Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Wild Birds

Wild Birds Unlimited, the nature shop in the Heights, is a pleasant place to shop, or just to stop by and chat with the friendly staff. They can answer all your questions about making a quality habitat for the birds in your yard and show you products to beautify your habitat as well.

“We want to bring people and nature closer together,” owner Jim Allen said. “Helping people enjoy their backyards is part of what we want to do.”

First, start with the basics: Seeds and feeders.

“There’s bird seed, and then, there’s bird seed. The seed we sell is a higher quality. It’s fresh. It’s
clean,” Mr. Allen said.

From the time the seed leaves the factory until it’s on the shelf in Wild Bird is only a matter of weeks, he said.

“None of our seed has filler seed in it. In a 20-pound bag, it’s all edible. It’s something the birds will eat and love.”

The shop offers quality blends and single seeds, such as black oil sunflower, and large bags of peanuts.

You can find all manner of bird feeders at the shop, numerous tube feeders and about 10 different squirrel-proof feeders.

The shop only carries feeders that “stand the test of time,” Jim said. “We feel confident sending them out the door.”

Wild Bird has lots and lots hummingbird feeders, from inexpensive, but functional ones starting around $7 to beautiful glass feeders at $40 to $50. Some are made of recycled decorative glass, and some incorporate copper details.

“Everybody loves hummingbirds. They are easy to attract.” There are lots of hummers in Little Rock in June and July, but Jim said you can enjoy them here as early as April and as late as October.

The shop carries pretty glass butterfly feeders, too, and even offers a squirrel feeder.

“We carry a big variety of different bird houses, functional and decorative. We hav
e basic wooden bird houses, martin houses, and blue bird houses. Putting up houses allows you to watch and be involved with the cycle of life.”

The shop has bat houses too. “Bats are very good for the environment; they keep insects down. If you have them, you can try to keep them by giving them a place to roost.”

There is just a ton of nature-related stuff to beautify your yard and make your outdoor experience more pleasant, from the sound of running water from a fountain to wind chimes.

“We carry a decent variety of bird baths and fountains. We have concrete bird baths, clay-fired bird baths. It’s good to have water for the birds to bathe and drink, especially in hot weather.

“We love wind chimes. We carry three major brands of chimes, all quality wind chimes: Woodstock; Music of the Spheres, which are made in Texas; and Corinthian Bells made in Virginia.”

Other items to spruce up your outdoor environment include wind spinners, garden flags, and stepping stones. The shop also has nature-themed mugs and glasses, bird books, binoculars, and some really cool “Advice From” t-shirts. Advice from a bass includes “prize clean water, be a good catch, and find a new angle.” Advice from an eagle includes “fly high, let your spirit soar, and bald is beautiful.”

One very important thing you’ll find at Wild Bird that you won’t at a big box store is knowledge. John Sommer, Travis Certain, Jimmilee Kinzler, Pat Reel, Robbie Hudson and Jackson Edwards know the answers to your questions.

“They are good people, enjoyable to work with, and they know what they are talking about, because they do it. They feed the birds.

“I think people enjoy coming to our store. We kid with them. We want people to enjoy coming in and looking around.
Most of the people who come in our store are enjoyable people, or they wouldn’t be doing what they’re doing.

"We sell quality products, and we stand behind them. We’ll help people enjoy them, and we’ll do all we can to take care of them. And we learn from our customers.

“It’s a good business. It’s a business you feel good about having.”

(This story was written by Bobbi Nesbitt and ran in the July 2009 issue of Shoppe Talk.)

Monday, May 25, 2009

Mona Mathis and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma

Mona Mathis passed away in June of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Her husband of 45 years, William Mathis, is grieving, but he'd like to do more.

Mr. Mathis is contacting lots of folks, from Oprah Winfrey to his little neighborhood Shoppe Talk, trying to get the word out about the disease and to interest as many people as he can in supporting research for better ways to diagnose it.

"Mona turned 65 March 24 this year. She was a wonderful person, very outgoing. She always had a smile for everybody," Bill said. "I've lived in Hillcrest since 1971. I pick up Shoppe Talk in the Buice Drug Store. My voice is not very big, b
ut if we could get other people interested, maybe we could get early detection. If we could save just one person, she'd like that.

"Dr. Sneed, an oncologist, when she was in St. Vincent Hospital, he looked at the chart, and he said, I feel Mrs. Mathis has probably had this for 10 or 15 years.

"Mona had 10 different physicals, two back surgeries, and two knee replacements. All the time, it was lying there dormant. Every year, Mona went and had a physical and a mamm
ogram. She had a colonoscopy, part of the process after you get 50 years old.

"I'm not mad at nobody, but why can't we get some early detection for this deadly disease?"

Dr. Thomas Sneed, a medical oncologist who saw Mona at rounds at the hospital, said the stumbling block for early detection is that non-Hod
gkin's lymphoma is not one disease, but many.

Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma is cancer that arises in the lymph system and includes many t
ypes of lymphomas with different characteristics.

"It is 30 or 40 different diseases," Dr. Sneed said in a telephone interview. "There are about 36 kinds of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Some are slow-growing. Some are aggressive. Since there are approximately 36 kinds of lymphoma, it's not the sort of thing you screen for.

"It is absolutely treatable, one of the most treatable cancers."

Bill said that Dr. Sneed explained that the type of cancer Mona had could be put into remission, but could not be cured. "Dr. Sneed is a fine person. He
would come up to Mona's room, sit on the side of the bed and talk with her at length and explain everything in detail. He was very courteous, very kind."

Dr. Sneed said Mona had follicular lymphoma, an "indolent," slow-growing lymphoma. This is one of the kinds of lymphomas that are generally not curable. On the other hand, aggressive large-cell non-Hodgkin's lymphomas are "quite curable" with radiation or chemotherapy, with long-term survival depending on age, the stage of the disease, and how far it has spread.

"Indolent is usually discovered accidentally, with (an) abnormality in the blood count, or the platelets are low."

Dr. Sneed said he didn't know how long Mona had follicular lymphoma. "Typically, people live for many years with it. This was apparently the case with Mrs. Mathis."

Mona was diagnosed September 2005 by Dr. Joseph Beck, a board-certified oncologist who has practiced in Little Rock for 20 years.

"He told us it was a low-grade, slow-growing
, non-Hodgkin's form of lymphoma," Bill said. Her course of treatment began with a milder form of chemotherapy that she underwent until January. "Then they scanned her. He said this stuff has gone crazy ... and they had to use a hard, aggressive chemo. It was really hard on her. She got worse."

Dr. Beck said follicular lymphoma has "gotten more common over the years. We're not sure why. It is more common in people who are older.

"It's hard to diagnose," he said.

Lymphomas are easier to detect when they are the type that cause swelling of the lymph nodes in the underarms or the neck, he said. "Deep in the body like hers was, then it's harder
to find."

Right now, the only way to diagnose the cancer is by biopsy - a painful, invasive procedure physicians would not recommend unless symptoms or tests suggest a necessity.

Dr. Beck said symptoms of non-Hodgkins lymphoma may include unexplained fever, weight loss or night sweats.

"Night sweats is not just the back of the neck being damp. You soak bedclothes and have to get up and change clothes. If you'd been through menopause 10 years ago and everything is fine and all of the sudden you're having these night sweats, that would be something to check out."

In addition, "any kind of swelling out of the ordinary should be investigated. Pay attention to your body, and pay attention to things that are different."

Chemotherapy and radiation therapy are options for aggressive lymphomas.
"If it is very slow-growing, if a person is elderly, we might just observe a person. It's possible to have and live years and years and years."

Bill said Mona never really noticed any symptoms of disease.

"She didn't have a whole lot of energy. But
she had been anemic all of her life. She went to get some shots of B12. She tried to change her diet and eat some food with more nutrition, to give her a boost. She'd lost some weight, but she'd gotten so depressed. She was scared.

"She never complained about it really, and she didn't know anything was wrong."

Information from medical sites on the Web urges individuals to see a phy
sician if they have unexplained fever, night sweats, unexplained weight loss, constant fatigue, or itchy or red patches on the skin. These are the symptoms of many ailments, but check with your physician to be sure. Do not wait to feel pain, because early non-Hodgkin's lymphoma may not cause pain.

In addition, the incidence of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma has nearly doubled over the last 55 years, they said. Dr. Beck said it is uncertain if this is a
true increase, or the result of better reporting.

It is the fifth or sixth most common type of cancer, depending on your source of information.

A number of websites said risk factors associated with the disease are age, sex (more common in men), a weakened immune system, viruses (Epstein-Barr, for example), and exposure to environmental toxins, such as pesticides, solvents and fertilizers. Some studies point to specific ingredients in herbicides and pesticides, such as organochlorine, organophosphate, and phenoxyacid compounds. Often there is simply no explanation for its occurrence.

If your doctor suspects non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, he may order blood tests or internal scans, such as x-rays, CT scans, PET scans, MRIs, lymphangiograms, or a gallium metal scan.

Although no special tests are available today that can find non-Hodgkin's lymphoma early, Bill hopes that will change when more people become interested in the disease.

"Mona was a lovely person. She fought this with everything she had, but it was just too big. I just want to make people aware."

(This story was written by Bobbi Nesbitt and ran in the September 2006 edition of Shoppe Talk.)

Mathis Spearheads State's First Lymphoma Research Foundation Chapter

Shoppe Talk readers may recall a story that
ran last September about Mona Mathis, who passed away in June of 2006 of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. She was the beloved wife of 45 years of Bill Mathis, who wanted to do something to honor her, to help other Arkansans diagnosed with these types of cancers, and to fund research to improve early detection.

After months of what Janet Breen called "putting his grief into action," Mr. Mathis succeeded in the establishment of the first chapter in Arka
nsas of the Lymphoma Research Foundation.

Mrs. Breen was one of the folks who attended the first meeting that led to the chapter's founding.

Other founding members are her husband, John
Breen, Earlene McDonald, Emma Ward, Mary Ann and Milton Foerste, Julie Kerr, Sandy Grayson, and, of course, Bill. Also in attendance were: Harold Dean, a clinical social worker for the Arkansas Cancer Research Center; Suzanne Bliss of New York City, president of the Lymphoma Research Foundation; Sally Fleming of Atlanta, director of chapter services for the foundation; and Bobbi Nesbitt, publisher of Shoppe Talk. The meeting room and refreshments were provided by ACRC.

"Bill, a real thank you," Ms. Bliss said. "It really does take one person in a community to get something organized."

"I'd like to say a big thank you to Bill too," Ms. McDonald said. "I am a lymphoma survivor. When I was first diagnosed, I didn't know where to turn. It's an experience you don't want to go through alone. To everyone here, I'm glad to be here."

Mr. Foerste said he had been diagnosed in 2004, had completed his treatments and is in remission. Milton said searching the Internet for information had been depressing. One of the services the foundation offers is a support system, where people can be paired w
ith a "buddy" in their area.

Ms. Ward said she and her husband see Bill every day. (Bill said they'd "kind of adopted" him.) "We knew and loved Mona. Mona was a lovely person. We want to be here to support him as well," Emma said.

At the founding meeting: Suzanne Bliss, Bill Mathis, Julie Kerr, Sandy Grayson, Sally Fleming, Janet Breen, John Breen, Earlene McDonald, Mary Ann Foerste, Milton Foreste, Harold Dean, and (not pictured) Emma Ward. Photo By Bobbi Nesbitt

Suzanne explained that the foundation is relatively new, having
been established in 2001 by the merger of the Cure for Lymphoma Foundation and the Lymphoma Research Foundation of America. LRFA was founded in Los Angeles in 1991 by Ellen Glesby Cohen, who died of lymphoma in 2000. CFL was founded in New York City in 1994 by Jerry Freundlich, a 14-year survivor of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, and his wife, Barbara.

Suzanne said the foundation has funded 34.7 million in research so far. Out of every dollar raised, 85 cents goes into research and education, she said. The foundation has the highest rating from Charity Navigator for sound fiscal management. It has a 45-member volunteer scientific advisory board that meets twice a year.

Ms. Fleming said the foundation has more than 20 active chapters that distribute literature to local doctors' offices and raise money for research and education.

Part of that money funds an 800 number for patient services that people can call as often as they choose.

The Arkansas group has had two more meetings since that initial one at ACRC. Bill was elected president of the chapter, and Ms. Kerr was elected recording secretary.

Bill is very pleased with the progress in establishing the chapter.

"I feel good about it," he said. "I'm just surprised someone hadn't done this before. I'm certain a lot of people in the state of Arkansas have died of lymphoma."

Lymphoma is the most common blood cancer and the third most common cancer of childhood. Mona died of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, a cancer of which there are about 36 different types, each a different disease, which makes research challenging. Some of the cancers are slow growing, some agressive; some are curable, some are not; some are easily detected, others, not.

The incidence of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma has nearly doubled over the last 55 years. It is the fifth or sixth most common type of cancer, depending on your source of information.

Risk factors that have been associated with it include age, sex (more common in men), a weakened immune system, viruses (Epstein-Barr, for example), and exposure to en
vironmental toxins, such as pesticides, solvents, and fertilizers. Some studies point to specific ingredients in herbicides and pesticides, such as organochlorine, organophosphate, and phenoxyacid compounds. Often there is simply no explaination for its occurrence.

Bill had been shocked when one of Mona's physicians told himn she may have had non-Hodgkin's lymphoma for 10 to 15 years. That is one of the reasons he wants to help raise money for research.

"I'm going to raise some money to get research to find an earlier way to
detect this."

And for education. "When Mona got so bad, there was no one to talk with about this. There were no brochures."
The Arkansas Chapter of the foundation will remedy that, he said.

Bill said that in trying to form the chapter, he'd encountered people all along the way who encouraged him. "Everybody has wanted to help and do what they can do."

Do what you can do. If you would like to attend monthly chapter meetings, which are held at Second Presbyterian Church in Pleasant Valley, call Bill at 501-580-8932.

(This story was written by Bobbi Nesbitt and ran in the June 2007 edition of Shoppe Talk. On February 29, 2008, Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe proclaimed March 24, Mona's birthday, to be Eradicate Lymphoma Day In Arkansas.)

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Fabrics Etc

Deborah Henry is "the textile lady." She grew up around fabrics, worked at her parents upholstery supply company, dreamed of designing fabrics, and started her own fabric store 24 years ago.

Ms. Henry's parents, Stan and Jean Rushin, own Rushin Upholstery and Supply Co., where a 10-year-old Deb started out cutting fabric samples and later learned just about all there is to know about textiles.

"So I grew up in this business. I have been taught by the best as far a running a business. I learned a lot from both of them," Deb said. "They'd put out books for the upholsterers. I'd help choose the fabrics. I was able to work in every aspect of their business, which made it easier to start my own."

That's Fabrics Etc, 11121 North Rodney Parham in The Market Place Shopping Center, where she offers thousands of fine fabrics, custom upholstery, draperies, bedspreads, wood blinds, and shutters.

Fabrics Etc first opened on Big Oak in Southwest Little Rock in 1982 as a discount fabric shop offering overruns and bargain fabrics in a building Deb had purchased previously as an investment.

"That worked for a while, but the customers were wanting the more up-to-date materials, and I wanted to do more than just sell fabrics. I wanted to do custom drapery. Alice Barrentine, a seamstress, educated me on drapery." Next came upholstery. "I loved to do antiques and bring them back to life."

Deb decided to move her shop to West Little Rock on Shackelford and began selling first quality fabrics and offering custom work for upholstery, drapes, and bedding. Finally, in 1989, she moved Fabrics Etc to The Market Place.

"I like it over here. I am one of the oldest tenents in The Market Place now."

Her shop is a great place to find just what you need for everything from material for one chair cushion to fabrics to make over every room of your home.

"My shop offers fabrics, trims, tassels, custom drapery, custom upholstery, and custom bedding. It offers hard window treatments, such as blinds and shutters, and we have a line of rugs at really good prices."

But the best thing it offers is Deb's eye for color and putting fabrics together. She has an uncanny ability to put fabrics together in a pleasing way. This gift was on display the day Shoppe Talk came to take a photograph to accompany this story.

Edna Edick came into the shop looking for material to cover a lamp shade. She was gracious enough to allow Shoppe Talk to follow her and Deb through the process of finding just the right fabric. Next the bolts of trim and tassels came out. The process took less than 15 minutes, and Mrs. Edick, a first-time customer at the shop, was very happy with the result: a floral linen for the lamp shade, a looped chenille fringe for the bottom, and a small decorative cord to trim the top.

"I love to do something like that," Deb said. "I love doing something as simple as a lamp shade or as complex as a whole bedroom. We try to give the best customer service for everything. She was pleased. It was perfect. It just worked."

Sometimes customers come in with their carpet and paint samples and just kind of camp out. It's that kind of laid-back atmosphere. "It's friendly, and that's the way I want it to be. Sometimes people just sit on the floor and spread out their projects. Our customers come in and tell us how comfortable they feel."

Sometimes customers come in with their decorators, and those professionals make their selections from Deb's stock. There's a large variety of cloth on bolts - silks, chenilles, linens, Jacquards - from all the leading mills. And the shop offers a large library of fabric books as well as fabric samples arranged by color along one wall.

You'll find bold colors, fun geometrics, embroidered silks. "One of my dreams was to go to design school in New York. I wanted to design fabric. It just wasn't possible (for financial reasons). But now I get to pick all the designers I like.

"We carry a nice run of children's fabrics, from the whimsical to the sophisticated. The cornice board is sophisticated," she said, referring to a custom baby ensemble. "The cornice board is red faux suede with (ivory) embroidered initials. The bumper pads are done in ivory diamond quilted and red faux suede and piped in a read and black small check. The ties and cording are in the small check, and we did a plaid silk dust ruffle, in ivory, black, and red plaid."

Amanda Pannell, who works in the shop, designed the gorgeous ensemble, and Deb's wonderful seamstress did the work.

"My seamstress does all the drapery and bedding. She has been with me for 18 years, and I think she is one of the best. And I have two people who upholster." (And the names of all three are a closely guarded secret.)

Several women work in the shop, including Renee Rushin and Lois Moffatt, and all are available for consultation to help choose fabrics. Or Deb will go to your home to work with you there. Her residential customer list reads like a Who's Who of Little Rock, and textiles from Fabrics Etc may be found in business around the city too.

Whether you want to spend a lot or just a little, Deb wants to please you. "I can cover just about any budget. My customers tell me I have the best prices in town." Fabrics are prices from as low as $6 a yard in the "bargain barrel" to $200 a yard and every cost in between. "We've got a lot of good fabrics in the bargain barrel, and we always have a bargain barrel. And I have impromptu sales."

Deb has a lot of repeat customers. One, for example, has had her do six houses over the years, and now Deb is working on selecting fabrics for her seventh home.

"This year, we're seeing an influx of customers from about 10 years ago. The styles have changed, and they're ready for a new look.

Getting to know Deb Henry

Where were you born? Little Rock.

Do you have children? I have a daughter, Shera Henry. She is the light of my life. She lives in New Orleans. She survived the hurricane. Shera came to work in the store (in Little Rock) for two or three months. She has a natural talent; she was great at it. She has an anthropology degree and is looking for work (in New Orleans). The place where she was working is still closed.

Do you have pets? I have a cat named Chuck who is a female. She is the most loving animal I've ever had. I adopted Chuck from one of my daughter's college friends. When Chuck was named, they thought she was a he. And I have Oscar, a weenie dog.

What's your favorite restaurant? Lilly's.

What's your favorite book? The Bible. Right now, I'm reading The Wind Is My Mother written by Bear Heart with Molly Larkin.

Favorite writer? Charles Stanley.

Movie? Dancing with Wolves.

City? Eureka Springs and New Orleans.

What do you do in your spare time? I like to go trout fishing. I love the Little Red River. My parents have a cabin on the Little Red. Every chance I have, I escape to there.

Is there anything you'd like to learn how to do? I would like to learn stained glass and pottery.

What would you do if you won the lottery? I would probably build a shelter for the homeless. I have this great need in my heart to help people. I would pay off my daughter's student loans and then reach out and spread the wealth among the less fortunate.

Is there anything you'd like to see Little Rock do differently? I'd like to see Little Rock stop cutting down our trees and taking away the natural part of the state. There's too much concrete. ... Senior citizens need to be taken care of. When they have to choose between paying for food and paying for medicine, attention needs to be paid to that. (Deb described an elderly woman she helped through St. Francis House.) They've worked all their lives and have to choose between food and medicine. I paid her pharmacy bill. All she wanted was someone to pay her pharmacy bill.

Is there anything you'd like to see the nation do differently? I'd like them to stop the war and take care of our own. ... 'Love' is a big word, but I think we need more love. People were reaching out, helping the Katrina victims. I think that showed a lot of compassion. I was impressed.

If you could have a dream dinner party and invite any three people, past or present, who would you ask? Einstein. John Kennedy. George Washington and Abe Lincoln. That's four. That's okay. And John Lennon.

(This story was written by Bobbi Nesbitt and appeared in the March 2006 edition of Shoppe Talk.)

Friday, May 15, 2009

Cantrell Gallery, Where a Lot of Great Artists Hang Around

For almost three decades, hundreds of artists in Arkansas and the Mid-South have benefited from their association with Cantrell Gallery, the spacious gallery at 8206 Cantrell R

Almost any time you visit, you'll find the works of about 40 artists exhibited ther
e - oils, watercolors, sculpture, photography, pottery, stained glass, scratch board, hand-blown and fused glass, and jewelry. It's an impressive eclectic collection. In an adjacent room of the gallery, one-person and group shows are held on average eight times a year.

It all began in 1970 when Helen Scott, owner of Cantrell Gallery, opened Art Fair with her husband, Norman, on West 7th Street downtown.

"We both worked other jobs. Within a year, we started doing custom framing, and Norman resigned from his position with the state. I quit teaching and joined the business full time," Mrs. Scott said.

Art Fair moved to a second location on 7th Street, but soon Helen and Norman learned they they would have to move again.

"We got up one morning and learned in the paper that the city had bought the block," she said. It was to become the site for the new Central Fire Station. Facing what might have been considered a setback, the Scotts used this as an opportunity to grow and opened two locations, at 3408 South University and 1118 West 3rd Street.

In 1976 they added their location on Cantrell Road, becoming one of the first tenants buy signing up for space soon after ground was broken for the Cantrell Heights Shopping Center, and also kept open the 3rd Street site.

"We kept the location on 3rd Street for a long time. But we decided we'd like to both be together at the same location."

So they closed it, and together, they remodeled the new space to look more like a gallery and renamed it Cantrell Gallery. There, in 1980, they held their first one-person show. It featured famed Arkansas artist Warren Criswell.

In 1990, their daughter, Cindy Scott-Huisman, and son-in-law, Clarke Huisman, joined the team. This enabled them to expand into the space next door, which more than doubled their gallery space.

The Scotts had hoped the two would join the business, but they had to wait until the young people had a go at the theater. Mrs. Scott-Huisman was graduated from Hendrix College after majoring in humanities and theater.

"She took a job at The Rep, and that's where she met Clarke," Helen said. "After that year was over, she told us, 'I'm ready to join the business.' We said, 'Yea!"

Meanwhile, Mr. Huisman went to California to work with the Berkeley Reperatory Theater. When he returned to Arkansas, he and Cindy were married, and Clarke joined the business too.

"It's just been a wonderful family business," Helen said. "When they joined the business, we were able to take over the next space. (That meant) we could really concentrate on art shows.

"Our first one-person show when we remodeled in 1980 featured Warren Criswell. In 1990, when we expanded into the new space, Warren did our first one-person show. He's just extremely talented. We have enjoyed a long relationship with him."

A large part of Cantrell Gallery's business is made up of their custom framing, which they do for artists and for the public. Acid-free materials, UV protection glass, and other quality framing methods are employed. "We've tried to keep up with the newest and best ways to frame," Helen said.

Cantrell Gallery has enjoyed a long relationship with the Arkansas Arts Center, which can make for some thrilling experiences.

"It's exciting when you realize, oh, this is a Chagall watercolor I hold in my hands. We have framed a lot of art in their permanent collection."

That is the work of Clarke and Cindy. Clarke does the framing, and Cindy handles the finishing details. She is also director of exhibits for the gallery.

"Clark is just fantastic. He is so mediculous in all things. Perfection is in everthing he does. Cindy does what we call 'fitting,' and that's the last thing. She finishes it out. They are really a great team."

Having a family business and spending each day with the folks you love best has been a wonderful experience, Helen said.

"Even with being together all the time like we are, they are just my most favorite people to go out and eat with, to spend time with. We really enjoy one another. I think having that business and doing that every day is the most fun thing in the world."

And the gallery is a place of peace and beauty.

"There's beautiful art work. Classical music is playing. (There are) wonderful clients. What more could you want?"

Since 1980, a lot of great artists have "hung around." Recent works include those by painter/sculptor/ cartoonist John Deering, watercolorist Barry Lindley, impressionist Sandy Hubler, scratch board artist Sally Maxwell, Patricia Wilkes, who does oils, pastels, and commissioned portraits, and Ovita Goolsby, who works in oils, mixed media, and does commissioned portraits.

The gallery has had its share of whimsical exhibits, including art by Mary the elephant. When folks at an elephant sanctuary in Greenbrier first called about their elephant who could paint, Helen said she thought it was a joke.

But the cause was good - to raise money for the sanctuary - so Helen said yes, and one Sunday afternoon Mary was stationed on the sidewalk outside the gallery in one of Little Rock's posher neighborhoods where she did indeed "paint" for onlookers and startled passersby on Cantrell Road.

"She sat on the sidewalk and painted. Willie Oates (Little Rock's legendary 'hat lady') brought her a beret. It was a Sunday afternoon. People were driving by on Cantrell. They were saying, 'That's an elephant!'"

You may enjoy the wonderful art at Cantrell Gallery 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday.

This story was written by Bobbi Nesbitt and first appeared in the August 2005 edition of Shoppe Talk.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Rev. Betsy Singleton at Quapaw Quarter Methodist

By Bobbi Nesbitt

Attending a service at Quapaw Quarter United Methodist Church is an uplifting, joyous, very human, very spiritual experience.

The Rev. Betsy Singleton, senior pastor, has the congregation's rapt attention when she speaks about making marriages and partnerships work. When "Reverend Betsy" leaves the pulpit mid-service to welcome newcomers, members of the congregation turn to shake hands with those around them and exchange warm hugs. The very pregnant Reverend Betsy stops before a newborn, takes him in her arms and holds him up high Kunta Kinte-like to the delight, laughter and applause of her flock.

When Betsy Singleton took over as pastor five years ago in June, the average worship attendance was 25.

"This past Sunday, we had 226 in worship," Mrs. Singleton said in an interview in May. "We ran out of bulletins.

"Our attendance this year is up. We have 20 new members this year at this point. We've over 350 members now."

Thoughtful, innovative services are helping boost attendance. Then there's that friendliness factor. And the congregation welcomes everyone - especially those folks who have not felt very welcome in other churches. It probably helps, too, that there are no buckets sitting around any more to catch water from the leaking roof.

For a long time, Quapaw Quarter United Methodist Church endured the problems of many urban churches, including dwindling membership coupled with the expense of maintaining a large building that needed major repairs.

What is truly amazing is that the small congregation continued its service to the community, with the Food Pantry and its Stone Soup program.

The church at 1601 South Louisiana is in the heart of Little Rock's historic district, surrounded by pretty Victorian and Craftsman-style houses, and just a few blocks from the Governor's Mansion.

"The roots of the church go back to the latter part of the 1800s. It was the next congregation after First Methodist," Rev. Singleton said. "This was the third location. It was completed in 1926, so this is the 80th year of this building's existence."

When she arrived, the roof leaked. "We had baskets for the roof. ... There was only one computer. There were phone lines that didn't work. The pipe organ was damaged. Our fellowship hall was in bad shape."

Reverend Betsy arrived with a special three-year program, HeARTwork, that assigned local missionaries to work with the church. "It came from the General Board of Global Ministries that supports missions."

This was an arts mission that converted the empty third and fourth floors of the church into super-affordable downtown studio space. In exchange, the artists aided the mission and helped beautify the church with murals. One of the artists in residence, Hamid Ebrahimifar, made a permanent mobile for the church with tiles that were handpainted by the children. The artists also do outreach in the community.

Volunteers in Mission from Gulf Port, came to Little Rock, too, to help.

"They redid our chapel. It was a mess. Ceiling tiles were falling off. There was water damage. The carpet buckled."

And, very important, the HeARTwork mission program paid Rev. Singleton's salary.

"So the only thing my church had to pay me was housing," she said. "The first three years I was here, not having to pay that (salary) expense for me, the church was able to catch its breath. Things began to change, and the church began to grow."

And that leaky roof? Capitol View United Methodist Church on Markham solved the problem when that church, whose congregation had dwindled to 10 active members, merged with Quapaw Quarter. Capitol View's property was sold for $250,000 - just the amount Quapaw Quarter needed to replace its old tile roof - a happy ending Frank Capra would have been proud of.

There's still some water damage in the sanctuary, and the church has applied for a matching grant from the Department of Arkansas Heritage to address that problem along with some other repairs.

"It's a very beautiful sanctuary ... designed by Charles Thompson, who designed a lot of homes in the Quapaw Quarter. It's gothic style, and the space is really great for the way we worship today. The inside of the sanctuary is wonderful. There's no carpet. It's great for acoustics. It's kind of in the round; it's hard to find a bad seat."

To the pastor's left is a large screen she often employs to emphasize points in her sermons, showing everything from clips from recent movies to interviews she's done with members of the congregation. For example, one sermon in May discussed relationships in marriages and partnerships, how to overcome differences, and what men and women want most from their partners. On this Sunday, she aired interviews with Gayle and Jerry, who have been married 45 years, and with Douglas and Ken, who have been together nine years.

"These couples have found ways to bring out the best in one another. They have found ways to adjust, listen, work and laugh in order for each partner to remain satisfied and happy about their relationship," Rev. Betsy said.

Including a gay couple in the discussion is typical for this church. It doesn't shy away from issues in the here and now - from homosexuality, to the separation of church and state, to the question of whether suicide is a sin. It has a film series, showing such movies as Brokeback Mountain, Mildred Pierce, and Walk the Line, and holds discussion sessions afterward.

And it welcomes, with open arms, individuals who may have felt like strangers in their own church communities.

"There are a lot of people out there who don't have a church family or one that says you're not okay. We went looking for people who were hurting, who had been marginalized by the church or who thought the church was irrelevant," Rev. Betsy said.

"Our membership is made up of a lot of people who were not active in church. We wanted people who had not been in church and had not found a place where they were welcome."

Growth during the first year and a half Rev. Betsy was there was dramatic, membership increasing as enthusiastic parishioners brought their friends and relatives to services.

"Our worship service is 'traditional' and 'contemporary.' We have one service still. One Sunday we will have beautiful organ music and classical music from the choir. Another, it might be jazz or country gospel. So it is different every week. It's nice to hear the old hymns and nice to hear something new."

In general, Quapaw Quarter has a young congregation. Rev. Betsy has officiated at only four funerals in five years.

"(Members) come from all over - Maumelle, Jacksonville, lots from North Little Rock. Our smallest percentage in terms of zip code is West Little Rock.

"Because we are right off the freeway, it's easy to get here no matter where you are. Our location, which used to be a minus in the '70s and '80s, is now a plus. I think we're in a good place. I'm glad we're located where we are."

And because Quapaw Quarter UMC is "a church that looks like a church," it impresses many of the younger folk.

"They are interested in the beauty of the architecture. A lot of young people who visit just love the sanctuary. They walk in and say, 'Wow, this is really a sacred place.'"


The beginning of this story mentioned that Rev. Betsy was "very pregnant." She was in her eight month and in her own words, "I'm enormous."

By now everyone knows that she and her husband, U.S. Representative Vic Snyder, are the proud parents of Charles Pennington "Penn" Snyder.

The couple has been married almost three years.

"Neither of us has ever had children, so this is a big lifestyle change," Rev. Betsy said in May. She goes to D.C. about once a year, but said she planned to go there more often after the baby was born.

"He's here in his district working when he's not in D.C. It's not a bad schedule. We're touching base all of the time.

"I'm 44. He's 58. ... Victor had never been married before. He thought that part had passed him by, and then he got lucky," she said with a laugh.

"There are some things we can bring to the table that young people don't have. We've done a lot of traveling. We have a global perspective. That will be fun for our kids to go (traveling) with us."

Kids? "We've talked about it. We ought to try to do this again."

Congressman Snyder walked into Rev. Betsy's study during a photo session in May and did not look at all pleased when asked if he too would pose for the photographer. Then Betsy said, "oh, it's alright. She's doing a story about me."

Vic smiled and stepped into the picture. "I just do what she tells me to do," he said.

The two met at an event at Vino's downtown.

"It was a Louis Jordan film festival and silent auction, a fundraiser," Betsy said. "Because we had this arts mission, I went down there to kind of check it out. He was standing next to me. I knew who he was, and he knew who I was, but we'd never talked. We sat down and visited until
10 or 10:30. I said, 'I have to go home, because I have to work tomorrow.' I asked if he could come to church the next day.

"He's been participating in the church since my second Sunday here. He's seen it grow."

Going around to visit other churches is a healthy thing to do, Betsy said. "He loves this church so much, it's hard for him to get away. He misses his church when he's not there. He's seen dramatic change in it.

"He wants to bring his new baby to church." But Betsy, perhaps, wants a little more "leave" in her maternity leave. "I said, 'Maybe you can go and bring the baby.'"

Betsy said Vic has always been very supportive of her ministry. They share their lives with one another and with the congregation. At one point in her sermon, when Rev. Betsy was describing how she and Vic would go to bed together, hold hands and pray, you could have heard a pin drop in the santuary.

It's not odd that a person such as Vic Snyder would find himself so at home at Quapaw Quarter UMC. Before he was a congressman, Vic was a family physician who took part in several medical missions to underdeveloped countries, including work in El Salvadoran refugee camps in Honduras, Cambodian refugee camps in Thailand, an Ethiopian refugee camp in Sudan, and at a West African mission hospital in Sierra Leone.

Quapaw Quarter UMC is all about service and mission too.

"We're known for our food ministry. Our Food Pantry serves 10,000 people a year," Rev. Betsy said.

The Food Pantry is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the first and third Tuesdays of each month. The church also serves 100 to 150 people each week through Stone Soup, a hot meal program 3 p.m. each Sunday in its fellowship hall.

Betsy credits other area churches for their support of the food programs.

"In the suburbs, you can't just open your window and do a mission. Most services for the working poor and homeless are in the cities. There are people who wanted to do a hands-on mission, saw people hurting, and other churches would give money. We've always had two or three people who help with the coordination. Every Sunday, different churches come to help."

Even when Quapaw Quarter was down to 25 active members five years ago and "really stretching to hold body and soul together," it continued its food ministry.

"It's admirable they were able to keep it going," Betsy said.

"Community breakfast is done almost totally by our church volunteers. That's been a big deal. It serves about 300 meals every Sunday (from 9 - 10 a.m.). So this church has a real strong push for mission.

"The Quapaw members have a real heart for work and do hands-on stuff."

Every year, the church prepares disaster relief kits. It sponsors a 3-week day camp for at-risk teens. And it is involved too in interfaith efforts to open a health clinic downtown and to host homeless families by providing food and lodging.

"$30,000 last year went to mission. That's amazing for the size of our congregation."

Betsy had never planned to become a Methodist minister.

"I don't think that was totally up to me. I think ordination was a call. I was planning to go into advertising and marketing. ... It didn't have enough purpose. I needed to believe in what I was selling. At the same time, I was real involved in my church (Pulaski Heights UMC). By that time, I'd seen a woman pastor. I wasn't sure I wanted to be a pastor, but I was sure I wanted to go to seminary."

She had attended Hendrix College as an English major, and a few years later, she went back to Southern Methodist University in Dallas to earn her master of divinity.

One year Rev. Betsy served three small churches near Prescott, holding services each Sunday at 9 a.m., 10 a.m., and 11 a.m., riding the circuit. She also served as the first woman associate pastor for a church in Benton.

The Rev. Victor Nixon, senior pastor at Pulaski Heights United Methodist Church, asked her to come and be his associate. She served as associate pastor there for eight years before coming to Quapaw Quarter UMC. She was ordained as an elder in 1993.

Then in July 2001, along with the HeARTwork mission, she was assigned to Quapaw Quarter - a church that had a lot of memories for her and her family.

"My grandmother went here. I came to church with her a lot. We would sit on the left side of the congregation, her keeping me from getting restless with mints and butterscotch. After church, we'd go to the Golden Host at Park Plaza and eat. My mom came back when I (became the pastor). It brought back a lot of good memories for her. My dad joined the church when they were dating. They were married for 27 years. She's 86 now, and doing pretty good."

Rev. Betsy doesn't know if she'll be at Quapaw Quarter in 10 years.

"It's a good possibility I could still be here. I have issues in my life about where I want to be. Sometimes it's important to have a change. You can have a slump and get over it - just like in a marriage. Everyone can have dry patches.

"This church is in a much better place. We have new problems, but they're pretty good problems to have. We now have enough families with children that we need to hire someone to help with education. ... We need to figure out how to raise enough money to do our mastor renovation plan. Five years ago we wouldn't have been able to even talk about it."

Getting to know the Rev. Betsy Singleton

Where were you born? In Little Rock, at the old Baptist Hospital.

Tell us about your family. I have three brothers and one sister, all older. I'm the baby of the family. ... We're close, and everybody lives in Arkansas.

What's your favorite book? I was an English major. Pride and Prejudice. That one never gets old. Often it's what I'm currently reading. I just read The Di Vinci Code. Honestly, I love scripture. It's chock-full of human experience."

Who is your favorite writer? I love Jane Austen. I have so many - that's the problem. My favorite is good fiction. I like anthologies of best short stories.

What's your favorite Little Rock restaurant? We eat everything, but a place we frequent a lot is Arkansas Burger Company. They have really good milkshakes. They use Yarnell's ice cream. My husband likes cheeseburgers. They have a great veggie burger. My favorite is Mexican food ... Casa Manana, Brownings too. I've had several cravings for their specific cheese dip during my pregnancy.

Is there any food you would not eat? I have been a vegetarian since 1989. I've started eating fish. I had some problems with anemia. Someone said to me, 'You may be a vegetarian, but your baby is not.' I've had a couple of Reuben sandwiches. I don't generally eat meat. I'm not a vegan. I eat dairy products.

Is there anything you'd like to change about yourself? I need to be more patient.

Do you have any favorite actors? Growing up, Cary Grant was my favorite. Contemporary people, Tom Hanks. I feel like I grew up with him.

Movies? Walk the Line. It was one of the best movies I've seen this year.

Is there anything you'd like to see Little Rock do differently? I think Little Rock, from my perspective, is doing a lot of the right things now. I hope more people in the suburbs look at downtown. City officials are encouraging that. I think we need to keep doing what we are doing - offer more places to live downtown and keep our green spaces too. I love seeing that Little Rock and North Little Rock are working together on so many things. I'm excited about the ball park.

The nation? This health care problem is a big one. ... People can't afford health care.

What do you do in your spare time? Right now, get ready for a baby. We took child birth classes for seven weeks. It's kind of a new hobby. And we go to a lot of things in the community.

Is there anything you'd like to learn how to do? We'd love to ballroom dance, but we haven't found the time to do that. We'd like to travel more. (Vic's) family is in Oregon, and he gets homesick for Oregon family. One of the things we'd really like to do is go bird watching. That takes time too.

Do you have pets? We have three dogs and a cat, Butterscotch. He's a real hoot. He thinks he's a dog. He's not real catty. We have Bishop, a golden retriever, who is eight years old, and an English cocker, Dottie, with black and white spots, who is a year old. And my mother's dog, Daisy, an American cocker. We took her when my mother moved to an apartment a few years ago. Daisy is 14.

What is your favorite city? Probably Little Rock, and outside of Arkansas, probably London.

What do you watch on the tube? We watch a lot of crime shows. We watch CNN - all the news stations. We're always looking at the news. ... No reality shows. The Supernanny, just to see if we can get any tips.

What would you do if you won a large lottery? Probably give most of it to our church. And for a Methodist pastor who has a spouse who likes to do charitable work, we'd like to put some of that into an endowment. Maybe buy another house, a cabin in Santa Fe or Taos, a place to get away and be private. And (savings) to not have to worry about the kids' college."

If you could have a dream dinner party and invite any three guests, who would you choose? We've been in our house about a year, and, while remodeling, we couldn't do much entertaining. Truthfully, we'd like to see people who are our friends. We constantly say we need to get together. Our fantasy is making reality happen, seeing just regular people who are our friends. Life is so busy. It makes it very difficult. We lost a friend recently. He died suddenly. I makes you wish you had more time with friends.

This story ran in the July 2006 edition of Shoppe Talk. Since this story ran, the couple did indeed "try to do this again." They have four boys, Penn, and triplets, Aubrey, Wyatt, and Sullivan.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Martinous Oriental Rug Co., Inc.

By Bobbi Nesbitt

World War I was behind us, rural America was moving to the city, and "The Babe" was chalking up home runs for the Yankees. It was during this time that the Martinous family first began selling fine oriental rugs in Arkansas. Carl Martinous and his uncle Malek (MAY-lek) were traveling across Arkansas and Oklahoma in 1923 in a station wagon loaded with rugs.

The late Carl Martinous, the father of David Martinous, owner of Martinous Oriental Rug Co., Inc., of Little Rock, and his uncle joined thousands of young Americans taking to the roads in "horseless carriages" to make their fortunes.

It wasn't easy to travel the roads then. As late as 1920, another young man named Harry Truman had to ballast the rear of his Dodge with concrete blocks to avoid being capsized in potholes as he made his rounds as an official of Jackson County, Missouri.

The Martinous family started in Springfield and opened places of business there and in Fort Smith in 1939. The old Goldman Hotel in Fort Smith had been one of the places Carl and Malek would set up to sell their rugs, Carl's wife, Dorothy Martinous, said. Later, when they opened their business, it was located in Fort Smith's first shopping center.

During the 1920s and '30s, Carl and his three brothers lived in Springfield, which was home base when Carl traveled with his uncle learning the rug business.

"He was a nut about oranges," David Martinous said. The Lebanese-born Malek would eat oranges all along the route and throw peels in the back of the station wagon. "One of Dad's jobs was to clean the station wagon of orange peelings."

One of their best customers during those years was the late Sen. J. William Fulbright's mother. "Bill was teaching law at the university (in Fayetteville)," Dorothy said. They (Carl and Malek) would always stay for dinner at the Fulbrights'. Bill liked to hear Malek tell about the old country."

When Carl took over the business, he convinced his three brothers to go in with him. Carl, Ben, Shamel, and Phillip Eli helped set up the businesses in Springfield and Fort Smith.

"Dad went to Chicago and learned professional rug cleaning," David said. "He introduced professional equipment (to Arkansas). He had a shampooer and a wet vac and rinse."

"This was right before the war, and Dad made contact with the military to use the professional equipment to clean mattresses for the government."

Dorothy said that once when Carl, Ben and Phillip were in Chicago working on the government contract, some of the officers at the military base there convinced them to go and see a young comedian from Lebanon who was doing stand-up at a Chicago club.

"All three of them went," and got to go backstage and meet the performer. "When Carl came home he told me that he met a guy who said he was going to be famous one of these days," Dorothy said of the young Danny Thomas.

It turned out that that meeting was the beginning of a life-long friendship with Thomas and the Martinous family. Dorothy was a volunteer for the St. Jude Children's Hospital for 27 years, and Thomas came to Fort Smith to honor her when she retired as a volunteer.

"We raised over $1 million here in Fort Smith for St. Jude," she said.

"We have so many children in Arkansas who are patients of that hospital. I don't know what it is, but we've had 30 to 35 children from Van Buren and Fort Smith."

Dorothy said her son, David, helped tremendously with the fund raising for the hospital. "He is a very, very community minded young man. He was raised that way."

David and his wife, Cynthia, share spots on the boards of AETN and Wildwood and volunteer at the Carver YMCA, in addition to David's vice presidency of the Pleasant Valley Property Owners Association and involvement with a local Middle Eastern dance company, as well as the restoration of an historic carousal.

David's childhood was not an easy one. His father, Carl, was diagnosed with cancer in 1956 and died in 1958 when David was 12 years old.

"Mother carried on the business," David said.

"I operated both businesses about five years," Dorothy said of the stores in Fort Smith and Little Rock.

Between 1939 and 1940, Shemel traveled to California, fell in love with the sunny state, and opened a rug business in San Jose. David's other uncles, Ben and Phillip, moved back to Springfield to operate that store. During that time, Carl had opened the Little Rock store. After his death, Dorothy not only ran the Little Rock and Fort Smith stores, she did hands-on work as well.

"Carl taught me how to overcast." That is the hand repair that's done to the edges of oriental rugs. "And he taught me how to re-fringe."

David completed two years of school at Fort Smith Junior College. He had started at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville as a junior when his mother became ill and the manager of the Little Rock store
decided to return home to Mississippi to live, so David quit school to help his mother with the Little Rock store. He was 21 when he moved into the store his father had built during World War II at 503 East 21st Street. He lived over the store and attended classes at Little Rock University at night. He graduated in 1970 at age 25 in the first class of the newly named University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

David was friends with Leon Fields and Bain Corder, who were building the Cantrell Heights Shopping Center. He became their first tenant. "They designed the building to help me. I was there from 1976 to 1985. When I moved there, it was a big space," David said, adding that he did not have the inventory to fill it. "I went to New York and did the best selling job I ever did to let me have rugs on consignment." He was so successful that the 1,000 square feet, which had looked so large to him when he first moved into the shopping center, began to close in on him.

"I was outgrowing that space and couldn't get any more. The people next door were doing a good business, and I couldn't expand that way."

That's when he decided to build his own building. The only problem was finding the perfect location. When David saw the spot where his business is now located, he thought the real estate agent had to be kidding. 1521 Macon Drive was a bare field in a swampy area near Rodney Parham.

"I said, 'I'll tell you one thing, I'll never put a business out here.' You should never say never. That's what I learned."

One of the final selling points was that nearby construction included a large post office to serve the new subdivisions and commercial buildings springing up in the rapidly expanding western part of Little Rock.

"The day I put the earnest money up for this property, there were two other people behind me" (ready to buy if he didn't). "The day I closed, I had someone offer me more money than I paid for it."

The location has turned out to be perfect. "It's convenient to the interstate. I have my own parking. No one can build in front of me."

David sells quality handmade oriental rugs from around the world.

And Martinous Oriental Rug Co. cleans more than 6,000 rugs a year in its state-of-the-art 5,000-square-foot cleaning facility.

This story ran in the May 1996 edition of Shoppe Talk in a slightly different form.