s always a silver lining on every cloud.” Jones lingered in treatment rooms, offering encouragement to other patients. “There were people there who were much worse off than I was. I met so many nice people. I started giving out gift cards for Sissy’s Log Cabin,” Jones says. She keeps in touch with many of the friends she has made along the way. She hopes to meet people through this event, too. “I like to do that,” says Jones. “And I believe in this. We need a cure.”
Giving Back to Arkansas Runway for the Cure raised $90,000 last year. “Seventyfive percent of the money will stay right here in Arkansas. Through a grants process, service providers use the funds for mammograms, treatment, education and survivor support services,” says Sherrye McBride, executive director of Komen Arkansas. “The other 25 percent is pooled with all the other Race for the Cure Affiliates to fund research to find better treatments and ultimately to find the cure for breast cancer. This past spring, we granted over $662,000 to local service providers and gave over $321,000 for research. “
Special thanks to The Junior League of Little Rock and The Castle at Stagecoach for allowing us to use their beautiful facilities to photograph the brave breast cancer survivors featured in this issue.
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Age: 59 | Years Survived: Went through final radiation treatment Aug. 18 2017
aren O’Dell is a strong, family-oriented cancer fighter. Her experience with Highlands Oncology Group has been absolutely wonderful. She says her family has constantly prayed for her and that has been her biggest blessing. “We are very thankful this happened in God’s timing. I’m on the other side tomorrow (August 18). Then we’ll do a PET scan. I’m expecting really good things and so are the doctors,” says O’Dell. When she went for her regular mammogram last September she knew something was going on. “We went back in January and they found a large mass,” she says. O’Dell says she works at Camp War Eagle. “My busy time was starting and I was like ‘I can’t do this right now, give it to me later.’” She says no one in her family has ever had cancer. “We were kind of lost, and [the doctors] just walked my family and I through it.” Her MRI and her oncologists were set up within days. “Being able to get the ball rolling was the biggest blessing,” she says. “They also gave me a social worker that kept up with me. I really appreciated that.” O’Dell says her oncologist is Dr. Stephan Rosenfeld, her radiation oncologist is Dr. Hershey Garner and her surgeon is Dr. James Irwin. “Dr. Rosenfeld started me on chemotherapy. My first time was horrible. He understood I wanted to keep working. I started going every week taking a smaller amount to see if that would keep me on my feet. Dr. Rosenfeld was really good to keep that going. He was so good to tweak my medications and tweak the new pop-ups that were coming along. He encouraged me to keep working and keep my routine going as much as possible,” she says. All of her doctors have been very honest with her, she says. Her family has also been treated wonderfully at Highlands Oncology, she says. “I can’t say enough good things about the doctors and nurses I’ve had.” WWW.HIGHLANDSONCOLOGYGROUP.COM 479-936-9900 | 808 SOUTH 52ND STREET, ROGERS, AR 479-587-1700 | 3232 N. NORTH HILLS BLVD, FAYETTEVILLE, AR 60 . SEPTEMBER 2017
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FAMILY BUSINESS A
Y Magazine is honored to feature family-owned businesses across Arkansas. These businesses work hard to make sure they have organized and personable customer service skills, along with possessing strong ethics. Many of the Arkansas family-owned businesses have been passed down through the generations. Each business has changed and evolved throughout the years, mainly due to the advancement in technology. These businesses are unique through the various ways they operate and help others across the state. Each business continues to grow and develop. These businesses consistently serve our state. We are proud of all of their hard work and success.
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GWATNEY CHEVROLET JACKSONVILLE, AR
watney Chevrolet General Sales Manager James Miller says the Jacksonville dealership is one of the top low-price leaders in Arkansas. “If they want the best price in Chevrolet they think of Gwatney Chevrolet first. We’ve always been committed to being that dealership, we haven’t changed that,” he says. Harold Gwatney, the first owner and operator, still comes to the dealership and talks to every customer in the store, according to Miller. He says Gwatney stands out from the competition because of how he treats people and the fact that he’s a hometown man. “He is a Jacksonville guy who is involved in the community and has given back to the community,” Miller says. “Gwatney had a military career; he was in the National Guard and served as the chief general,” he says. Gwatney started his dealership on Nov. 7, 1957. Miller says the business is unique not only in the fact that it is family-owned, but also because it is an automobile business. Miller’s path to becoming general sales manager at Gwatney Chevrolet started when he began working as a salesperson for the dealership. “I’ll be here 30 years next year when I started selling cars here originally.” Over his time at the shop, the biggest changes Miller has seen within the business have come with the digital age. “It’s the age of shopping for a vehicle that you want online and knowing what every dealership has and buying
digitally, buying online,” Miller says. The digital age has transformed the process of buying a car; it allows people to know exactly what they want and how much it costs, all before they show up to the store, he says. Miller says Arkansas is a great spot for the dealership. “Arkansas people are friendly and when they want to purchase an automobile, we are able to give them the type of service they expect and the service they want,” he says. He says understanding the people is what separates an Arkansas dealership from others, and that Gwatney Chevrolet wants to make everyone’s experience enjoyable. “We understand you want to buy a car or sell a car,” he says. “We want to make the experience pleasant and we want to accomplish that. We want to give you the best price on a vehicle that we can… We want to know about you and know about your family and have that relationship with you, not just one time, but for a lifetime.”
501.982.2102 WWW.GWATNEYCHEVROLET.COM AYMAG.COM . 67
HOPKINS SEARCY & HEBER SPRINGS, AR
r. Jonathan Hopkins is a family-oriented, driven individual who started Hopkins Braces in 2006. The practice grew to have offices in Searcy and Heber Springs, and Melissa Sparks, the office manager for both Hopkins Braces locations, says the business itself continues to be extremely family-oriented. “We are a family within ourselves. So it’s our family away from our family. We spend a lot of time here, so we’re very close-knit,” Sparks says. Sparks says Dr. Hopkins is a gifted leader, and a great person. “He takes great care of his patients and his team,” she says. She says the business is unique because Dr. Hopkins is so personable and encouraging to the patients and parents that come into the office. Josh Seaman, director of operations for the Hopkins and Daniel teams says that being family-owned means having flexibility when it comes to decision making. He says it allows the team to do what’s best, not necessarily for the bottom line, but for the patients and their families. Seaman says the business is also unique because several of Dr. Hopkins patients have come to work for him as team members.
501-268-2000 | 501-362-2006 68 . SEPTEMBER 2017
“He helped create the smiles they use every day,” Seaman says. Dr. Hopkins attended Hendrix College where he played soccer, and earned a degree in psychology. Seaman says Dr. Hopkins is an extremely humble man, and was the first in his family to go to college. “He decided that wasn’t really what he wanted to do when he started to see what job opportunities were available for him. He took a break from school for a little while, and then decided that he would go to dental school,” Sparks says. After dental school, he knew he wanted to further his education and become an orthodontist. Now, Sparks says, Hopkins Braces has grown rapidly and the expansion has been a blessing. Dr. Hopkins continues to make it his goal to pour into the lives of the patients he treats, and the entire Hopkins team participates in various local events every year. “It’s about giving back to the community,” Seaman says. “He loves the community and they love him back.”
DANIEL LITTLE ROCK, BRYANT, & BENTON, AR
r. John Daniel, an Arkansas native, started Daniel Orthodontics in August of 1990. Dr. Daniel got started in his line of work because of his dad, who was also an orthodontist. “He continued the tradition from there,” Josh Seaman says. Seaman is the director of operations for the Daniel and Hopkins teams, and he believes their practice sees much of their success because of where Dr. Daniel’s priorities lie. “It’s really about his patients and his team. He’s a humble man and he never wants credit... He’s been right here in the same community for 27 years,” Seaman says. Seaman says Dr. Daniel leads from the heart, which brought him to expand his office so that patients would have a greater variety of services, appointment options, and locations from which to choose. “He wanted to serve surrounding communities a couple of days a week, as well,” Seaman says. He says Dr. Daniel’s business has developed by branching out more to serve in other communities, but the core of why he does what he does is still there. “A lot of it has stayed the same… He has several staff members who have been with him for over 22 years,” he says. “When people join him and his practice they get to
see the difference they are making and they get to see how he handles himself and puts Christ first in all that he does.” Seaman says Dr. Daniel believes in a faith-based practice, and wants everyone who steps foot into the office to feel comfortable and appreciated. “For him, it is truly about the patients and the kids that come in and see him, along with making the family comfortable,” he says. “It’s also about his team. I think the fact that he has had [his business] for so long shows that it’s more successful today than it has been. It’s all about others, not himself.” Dr. Daniel opened his office with the intentions of helping others, and ended up playing a role in the development of another family-owned orthodontic practice. “When Dr. Hopkins finished his orthodontic residency, he trained alongside Dr. Daniel, and Dr. Daniel was kind of a mentor to him,” Seaman says. “Dr. Daniel and Dr. Hopkins are both great men who follow God and follow their heart and who have done wonderful things.”
WWW.DANIELORTHO.COM AYMAG.COM . 69
DIAMOND CENTER FORT SMITH & FAYETTEVILLE, AR
im Cash III owns and operates the Diamond Center, a fine jewelry shop located in Fort Smith, Arkansas and Fayetteville, Arkansas. Cash says the store is unique because it is a Preferred Retailer with Preferred Jewelers International. He explained that because of its membership with the organization, the store offers a free lifetime warranty on all of its products. Cash says the store is unique because of their exclusive membership through Preferred Jewelers International. “I think technology has helped in that it has made our clients much more educated about their purchases,” he says. Cash says he thinks all businesses start out familyowned. “We truly care for our clients,” he says. “We want them to feel like family. We’re not here just to sell jewelry; we want clients for life. We also try to be heavily involved in our community.”
479-452-0246 | 479-445-6646 WWW.DIAMONDCENTERJEWELERS.COM 70 . SEPTEMBER 2017
He’s not the first Jim Cash in the family to be in the diamond business; the Diamond Center has been in business for 40 years and was ran by his father, Jim Cash Jr., until December of 2015. Other family members involved in the company include Cash’s brother, Zach, who is also an owner; Cash’s wife and sales manager, Kayla; and Cash’s son, Alex Collins, who deals with the sales and marketing of the business. “My brother and I bought the store at that time and also opened a second store in Fayetteville on Dec. 1, 2016,” he says. “We plan to become a regional brand servicing all clients for engagement rings and fine jewelry. ”
COOPER FAMILY DENTISTRY JACKSONVILLE, AR
n 1977, Dr. James Cooper established Cooper Family Dentistry in Jacksonville. This year, the family business celebrated its 40-year anniversary. Today, Dr. James Cooper's son, Dr. Jordan Cooper, runs and operates the business full-time. He joined Cooper Family Dentistry in 2006 following his graduation at the University of Tennessee and purchased the business from his father in 2011. The elder Dr. Cooper is still very involved and continues to work with his son at the office, in addition to Dr. Rachel Baker who joined their team in 2014. Dentistry runs in the Cooper family. Dr. Cooper got an early start in his line of work while spending time with his parents at their office — his mother was a dental hygienist. Cooper says his business is unique because it has always been a family business. He says it’s important that it remain a family-owned business because he likes to stay involved in clinical protocol and decisions, maintaining control over the care his patients receive. “In any health care business, it is nice to control the care that your patients receive while maintaining relationships with them over the years. Relationships with our patients are our number one priority. Dad and I have many families that have been patients for three and four generations,” Cooper says. Their success is due to their belief that no two patients are alike. Each person has different needs and Dr. Cooper treats each with dignity and respect. Their state-of-the art clinic offers modern techniques and approach to dental care in a number of specialties — whether it is orthodontics, veneers, or general
oral healthcare. Dr. Cooper is also experienced and highly qualified in the placement and restoration of dental implants. Dr. Cooper says his industry has changed. “The industry is vastly going corporate,” he says. “We want to remain a family business. It allows us to focus on our values, mission, and vision to be the ideal dental office to serve our patients. I enjoy striving to make our family business in Jacksonville the best it can be for our patients.” Dr. Cooper’s credentials and accomplishments include: • Author of the international best-selling motivational book, Chasing the Blue Marlin. • New Dentist of the Year, Arkansas State Dental Association 2011 • Publishing several magazine articles for Progressive Dentist magazine • Leading two medical and dental teams to Honduras • Appointment as State Lead for the Dental Home Initiative in 2010 and 2011 for DHS • Adjunct faculty member at UAMS Center for Dental Education • Continuing Education Chairman for the Arkansas State Dental Association 2013-2017 Dr. Cooper enjoys spending time with his kids, traveling, and anything related to water, including fishing, boating and spending time at the lake. AYMAG.COM . 71
MERCEDES-BENZ OF LITTLE ROCK
LITTLE ROCK, AR
ercedes-Benz of Little Rock General Manager Kevin Wilson says the business is locally owned and has been serving Arkansas for over 40 years now. Wilson says the family-owned business is unique because the owners truly care about their employees and customers. According to the company’s website, the Mercedes-Benz team believes that its valued customers deserve the best from their dealership of choice. Wilson says he got started in his line of work because he “wanted to come to work for a great company.” “The business is customer-friendly and strives to always be perfect.” Over the years, industry growth changed certain aspects of the business, Wilson says. “The industry has really changed because of the Internet,” he says. The Internet helps customers get a great deal and helps the Mercedes team serve the customers, he says. It is important to have a family-owned business, Wilson says, because family members are involved in the business’s day-to-day operations and they know and care for all employees. General Sales Manager Steve Roscoe has worked for Mercedes-Benz of Little Rock since August of 1984. “Mercedes invented the automobile,” he says. “We brought most of the innovations you would expect and see in a car to the marketplace.” He says Mercedes-Benz is not only the original car company, but it is also the most innovative — and it uses those innovations to make drivers and passengers safer. “Mercedes builds a safe car.” According to the company’s Facebook page, the business has been the only authorized Mercedes-Benz dealership in central Arkansas since 1971. Roscoe says the business is large enough to serve the community, but still has “that small business charm.” Buying a car is an important decision-making process, he says, and the experience is dependent on the quality of service that the staff at Mercedes-Benz of Little Rock provide. “We want to be well-received in the community.” “Our owners get an immediate response from the community of how their business is performing,” he says. The Mercedes-Benz dealership continues to be extremely involved with its customers and it strives stay connected with the community throughout Arkansas.
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GASTON’S WHITE RIVER LEGACY
he legacy began in 1958, when Al Gaston bought 20 acres on the White River. When his son Jim Gaston inherited Gaston’s White River Resort a few short years later, there were six small cottages and six boats. Today the resort sits on more than 400 acres, with 79 cottages and a state-of-the-art dock that houses more than 70 boats. When Jim Gaston passed away in 2014, Gaston’s had become a first class fishing destination, known around the country. There’s an airstrip, conference lodge, tennis court, a long list of amenities. Fine dining in the restaurant, which sits high above the river, offers a spectacular view. Leadership of the resort fell to Jim’s grandson Clint Gaston. His first job there — picking up cigarette butts and litter. Clint smiles and says, “To this day, I still pick up every cigarette butt and any litter I see. I'm trying to teach my son to do the same.” Through the years Clint has worked in every position. “In this business it’s crucial to learn and understand all aspects of it. My time spent doing landscaping, maintenance on equipment and cottages, working in the kitchen, fishing guide, and more was so important to effectively lead and run the resort. There isn't a job here that I have not done myself… I couldn't be more proud of my grandfather's accomplishments, and look forward to carrying on the legacy, with hopes to pass it on for generations to come.”
FAB&T JACKSONVILLE, SHERWOOD, CABOT, & AUSTIN, AR
F LARRY WILSON
irst Arkansas Bank & Trust Senior Vice President and COO Mark T. Wilson says his family-owned business carries on the legacy of his grandfather, Pat Wilson. “We aren’t flashy and we aren’t trying to impress people with anything more than good, honest banking and a desire to help our communities grow,” Wilson says. Wilson likes to tell people he has been in banking for 41 years — since birth. His father, Larry T. Wilson, is the president, chairman and CEO of the company. “When I was a child, I loved running around town with my dad and my grandfather,” he says. “We tried to always do business with bank customers and there was such a great sense of mutual respect, from the hardware store to the florist to the shoe store. I’d always ask if people banked with us, and I always hoped they did.” Wilson says the owner of another Arkansas family bank once told him the business of finance is just not as fun anymore. “I don’t agree with that statement entirely, but it’s not as fun, nor as easy, as it used to be,” he says. “Federal regulations are there to make sure that banks don’t discriminate and that they support their local communities, and there’s a lot of value in that.” Wilson says family-owned businesses build a foundation for strong communities. “The decisions that we make as leaders of this company are based on what’s good for the company and the communities we serve for the long run,” he says.
800-982-4511 WWW.FABANDT.COM AYMAG.COM . 73
MARTINOUS ORIENTAL RUG COMPANY LITTLE ROCK, AR
avid Martinous, owner of Martinous Oriental Rug Company, has been heavily involved in his family-owned business for the past 51 years. Martinous says his business is based on high ethics, strong morals and great service. “Our family business is unique because of the years of experience in what we do, who we are and how we conduct our business,” he says. He says the biggest change his business has seen is the Internet. “More and more people are buying online, there’s so much more to choose from… My biggest competitor is the Internet, not other stores in the state,” he says. David Martinous’ father, Carl, started the business with David’s uncles, Shamel, Phil and Ben and his father’s cousin, Charles Malick. Martinous’ mother, Dorothy carried on the business in Fort Smith and Little Rock in 1958 shortly after Carl passed away from cancer. In 1966 David took over the company. “Rugs have always fascinated me… I feel like I was born to be in the business. I love what I do.” Martinous says it’s important to give back to the community. He says he is very proud of what he has done. He also thinks his family would be very proud him. Martinous’ wife, Cynthia, has also been a huge supporter of his business. “I think they would be very proud about how I’ve carried it on and I expect it to be carried on in the future in the same way,” he says.
501-224-0313 • WWW.MARTINOUS.COM
CAVENDERS HARRISON, AR
-C Seasoning Company, Inc. is the manufacturer of Cavender’s Greek Seasoning. The family business is now in its third generation. Husband and wife Lance and Cara Wohlgemuth run the business with Cara’s sister, Lisa Cavender. Spike Cavender and his son, Steve Cavender, started the business nearly 50 years ago, in 1970. Cara Wohlgemuth says the business is special because of the fact that their product has such a unique blend of spices. “There is also a lot of new competition and demands at the store level to get on the shelves. We are just so fortunate that we are already established and have been around for so long,” Wohlgemuth says.
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A WALK ON THE WILD SIDE FROM THE CAPITAL HOTEL TO THE COUNTRY WITH GEORGIA PELLEGRINI BY MAGGIE MCNEARY
Author, TV host, chef and hunter Georgia Pellegrini is bringing 16 women from across the nation to Arkansas from Sept. 21 to 24 for a long weekend full of adventure in the city and the country.
Georgia Pellegriniâ€™s guests become explorers on her Adventure Getaways. Photo courtesy of Pellegrini
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"WOMEN ARE THE FASTESTGROWING DEMOGRAPHIC IN THE HUNTING BASE,” ~GEORGIA PELLEGRINI
Whether Pellegrini’s guests are from the city or the country, they get a taste of the freedom of the outdoors on the weekends away. Photo by Kelly Turso
he has hosted more than a dozen Adventure Getaways — at least 16, she says, but this is the first in Arkansas, although she is no stranger to the state. The number of trips is “hard to count at this point,” but she’s been doing them since 2011. Women from all over the United States — and all over the world — have come along on these events, Pellegrini says. One woman came from as far as South Korea to go on an Adventure Getaway. “They’ve taken on a life of their own,” Pellegrini says of the trips. Other getaways have been held in Virginia, Montana, Georgia, Wyoming, Wisconsin and Texas. For this trip, most of the women are traveling from out-of-state, but one Arkansan will take part. Many of the women on Pellegrini’s trips have followed her to more than one place. She says about 50 percent of the women going on the Arkansas Adventure Getaway have been on a trip with her before. “Year after year, people come back because of the experience itself,” she says. “What’s so special about it is they create this network of lifelong friends.” One of the women traveling with Pellegrini for a second time is Valerie Cozart of Raleigh, North Carolina. This getaway will be her first visit to Arkansas. “I just booked my flight this morning. I’ve never been to Arkansas, so I’m excited,” she says. Arkansas has been on her list 78 . SEPTEMBER 2017
to visit; Cozart wants to visit all 50 states and this trip gets her one step closer. Plus, it’s a trip with Pellegrini. “I would follow Georgia anywhere,” Cozart says. Cozart’s previous trip with Pellegrini was a 2014 getaway to Montana, where she says she made several good friends and one great one. Pellegrini says the women who go on the getaways make connections with women who have “similar interests” and “similar spirits.” When they go on these trips, they’re “doing something for themselves, stepping outside their comfort zone and supporting each other in the process,” Pellegrini says. The experience can be empowering and different from their everyday life, the hunter says. Cozart went on the Montana trip alone, and plans to go alone on the Arkansas trip as well. Some women go on the trips in small groups of two or three, Cozart says, but she likes going alone and then making friends during the event. Cozart says it’s a different experience to go to the airport by yourself, rent a car and find where you’re staying — all without someone else. She says she’s found that she kind of likes being alone with strangers. Lynn Hendricks of Dallas, Texas, is another Adventure Getaway alumna who is attending the Arkansas event. She’ll drive up from Texas to go to Little Rock. Like Pellegrini, she’s no stranger to the Natural State; she has family in Bentonville, Little Rock and Jonesboro. Her first getaway with Pellegrini was at Brush Creek Ranch
in Wyoming in 2015. That year, she and her mother celebrated their birthdays with the trip. As Adventure Getaway alumni, Hendricks and Cozart are no strangers to hunting. Before Montana, Cozart hadn’t really been hunting. “I killed a lot of clay pigeons before the trip,” she says. “Women are the fastest-growing demographic in the hunting base,” Pellegrini says. If women get involved, Pellegrini believes that their kids will get more involved too. THE ADVENTURE DAY ONE Guests won’t just hunt during the long weekend. On Thursday afternoon, the adventurers will check into the Capital Hotel and tour downtown Little Rock on a trolley with an “expert guide,” according to the itinerary. After the tour, they’ll head to the SoMa district for a mixology and shrub-making class led by Chef Matt Bell. Bell will also host a “wild game feast.” After dinner, the women will get to see a show: a concert from the Oxford American magazine that’s part of the publication’s music series. THE ADVENTURE DAY TWO Friday morning, the ladies will be the first guests at the new Arkansas Game and Fish Commission shooting range. For lunch, Pellegrini will lead “a wild game cooking demonstration.” In the afternoon, the group will go fishing and in the evening, things will get a bit fancier. The women will visit Marlsgate Plantation in Scott for hors d'oeuvres, a tour and dinner. THE ADVENTURE DAY THREE Saturday morning will be an early start. They’ll go teal and dove hunting on private land with guides from Game and Fish who will lead the hunt. After the hunt, Pellegrini will show everyone how to field dress the birds. That’s all before lunch, which will take place at Charlotte’s Eats & Sweets in Keo. Since Charlotte’s coconut pie was named one of the best pies in the South by Southern Living magazine, the adventurers might pick up a piece or two while they’re there. Then it’s off to Stuttgart — otherwise known as the duck capital of the world — for duck-calling lessons from Rich-N-Tone Calls. The women will head back for an afternoon hunt, then they’ll return to the Capital Hotel. Before dinner, the women will have a jewelry-making workshop with Bella Vita Jewelry, where they’ll turn the feathers from their hunt into accessories. The day will end with a wild game dinner in the wine cellar of the Capital Hotel. THE ADVENTURE DAY FOUR On the final day of the weekend, the ladies will get in one last adventure before heading to the airport. They’ll drive to Pinnacle Mountain, where they’ll attend a guided nature meditation and canoe down a water trail at Pinnacle Mountain with “expert wildlife conservationists.” “I’m excited about the hunting,” Cozart says. But she’s also excited about everything else.
After the hunt, Pellegrini teaches the women to clean and prepare the game they have killed. Photo by Kelly Turso
“I think I’m going to be thrilled about every moment of it,” she says. “Being in Arkansas, being in a different place, being in a different state, sounds great.” “I’ve never been duck hunting before and am excited to try it,” Hendricks says. “Georgia teaches each person along the way and takes a genuine interest in where each lady is, what they want to learn and how they might want to grow and expand their horizons!” “I’m excited to be working with local producers and artisans and craftsmen and businesses because I think it’s always great to celebrate the place you’re in and the context of it all,” she says. For Ralston Family Farms, a new rice producer in Atkins, Arkansas, Pellegrini likes that she’ll be able to incorporate the culinary elements of the trip into the hunting element and demonstrate the symbiotic relationship between wildlife and agriculture. Pellegrini says she’s grateful to the Capital Hotel for hosting the event and to the private landowners who are letting the women use their property. The Game and Fish Commission has been wonderful about “recognizing the opportunity” for women. Planning this trip was more difficult than organizing her other Adventure Getaways, she says. AYMAG.COM . 79
Pellegrini’s Adventure Getaways are an artful combination of roughing it and relaxing. Photo by Kelly Turso
“I’ve done it around the country. You have to really know people in Arkansas personally. It’s taken me about nine months to network and convince people to open up their places.” “I’ve literally been driving up and down the state, turning over every rock,” she says. “It was very different,” she says. “It’s the hardest it’s ever been. But I was determined.” There’s a reason for that determination. “I started to learn to hunt in Arkansas and subsequently wrote about it in my second book, so I thought this would be a great place to feature all the raw nature that’s in the state that a lot of states don’t have anymore,” she says. “If you want to advertise Arkansas as the Natural State, you need to have an inviting place where outsiders, especially women, can go and stay and have a true outdoor hunting and fishing experience,” she says. Pellegrini’s next Adventure Getaway is set for Montana in 2018. She doesn’t count out coming back to Arkansas for another getaway at some point. People can follow along on the Adventure Getaway through Facebook and Instagram at @georgiapellegrini and online at aymag.com. To learn more about next year’s trip, visit www. georgiapellegrini.com. 80 . SEPTEMBER 2017
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Neurofibromatosis ambassador Myleigh Marshall dances with DJ Williams of KARK Channel 4.
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TV SCIENTIST KEVIN DELANEY IS READY FOR HIS NEXT MOVE Kevin Delaney isn’t sure he considers himself a scientist — but saying he plays one on TV oversimplifies things considerably.
Kevin Delaney sports protective goggles while demonstrating a laser popping balloons.
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elaney is in the business of science communication. He has appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and at the center of his own show, Street Science, on the Science Channel, which just wrapped up for the season. “There’s a question of what the definition of a scientist really is, like whether it’s a person who uses the scientific method or process to kind of learn new information and discover new stuff. Certainly everyone is a scientist in that aspect,” says Delaney, who recently resigned from his position as director of visitor experience with the Arkansas Museum of Discovery to pursue other opportunities. “Science is all around us and I want the world to see, so I’m combining everyday elements in ways that will blow your mind,” Delaney booms in the introduction to each episode of Street Science. “I’ve got a team of experts and high-tech cameras that will reveal the science that surrounds us in ways you have never seen before. I’m taking science to the streets.” Viewers are warned not to try these experiments at home, and with good reason. Delaney works with a team of scientists on his experiments, and some of them are downright explosive. In one episode he and his sidekick Darren Dyk visit a salon and use hydrogen peroxide and potassium iodide to demonstrate exothermic reactions — which sounds less than exciting on paper, but which translates into a dramatic event involving foam that shoots like lava into the sky from the doors and roof of a Volkswagen Beetle occupied by mannequins adorned with beards just like Delaney’s and Dyk’s. “I pitch a few ideas, but the final decisions are made by the producers,” Delaney says of how experiments are chosen for each episode. “It's their show. I'm just the host. We have a talented group of artists, photographers, engineers and chemists who help put it all together. The crew is great. It's definitely a team effort.” Street Science was filmed in Tampa, so he traveled around there with the team for much of the season. “We even went north of Walt Disney World to fire off rockets with my good friend (and Little Rock native) Myron Fletcher, an actual rocket scientist,” says Delaney. “I've also traveled quite a bit to science fairs and STEM (STEM + Art) events all over the country. While visiting 84 . AUGUST 2017
Kevin Delaney speaks at the Little Rock March for Science in April.
lots of places and meeting new people is fun, I'm always happy to come back home.” Delaney took the requisite science classes in college, and his interest in the subject has been fostered by an uncle who is a palynologist — he studies pollen — and a brother who is a marine biologist. But he didn’t set out to find a career in the science field himself. He majored in performance and writing. He worked for a time as a playwright, writing teacher and actor in Rhode Island, and then he got a job working in the education department at the Roger
Williams Park Zoo in Providence. “I was part of a team that would work with the zookeepers and the education staff on presentations to give around the zoo about anything from narrating animal feeding times to adapting stories for performance and puppet shows about ecology and conservation and all that kind of stuff,” he says. “That’s kind of what got my foot in the door with science education and using art and performance to teach science and to inspire people to study science and get excited about it. I was working alongside scientists and
educators and performers and artists and musicians. That’s kind of what science communication really is.” Delaney, who grew up in New Jersey, met his wife while he was in college and they moved to Arkansas about five years ago to be close to her family. He was working at the Museum of Discovery when Mensa members designated it no. 6 out of the top 10 best science museums in the country. That caught the attention of Tonight Show staff, who asked him to do a test run on their show. He has had recurring appearances since then. “He just has a natural joy,” Delaney says of Fallon. “He’s just really excited by that stuff. It’s really authentic. But he has an idea what we were going to be doing before we do it.” From there, of course, he landed on the Science Channel, where, at least so far, the powers that be have not Christen (center) choreographer of turned Pitts down any isofthehis experiment the children’s dance this year. ideas. Delaney’s dry sense of humor is on display during every show, so it’s not surprising that his reserved demeanor would make it unnatural for him to admit that this is any sort of dream job. “It’s not too bad. It’s pretty neat,” Delaney deadpans. So, what comes next for Delaney? It’s not clear yet whether Street Science has been renewed for another season. He will make an appearance at the Arkansas Science Festival at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro in October and he has been traveling around the country to do science demonstrations and to speak about science. “It’s a lot of fun. I get to meet all kinds of people, some of whom are scientists and some who want to learn about science,” he says of his experiences on Street Science and beyond. There is more in the works, but he can’t talk about his next steps just yet, although he does allude to it being something to do with television. “I can’t talk about it yet,” he says, “but I should be able to in a few weeks.” Delaney recently got a chance to go back to Providence to perform with the Manton Avenue Project, a kids' playwriting organization he worked with for several years. “It's something I miss very much and hope to do again soon,” he says. “I haven't gotten to do it much in Arkansas.”
Neurofibromatosis ambassadors Miles Coven (left) and Myleigh Marshall practice their dance for Dancing With Our Stars.
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FIND EBBY JANE In Search of the Vanished BY DWAIN HEBDA
n September 2015, Ebby Steppach packed her silver Volkswagen with everything she owned and drove off to live her own life. Time at home had become increasingly choppy as the spirited teenager chafed under what she considered the overly restrictive rules of her mother and stepfather. Almost exactly one month to the day after moving out, Ebby disappeared, leaving behind her every possession, some cryptic phone conversations and a family desperate for answers. ****
The last verifiable actions of Ebby Steppach suggested the teen had been caught up in circumstances beyond what she could handle. The day after attending a party the night of Friday, Oct. 23, she texted her stepfather, Michael Jernigan, with startling news. 88 . AUGUST 2017
“Ebby started texting Michael that she had been raped (and) that she had already called the police,” says Laurie Jernigan, Ebby’s mother. “She wanted him to meet her and take her to the police station.” The 18-year-old related details of an alleged sexual assault involving four male individuals, claiming one recorded the incident on his cellphone. She and Michael discussed the details of where to meet and agreed he would accompany her to file a police report. She also had one additional request. “She said, ‘Don’t tell Mom. I don’t want anyone to know,’” Laurie says. Ebby never showed for the meeting and as attempts to reach her failed, the family became increasingly concerned. When her older half-brother finally got through by phone on Sunday, a groggy-sounding Ebby told him she was parked in front of his house. She wasn’t, and as he pressed for her location, she could
only say she was in her car and she wasn’t in her right mind. It was the last time anyone would hear from her. The family immediately went into crisis mode, searching the neighborhood, frantically calling everyone who might have seen or taken in the missing teenager. Laurie said they attempted to report Ebby missing but were informed by the Little Rock Police Department a person has to be missing for 12 hours before such a report can be made. Lt. Steve McClanahan of LRPD’s Public Affairs Division confirmed that information was erroneous, saying, “If you want to report somebody missing, we’ll take that report.” Informed as they were, however, Ebby’s family was forced to wait until Monday morning to make the report, at which time an officer came to the house to gather details. They couldn’t know it then, but it was the start of Laurie and Michael’s walk down a long, dark road. “[The officer] goes, ‘This happened to me and my family. Don’t let it tear your marriage up. My outcome was not very good but just stick together,” Laurie says. “That was my first clue, my first whisper from God. Something’s going to happen.” **** Monty Vickers is the kind of old-school law enforcement lifer you don’t see much anymore. After a 22-year career with the Little Rock Police Department and a few corporate and government gigs, he launched his own private investigative firm eight years ago. Along the way he’s had a little taste of everything human nature has to offer. But he is first, last and foremost, a cop with a deep love and respect for his former department and fellow officers. So when Vickers got a call from the Jernigan family looking to hire him, he declined. “The first thing I told the family was there was nothing we could do for them,” Vickers says. “We didn’t need to get involved in the investigation.” The Jernigans had approached Vickers and his former LRPD partner Tom James as a countermeasure to what they considered to be a police investigation in neutral, that delivered more promises than follow-up or sense of urgency. McClanahan says such feelings are common and, given the circumstances, understandable, as a distraught family comes up against the mundane realities of investigative work. “To be honest with you, sometimes it is frustrating because I (as a detective) want to bring closure for that family. But not only am I tasked with doing that, but I have to do it in a certain way because I also have to work with the prosecutor’s office to get a conviction. You really have to strike that right balance,” he says.
Laurie Jernigan and a young Ebby Steppach.
Jernigan contends it wasn’t just lack of communication, but poor expertise being brought to bear, causing missteps and losing valuable time. In one instance, she claims to have brought all of Ebby’s phone records to the station because the police didn’t have them and therefore hadn’t been following up on them. At another juncture, she discovered the detectives didn’t have the technical expertise to decipher Ebby’s phone and social media activity. “They didn’t know how to open her apps on her phone,” she says. “They didn’t know how to unlock her phone. They didn’t know how to get into Instagram. Same way with Twitter. Same with Facebook.” Jernigan found, and offered to pay for, an IT expert to handle the task, only to be told the investigation would not accept such AYMAG.COM . 89
Little Rock investigator Monty Vickers has been involved with Ebby’s case. At first he declined to take part in it, but after some consideration he thought that he could be of use to the family.
regarding Ebby’s car. services. She began to feel as though she was talking through a The vehicle had been discovered in Chalamont Park, which steel door. is directly behind Joe T. Robinson High School on Highway 10. “It was intimidation of, ‘You’re trying to jump into this. There’s The fact that it was out of gas and had a dead battery suggested no way we’re going to let this happen,’” she says. “You know, ‘We that it had been abandoned while still will go to any lengths not to let you running. get involved in our investigation.’” “IN MY DAYS IN HOMICIDE Jernigan says investigators claimed Listening to the family’s to have interviewed the security guard complaints, Vickers thought he could AND AS A COP, I'VE SEEN SEVERAL who patrolled the area, which yielded be of use after all, as a conduit between no information. Because of that, the the Jernigans and the department. SITUATIONS WHERE THERE WAS two P.I.s expected the conversation to “In my days in homicide and as CONFLICT BETWEEN THE FAMILIES be mere backtracking. What emerged a cop, I've seen several situations in the 45-minute taped interview where there was conflict between the (AND LAW ENFORCEMENT).” shocked them. families (and law enforcement),” he “He had never been interviewed says. “I thought I could talk to them - MONTY VICKERS by anybody,” Vickers says. “In fact, he down there at the police department. had contacted the police department Well, I found out pretty quick that and the police department hadn’t contacted him back. He saw they didn’t give a damn what I had to say. Wouldn’t call me back. the car there the night Ebby turned up missing, parked there I emailed, I left messages. They basically just wouldn't talk to us.” with all her things in it. The next night it was there, the third night he called the Little Rock Police Department. According **** to his statement, he waited two or three hours; the police never showed up.” After a couple of months of getting the runaround, Vickers and It was almost a week after Ebby’s disappearance, Friday to be James decided to interview Ebby’s friends and other individuals, exact, before the vehicle was “found.” The time between when starting with a security guard employed by the Chenal Valley the security guard claims to have first reported the car and when Homeowners Association who reportedly had information 90 . AUGUST 2017
police showed up is enough to degrade some of the evidence that might have been available at the scene. Also, by apparently not talking to the security guard, investigators lost out on another potentially key piece of the puzzle. The guard reported taking dash-cam footage during his rounds and said he saw Ebby and an unidentified black male at the park on different occasions prior to the disappearance. Meaning, of course, he may have unwittingly captured a potential person of interest on video. “Every night he would go home and he would download his thumb drive into his computer,” says Vickers. “Sometime in January, he went home and plugged his thumb drive into the computer and his computer said it didn’t recognize the device.” Taking it in for repair, the guard was told the aging computer was fried and was advised to get a new one. “So they just threw the whole thing away, the thumb drive, the computer. Scrapped it,” Vickers says.” That was another, ‘Oh damn’ moment.” Another point of contention was the interview of the four alleged assailants and the matter of confiscating their phones in search of evidence of the attack. According to Jernigan, investigators did little more than ask the young men for their phones and when they refused, detectives let the matter drop on the grounds they didn't have sufficient probable cause to obtain a search warrant. For Jernigan, who had sought input on the matter from friends in County Prosecutor Larry Jegley’s office, this was more than she could take. In her words, she “exploded” and started firing off emails to the highest levels of departmental and city leadership, demanding action. A meeting resulted that included Capt. Mike Davis, head of the Major Crimes Division, where frustration on
Ebby and her sister make a creative heart pose on the beach.
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both sides boiled over. “Over and over I just kept pressing, because I had so much information there that proved way beyond probable cause to get the phones,” Jernigan says. “The more I told him the more [Davis] said, ‘We’re not doing it.’ And I finally said, ‘What rises to probable cause?’ He said, ‘When I say it does.’ That took my breath away; at that point I saw I am completely powerless.” ****
"American Heroes" by artist Guido van Helten. Photography by Raymesh Cintron 92 . AUGUST 2017
The more time went on, the more toxic the relationship became between the department and the Jernigans. Laurie told The Vanished Podcast that in addition to the department stonewalling her, a disturbing new line of investigation was starting to worm its way to the surface. She contends that detectives started to raise the issue of the Jernigans taking a lie detector test. Up to that point, Laurie says she and Michael had been willing to take a polygraph but that she no longer trusted the department. This only fueled detectives’ suspicion that the couple had something to hide. About six months into the investigation, the Jernigans were called into separate two-hour interviews where investigators aggressively worked the angle that Michael was complicit in, if not downright responsible for, Ebby’s disappearance. “There was no investigation,” Laurie says. “It was just easier to say the stepfather did it. That’s why it’d been six months and they’d never investigated anything.” The Jernigans retained an attorney, a move that proved premature as the case was abruptly reassigned from Major Crimes to the Homicide Division where it landed on the desk of LRPD veteran Det. Tommy Hudson. While not unheard of, it was not a routine move, according to McClanahan. “That doesn’t happen that often,” he says. “Typically if you’re the detective on a case, we may let someone else look at that case but you’ll keep it. It’ll still be yours.” “I think in the Ebby Steppach case, they wanted to give a fresh set of eyes a chance to look at it and review it. I think that was something that was kind of factored into it. And at the time, our homicide detectives were some of the most experienced anyway.” When asked if Jernigan’s public statements on The Vanished Podcast and
A personal note from Ebby shared by her family.
her constant pushing for updates and action had an impact on the relationship with LRPD, McClanahan hedged. “I don’t know if they started off on the wrong foot from that perspective, but oftentimes that first contact somebody has with the police department or detective is going to be what they’re going to remember,” he says. “We kind of set that foundation early on. I don’t know if it was because there were intense feelings or what. I know that does happen from time to time.” “That may have been a factor to why they switched and gave it to a different detective, just because there may have been some of that so let’s just get a fresh start and go from there.” Jernigan claims to have also received a telephoned apology from Assistant Chief Wayne Booley along with a pledge for a better working relationship with the family, something she said has been upheld to the letter. “He is a man of integrity and he’s truly concerned,” Jernigan says. “And he has told Tommy (Hudson) and them, ‘You look at this as if this is your daughter.’” AY’s request to interview Det. Hudson, now one of four retired detectives who works in the Cold Case Division part-time, was declined. Lt. Dana Jackson refused the request because it involved an open investigation. Another puzzling development was the sudden participation
by the FBI, which volunteered to assist in the investigation even though it wasn’t a federal case. McClanahan said it was unusual for the FBI to approach the department with help, as such communiqués usually happen in reverse. McClanahan declined to comment on whether the case's reassignment and the FBI's involvement suggested that the original investigation was mishandled. “[I’m not] going to trash or throw an additional policeman under the bus on something that’s already been rehashed,” he says. “If we make mistakes it’s incumbent upon us to learn from those. Again, I wasn’t in the division when this was made, so I certainly don’t want to speculate on issues that I had no knowledge in the making.” “And I don’t think,” he adds, “they would comment on that, either. That being the commanders.” Whatever the reason for the change, it brought about a nightand-day difference in the way the case has been handled, Jernigan says. Homicide detectives welcomed Vickers’ notes and taped interviews and communication between the family and Det. Hudson reportedly flows freely. As good as all that is, the bittersweet reality remains that the investigation into what happened to Ebby Steppach had, in large part, started over from scratch. AYMAG.COM . 93
“The investigators that have been assigned to it are real detectives; they’re real cops. They gotta be good at what they do or they don’t survive,” Vickers says. “I’m happy where it is now; I just feel sad that this wasn’t done in the first place.”
HAVE YOU SEEN ME? Ebby Jane Steppach Current Age: 20 Disappeared: October 24, 2015 Height: 5’1” Weight: 105 pounds Eyes: Hazel Hair: Blond Piercings: Navel, ears, nose Tattoo: Ribcage, “Through every dark night there is a brighter day.” Contact: Crime Stoppers: (501) 371-4636 Facebook: FindEbbySteppach Twitter: #findebbyjane
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Celebrate 15 years of Runway for the cure! + The Best Pizza in Arkansas, El Dorado: The Next Big Thing, & In Search Of Ebby Jane.
Published on Jul 29, 2017
Celebrate 15 years of Runway for the cure! + The Best Pizza in Arkansas, El Dorado: The Next Big Thing, & In Search Of Ebby Jane.