Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Freckled Frog

Support Arkansas Artists

Erika and Sadie

The Freckled Frog - Sadie Nuffer's and Erika Robbins' charming shop in Hillcrest, supports the work of 57 Arkansas artists and crafts folk making hip, fun, whimsical, original, affordable, smart art.

"That's a lot of people," Ms. Nuffer said. "We started with eight other people besides ourselves, so we have grown quite a bit."

The two women had been making their own crafts for years when they opened a shop in the Heights in October 2009.

"Everybody thought we were crazy opening a store in a closet," Ms. Robbins said of the 12 x 25 foot Heights' shop.

But by March 2010, when they moved to a larger, light-filled space inside River City Coffee, Tea and Cream in Hillcrest, they were representing the work of 22 Arkansas artists.

"We've been doing really good. It's almost three times the space here," Sadie said.

"Oh, the shop is doing wonderfully in Hillcrest," Erika said. "Having our window that close to the street is great, and the neighborhood is really digging what we're doing."

The shop only sells work by Arkansans.

"We've got a little bit of everything - tee shirts, scarves, hats, apparel, and a lot of really interesting jewelry," Erika said.

Sadie and Erika met at the Farmers' Market in the River Market and became fast friends.

Sadie has been making jewelry and other crafts since 2001. "I was recently divorced and wanted to stay home with my sons, Damon and Jake.

"My parents were farmers at the Farmers' Market. I would help them out and put out a few of my things."

"I do a lot of recycled items out of old vinyl records. There are two sizes of cuff bracelets ($7 to $10) and earrings ($10)."

Sadie uses upholstery samples to make patchwork messenger bags, which are European-style shoulder bags. She makes patchwork skirts, pants and shorts too. Her hemp jewelry ranges from $3 to $8 and includes necklaces, bracelets and anklets.

Now she's making really neat leather flower hair clips with buttons as the middle of the flower. They range from $8 to $15. "I use leather furniture samples that were going to be thrown away. So it's close to a free supply of materials.

"Erika calls me 'the queen of repurposing.' I'm always doing something new with things like buttons and bottle caps. My parents were hippies. They are organic farmers, The Nuffers ... That's where my love of repurposing comes in."

Erika had a serendipitous entry into jewelry making. She was working an at insurance company when she bought a new suit and wanted to find the perfect big, chunky aquamarine necklace to go with it. But luckily, she found aquamarine nugget beads on eBay and made one herself - at quite a cost savings. Later she began making Christmas and birthday gifts for friends. And then, creating for the fun of creating.

"I got quite an inventory built up. So I took them to the Farmers Market. That's where I met Sadie, and we were instant friends, and we started doing different shows - craft fairs and music shows."

Sadie and Erika participated in craft shows and festivals for years and met other Arkansans who needed a place to show their work in the winter. Both women knew they eventually wanted a shop, and each was amused to learn that the other had been collecting and storing shelves too in anticipation.

They found a tiny space on the side of a restaurant in the Heights, and some of their fellow artists trusted them with their work and allowed them to build up their inventory. From the beginning, their shop carried Matt Abbott's Nativ tees and Ron Locke's LockStar soy candles.

And Jerry Hamilton's wire-wrapped jewelry. Mr. Hamilton cuts and polishes all kinds of gem stones for his jewelry, incorporates antique buttons and even employs old-fashioned typewriter keys in clever pieces. "He's an all-around talented guy," Ericka said.

Sadie said they just got in Mr. Abbott's fall line of long sleeved shirts with Arkansas themes. (They are wearing his tees in our cover photo.) Mr. Locke's candles are made to burn soot free and have lead-free wicks.

You will find items at The Freckled Frog that are sold nowhere else.

"I think that what folks like, because we're different," Erika said. "Everybody around here is just so talented, and its just so neat to be able to provide an outlet for their work. Most stores are corporate retailers, and they can't do something like that."

Not only are the wares unique, the prices are rare too.

"The most fun thing about our shop is that we have items for $3, and we have a ton of $5 things," Sadie said.

Another thing you'll enjoy is Erika's wire wrapping on the spot, Sadie said.

Customers can pick out their own stones or beads and have Erika make them a piece instantly.
Some people like to bring in coins, rocks, or items that have sentimental value and have them incorporated into a piece, Erika said. She also likes the challenge of duplicating pieces. Just bring her a magazine clipping and watch her do her magic - for a fraction of the cost.

"Most of the things I do on the spot. If I don't do it while you're in the store, it will take a while. If I do it while you're here, it could be five to 20 minutes."

When it's time to do your holiday shopping, have some fun. Visit The Freckled Frog and enjoy the laid-back, super-pleasant, pet-friendly atmosphere. Visit with Delilah, the dear wee shop dog who captivates everyone's heart. Best of all, spend $25 and cross off half your list!

The Freckled Frog is located at 2715 Kavanaugh Boulevard. Hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Sunday. 514-2060.


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Sadie Nuffer Profile

Sadie Nuffer

Tell us about your family. My boys are great - A, B students, most of the times straight As. We have a small farm ourselves. We kind of take after my folks, Rusty and Sue Nuffer. They live in the mountains north of Morrilton surrounded by National Forest. That's where I grew up, and I love it. My boys (Damon, 14, and Jake, 11) like to go up there and go hunting with them. So, we are outdoorsy people. My finance's name is Granger Roberts.

Where were you born? On the farm. It was the community of Lost Corners. Jerusalem is the post office address now.

What do you do in your spare time? Playing in my garden would be my fun time.

Where do you live? Vilonia. I have a vegetable garden and a berry garden and two little miniature goats.

What's your favorite Little Rock restaurant? Cafe Bossa Nova (on Kavanaugh in Hillcrest) is one of my favorite places to eat. That and Boulevard.

Is there anything you'd like to learn how to do? Yes, I'd like to learn how to blow glass.

Do you support any charities? Arkansas Earth Day.

Do you have any pets? I have three cats, a chocolate lab, the two goats, which are pets, and, oh, like 15 fish. We have two fish tanks.

What would you do if you won a large lottery? I would pay all debts off and teach people how to garden - how to be more self-sustainable and grow your own food. And hire someone to run The Freckled Frog.

What's your favorite food? Anything Mexican.

What kind of music do you like? I like a wide assortment. I like blue grass and jam bands a lot.

Is there anything you'd like to see the nation do differently? Get a little more grounded and down to earth.


Erika Robbins Profile

Erika Robbins

Tell us about your family. Erika said her mom and dad, who had encouraged her creativity and work, passed away in 2008 before The Freckled Frog opened. "I really hate that they didn't get to see me take advantage of it."

Where were you born? Chattanooga.

What is your favorite Little Rock restaurant? Cantina Laredo (in midtown). I love Mexican food passionately. I could eat it every day.

Is there anything you would like to learn how to do? Casting precious metal.

What do you do in your spare time? "I hula hoop. If I can't sleep, I'll go out at 4 o'clock at night and hula hoop. I've got my neighbors doing it too."

Do you have any pets? Delilah, my chihuahua.

Where do you live? I have a house in the Heights that I put up for rent and moved to the Valley View Apartments in Hillcrest. I absolutely love this neighborhood. It's a little self-contained area, and it's wonderful. I never have to get in the car.

Do you support any charities? The Pulaski County Humane Society. It's very important. We love critters.

What kind of music do you like to listen to? I like a little bit of everything other than pop country; I like old country, rock, jazz, rap.

What is the strangest thing in your refrigerator? An insane amount of Haribo gummy bears and blue Gatorade. I live off those things.

Is there anything you'd like to see Little Rock do differently? Yes, I would like to see the streets taken care of better. In our little neighborhood park, the grass has not been mowed in a year ... things are not taken care of like they were five years ago.

What would you do if you won a large lottery? I want an island and a helicopter. I'd set me and my friends up on our own little island with a helicopter. I think that would be paradise. And, of course, we'd still have The Freckled Frog.


Friday, September 3, 2010

Destin Fun in the Sun

Destin is Open for Business

Destin dodged the bullet. It is gorgeous - amazing sugary white sand, clear blue water, and sunshine.

Mickey and Larry Drennan of Hillcrest want you to come on down and enjoy the beauty of Florida in their Gulf front Destin condo.

"The weather is just beautiful, the crowds are gone. You can enjoy the silver-white sands. It's still warm enough to swim. The kids have gone back to school. The water is clean," Mrs. Drennan said.

Above photo is the Drennan's grandson, Noah, on the beach at Destin.

Mickey and her husband had been visiting Destin for almost four decades when they decided to buy a condo there in March 2009. It was their second season to have the condo when one of the nation's worst environmental disasters occurred. BP Plc's crippled Macondo well began gushing millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico after its Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded April 20.

"Our condo is on Miramar Beach in Destin. It was never affected like some of the other beaches in Florida or Louisiana. We were never hit like the other beaches. A few tar balls washed up. BP was there, but they just stood around; there was not much for them to do. BP is still combing the beaches each morning, but there's little there, thankfully," Mickey said.

Thankfully. The stretch of the Florida panhandle that includes Destin has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world - better than the French Riviera or Cancun - for my money.

President Barack Obama vacationed in Panama City Beach last month, declaring the area "open for business." That was good news for a lot of folks heartbroken by the spill, Southerners who grew up vacationing with their families along the "Miracle Strip," collecting shells and sand dollars, and playing miniature golf at wacky surf side parks. And a great ad, of course, for area businesses that rely on tourism.

Even though the oil crisis did not exist in Destin, business owners lost money, because vacationers were wary of coming to the Gulf coast.

Mickey and Larry were very fair to folks who had rented their condo, but then decided not to come.

"People were scared. My husband and I made the decision to refund all money if people didn't feel comfortable in coming. People save for a long time for their vacations," Mickey said.

She and Larry are just "very grateful" the area escaped the pollution caused by the spill. And now, they want folks to know it's time for them to once again enjoy the beauty of the Destin area.

"We have a three-bedroom, three bath Gulf front condo at Surfside. We bought it in March 2009, and we went in and completely redid it - put tile throughout, replaced all the appliances, and the beds.

"The condo itself will sleep 10 people. It has a fully equipped kitchen. There are balconies all the way across the front. They can sit outside on the balconies, having a Gulf front is really nice. You can watch the sun set from the balcony. We've done that many times.

"The prices depend on the season. The rates are extremely good. We will negotiate a little bit for people from Arkansas. We love to have people from Arkansas book our condo, because they take such good care of it."

It is a three-bedroom condo and can be rented fully or as a one-bedroom or a two-bedroom. All rooms open onto a 28-foot, 400-square-foot balcony with clear glass railings that enhance the view.

When you go to the website - - a chart gives you the rates for different time periods. For example, the rate for all three bedrooms during the time period from October 23 to December 31 is $995 a week, a fantastic deal, especially if you are splitting the cost with two other couples.

"Book early," Mickey advises.

"I think it's really tough to beat the beaches in Destin. And Destin offers a lot of things, the wonderful restaurants, coffee shops, three huge shopping centers, golf - even a course that stays open all night, and the fishing. They are still taking people out to fish. There's no problem with that.

"The most important thing people should know, the beaches are clean, and the water shimmering."

By Bobbi Nesbitt

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Go! Running

Great New Running Store in the Heights: Go!Running

If you love to run, participate in triathlons, or just want to start getting fit, you need to stop by Go! Running in the Heights for gear, advice, and support in your sport.

Go! Running is a specialty running store where you can find just the right shoes, socks, clothing, nutritional items and products for injury prevention and treatment.

"It's everything you need as a runner," owner Gary Taylor said.

Mr. Taylor and his wife, Erin, recently opened the bright, spacious shop at 1819 North Grant Street. They are devoted to supporting Little Rock's running community and helping individuals meet their fitness goals.

"We want to be really imbedded in the community and be a center for running and fitness. We offer clinics for triathlon. I do a lot of triathlon and am a certified USAT coach," Gary said of the USA Triathlon governing body. "We did a clinic just this weekend. It trains in transitioning between the swim, the bike and the run. This is just a place where people can learn about running and have more fun with the sport."

The shop offers most of the major brands of running shoes and some specialty shoes for triathlon events.

"First of all, it is the kind of store where we can fit people for the shoe they need. We analyze how they walk and run. The biggest injury prevention is the shoe itself."

In addition to Erin, who handles the store's paperwork, Go! Running has two employees with running experience.

"Ryder Pierce from Mountain Home runs track at UALR. He does a fabulous job for us. Lauren Merritt runs a lot. She does a lot of races, and she ran for UCA. She's going to be working here this summer. We offer experience. The people who work here can give you advice; they know how to fit shoes and how to prevent blisters and chaffing."

The shoes Go! Running offers are not as expensive as you might think.

"As a range, it's $85 to $140. It's not a crazy range, and the average shoe is around $100. You get a good name brand and the correct shoe for you - so it's not prohibitive."

The shop carries other essentials, such as energy boosting snacks, sunglasses, pedometers, and KT tape (Kinesiology Tape) for preventing sports injuries and pain and faster recovery from sore muscles or joints.

Go! Running has sponsored a number of running events and will sponsor for the upcoming Koman Race for the Cure in October and Rolling on the River in August.

"We've been working with the 'Team in Training.' It's a win-win situation. It raises money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. It helps them with equipment and teaches how to run more efficiently. It may even pay for them to go to a race."

Gary has always enjoyed sports. In fact, when he came from Great Britain to America, he ran track at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, where he met Erin, who was on the women's track team.

The two have never operated a retail store, but it was a long-time dream to have a shop like Go! Running to take advantage of Gary's 30 years of experience participating in marathons and triathlon events.

One reason they located their store in the Heights is because it's a great neighborhood to run in.

"We love being part of the Heights. When we selected this location, one thing we liked is that we can run here. We do runs on Tuesday nights from here. We meet at 6 and do a route. We have 20 to 30 people. We do three to six miles. People get to choose how long they want to run. You can always find someone at the same pace as you."

So, Go! and check out the Heights' newest fun shop.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Kahler • Payne Antiques

Kahler • Payne
Offering Antiques in Hillcrest for 21 Years

There's a great little house at 700 Van Buren. It was once a grocery store, then a series of hair salons. It's where Sylvia Payne had her hair done for senior prom. It's also the location of Kahler • Payne, the antique shop owned by Ms. Payne and her sister, Sandra Kahler.

Sylvia was living in Baton Rogue when she decided she could go home again, because she had the promise of a little antique shop waiting for her. Now she's operated her antique business for 21 years in Hillcrest - three blocks from the house she grew up in on Polk Street.

It's a great shop chock full of furniture, crystal, china, silver and lots of lamps, including one made from an old bird cage. It offers "everyday antiques and flair."

"We consider our antiques for everyday use. They are not museum pieces. Most of our stuff is American made and ready to use, refinished, clean ... you sit on it and use it," Sylvia said.

The "flair" offerings include switch plates, soaps, jewelry, tote bags and The Pickle Sisters gourmet foods.

"They are things that add a little flair to your life and useful gift items. With our gifts, we try to be responsible and make sure they are good for the environment, and if foreign made, make sure they are fair trade or cottage industry. We try to be socially responsible with our gifts."

Sylvia got interested in antiques when she was living in Louisiana.

"When I was living in Baton Rogue, I had a small antique shop. I had a neighbor who wanted to start an antique business. I kind of did it as a hobby and found out I absolutely loved it. It's the thrill of the hunt. We didn't have a lot of customers, but we had an awful lot of fun."

But Sylvia wanted to return home to Hillcrest. When she and her sister found they could buy an antique shop there, that settled it.

"Having an antique shop to come home to made it easier. That was something to look forward to. There was a little shop on Polk called Potential Treasures, so Sandy and I bought that business (in 1989). It was a tiny shop, and we were only open on weekends. It was obvious the place was too small. No one knew where we were. We knew where it was. We grew up on Polk Street.

"We started looking for a place in Hillcrest on the main drag. We settled for this location, and it turned out way better. We were on Polk for only a year. This (building at 700 Van Buren) was originally built as McCormick's Grocery Store. In the early '60s, it became a beauty shop. It was a beauty shop when we bought it, and - 'small world' - I had my hair done here for the senior prom. I grew up on Polk Street, and now I'm three blocks up with a business."

The shop buys furniture locally and takes pieces on consignment.

"A lot of it is word of mouth. Most of our things come right out of owners' homes. It's all local. We don't do buying trips."

People with items to sell or consign often e-mail Sylvia photos, "a nice bit of progress" she said makes buying easier.

"When we first started in business, Sandra had two toddlers, and we couldn't travel."

But she prefers buying locally. "It keeps the costs down; there are no shipping expenses."

The most expensive piece in the shop is a pine cabinet custom made in Connecticut. The price is $2,300. There are only three items in the shop that cost more than $1,000. Most of the furniture is in the $200 to $600 range.

Items in the flair line run from $1 (mini soaps) to $45 (Swarovski crystal earrings).

What's the most interesting item in the shop? "A 1950s retro coffee table that raises to dining height. It's really clever."

The most fun? "Refillable glass tap water bottles from Canada."

Sylvia's niece, Laura Kahler, is in charge of the flair line, which was created to entice 20-somethings into the shop.

Sylvia describes Kahler • Payne as a family business (in addition to her sister and niece, her nephew, Jason Kahler, makes the deliveries) and she works to make it a fun, casual place to shop.

"We have a pretty casual attitude."

She invites you to come by and look around or just chat and meet her shop dog, Willa, a Cardigan Welsh corgi. You may call her at 663-0608 or visit

(This story was written by Bobbi Nesbitt and ran in the June 2010 edition of Shoppe Talk.)

Sylvia Payne Profile

Sylvia Payne
Tell us about your family. I have two sisters, Sandra, and Susan Maddox, who owns the Rosemont, a bed and breakfast downtown in the historic Governor's Mansion district. Mother and Daddy are both gone. My mother had alzheimer's, and I took care of her for 11 years. We all live in town, except for one niece who lives in Austin. We spend a lot of time together. My best friend is my niece, Laura. Sandra is a nurse and teaches nursing at Baptist School of Nursing. She does a lot of the buying.

What do you like to read? I like to read what I call "cozy mysteries," like Agatha Christie. I want a body in the pantry and then you just solve the crime.

What is your favorite Little Rock restaurant? Cheers.

Your favorite food? Unfortunately, hamburgers.

What's your favorite movie? Out of Africa. Laura and I can do dialogue from that movie.

Do have favorite actors? Russell Crowe.

What do you do in your spare time? I like to read and I like to work in my garden and putz around in my house.

What do you watch on the tube? Old movies and forensic detective shows like Bones and NCIS and old recorded shows of Moonlight with Mick St. John.

Do you support any charities? Yes. Arkansas Hospice.

If you could have a dream dinner party and invite any three people, who would you choose? My mother and Daddy. That would be enough for me.

Is there anything you'd like to see Little Rock do differently? Yes. I would like them to value their old neighborhoods more - like Hillcrest and Capitol View - and spend money there instead of on expansion out west. Alleys need to be cleaned up and used and our sidewalks maintained. That gets people out walking. When people are out walking, it cuts down on crime.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Scallions' Anniversary

Happy Birthday Scallions - 23 Years in The Heights!

(From left) Rachael Crosby, Otis Smith, Kelly Shelton,
LeeAnn Arculis, Stephanie Roberts, and Lindsey Smith

Walking down the steps into Scallions' leafy courtyard in the spring is like visiting a good friend. It's a warm, welcoming atmosphere. You know your favorite dishes will always be on the menu. You leave, reluctantly, but with a smile.

Rachael Crosby's and Nikki Avants' Scallions celebrates 23 years in the Heights this month.

Scallions is more than just a great spot for lunch. It is, well, it is where a man came in recently and told Ms. Crosby that his daughter had just had oral surgery and required Scallions' cheese soup.

"We served cheese soup to these kids when they were little," Rachael said. "After surgery, she had to have our cheese soup. He got a quart of cheese soup. That's all she wanted.

"And that happens a lot."

It's a restaurant where little girls eat chicken salad with their moms, and then order that same chicken salad for their wedding showers, baby showers, and wedding anniversaries.

And, it's all about family. Twenty-three years ago, the whole family pitched in to help when their aunt, Bobbye Cazort opened Scallions. Nikki worked there when she was in college and then bought the restaurant when Mrs. Cazort retired. Later, Rachael partnered with Nikki, and now two of Rachael's children, Bailey Anne, 16, and Lindsey, 25, are working at Scallions.

"I have two employees who have been here 23 years, Otis Smith and Kelly Shelton, the whole time," Rachael said. LeeAnn Arculis has been here a total of 14 years and Stephanie Roberts, six years. It's just kind of a family restaurant, family atmosphere. It's a good gig.

"One of the reasons we've had this loyal following is because of the people who work here. Like some people know LeeAnn and when they come in, they only want to sit at her tables."

On the menu, you'll find quiches, salads, soups and sandwiches with shout-outs to the neighborhood, like "The Country Club" or the "Heights Veggie."

The recipes were all created by Nikki and Rachael or their mom or aunt or grandmother. There are lots of homemade desserts, fresh fruit cups, and, of course, don't forget the poppy seed muffins.

"We have offerings hearty enough for men, like our big grilled chicken club," Rachael said. "We cater. We cater to major downtown businesses - corporate catering, business lunches, and a lot of drug reps take our food to doctors' offices."

Scallions also caters events, or you can buy take-out in bulk. The restaurant and the courtyard are also available for parties.

"We get to utilize it a lot for showers, rehersal dinners, brides' maids events."

Rachael and Nikki tried to open Scallions for dinner, but it didn't work out.

"God has really blessed us. Even with the tough economic year - dinner didn't make it, but we did," Rachael said.

Actually, she prefers being open only for lunch.

"Everybody has kids and husbands and obligations.The extra work stresses people. My philosophy is enough is enough. Time is worth more than money. You want to work to enjoy life, not be your life."

And Nikki has decided to do something she has been longing for to help fulfill her life - study nursing.

"She's always had this passion for nursing. She's had that passion reignited and is going to school. She's my little sister and we love each other and support each other. And I'm so happy for her that she is doing this," Rachael said.

Scallions is open 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Saturday (with Saturdays sometimes lingering through 3 when the mood is right). For information about catering services, box lunches, special events or bulk takeouts, call Rachael at 666-6468.

(This story was written by Bobbi Nesbitt and appeared in the May 2010 edition of Shoppe Talk.)

Rachael Crosby Profile

Rachael Crosby

(For this profile, Rachael was interviewed by telephone as she did her morning prep work at Scallions.)

Tell us about your family. I'm single, and I have five children; I gave birth to two and got three by the grace of God. My Grannie Mae is 89. She worked here. She worked her whole life, and would work here too when needed. She has Alzheimer's. We deal with that. I love her, and she is so funny. I have one granddaughter named Bryah, and I have a grandchild on the way. We are excited about that. My kids are ages 16 to 28.

Where were you born? Batesville.

What's your favorite city? Jackson Hole, Wyoming. It's not a city, just a wonderful community.

Do you have a favorite movie? The original 1936 version of The Women.

Yeah, that's great. It's one of my favorites too. Do you have favorite actors? I just love Meg Ryan.

What do you do in your spare time? I read. I have a great church, the Church at Rock Creek. We have a terrific youth group. I cook for 150 to 200 kids on Sunday night, good home-cooked meals for kids in 6th to 12 grades. I'm grateful for the opportunity to be with my daughter and her friends and cook and do what I love.
I love to cruise. I have been on seven cruises and a mission trip to Honduras in '97. Mexican people and Central American people ... have more joy. There is more happiness in people who live simply. They have less, but they have more.

What do you like to read? Jodi Picoult, Francine Rivers and Barbara Delinsky are my favorite authors.

Is there anything you'd like to learn how to do? Yes, I would love to learn how to kayak.

If you could have a dream dinner party with any three people, who would you choose? My Daddy, Mike Crosby. Daddy is the best cook there ever was, and I miss his cooking, so he'd have to cook it. He passed away in 2000. I come from a long line of cooks, but my dad was just the best. Growing up, meals were all about the family and sharing it together.

What would you do if you won a large lottery? Support missions and travel more. I have friends starting a mission in Africa. And I'd make my family comfortable.

Do you have any pets? I have this amazing Yorkie named Ike I got from the Humane Society. He's a 7-year-old Yorkie. He's looking at me right now as I work. He has a car seat. He's real mischievous if I leave him home. He would rather come to work and sit at the door and watch us come and go.

Do you support any charities? Scallions is really proud to have supported Silent Sunday for the Arkansas School for the Deaf. We started in 1989. There were 12 restaurants participating then, and last year, there were over 40.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Pulaski Heights Christian Church - You Are Welcome Here

On Christmas Day, the Rev. Holly Patton and two members of her church were out searching below bridges, near train tracks and walking around the city of Little Rock looking for people to give them backpacks filled with food, flashlights, long underwear and other items homeless people need.

"We gave them backpacks and hugs and told them we loved them," Ms. Patton said.

That's just the way Rev. Holly and her congregation roll. Holly is the pastor of Pulaski Heights Christian Church in Hillcrest. With the church's historic commitment to civil rights and her commitment to reach out to all in need, it's a perfect fit.

"It has a wonderful history of being a socially-oriented church. In 1957, the pastor walked with the Little Rock Nine. In 1972, the church defended busing to achieve racial balance. In 1980, it called its first female pastor."

Pulaski Heights Christian is a small congregation of 45 active members, but, just like its pastor, has a big heart and big plans.

"We are in the middle of revitalizing it and making it more of a community church. We're putting real spirit in it and doing more outreach. We want to reach those who are hurting and lost and those who are kind of ostracized by the church, who are lonely and don't necessarily like church."

Church members have done outreach with the homeless and with the gay and lesbian community.

"We have been active in speaking out for justice regardless of race, sex, sexual orientation, or political party. Our goal is to be a missional church - actively involved in speaking up and out for those who have been marginalized or hurt by the church or for those who have no voice."

Rev. Holly believes she's called to an active ministry, something she termed "radical love and hospitality for all."

Services are both traditional and with "praise music," which she said is singing to God rather than about God.

"We have a wonderfully diverse congregation right now, traditional and non-traditional couples, single mothers and fathers. My dream and goal would be for (the number of congregants) to double - so we can do more work."

She said Pulaski Heights Christian would never be a large church; it's for folks who want a more intimate environment, less of an anonymous one.

Rev. Holly is a relatively newly minted flock leader. She attended seminary at Memphis Theological Seminary for four years beginning in 2002.

Before that she was a drug rep for a pharmaceutical firm.

"I was at a dark place in my life. I was unhappy, overwhelmed trying to raise two boys alone. I was in an unhealthy relationship. I literally had my head bashed in. I realized I was on the wrong road, one leading to destruction and devastation."

Soon after the episode of physical abuse, Holly was in the office of one of her clients who invited her to church.

"I had a kind of 'road to Damascus' experience. I experienced God's grace, and it literally took me on a whole 'nother path."

At seminary, Holly discovered she was "called by God to the ministry. Everyone thought I was crazy, quitting a drug rep job and going into debt. I think God calls us to do crazy things."

And is she in a better place today? "I am in a place I never imagined, never dreamed. I still don't know what's going to happen every day. But I am in a peaceful, joyful, grateful place in my life. It's a wonderful path."

Rev. Holly is "trying to do church in a different way." You don't have to put on a facade. You don't have to be perfect to come to church. "I'd like people who are struggling to know there is a safe place to come, with their questions and with their struggles."

The Pulaski Heights Christian Church is involved in the Interfaith Hospitality Network of Little Rock, which houses, feeds, and nurtures homeless families while they work to get back on their feet.

"We participate regulary with Quapaw Methodist church cooking breakfast for the homeless, and our newest ministry is providing backpacks for the homeless.

"We also are making a deliberate effort to reach people with young children. Brian Kinder, a children’s entertainer, came to the church for a free concert which we plan to do again outside, as soon as the weather permits. We are planning on having a Earth Day party outside at the church in April. We have plans to begin the Bible and the New York Times study group, movie night, and other things so we can offer the community of Hillcrest something interesting."

(This story was written by Bobbi Nesbitt and appeared in the April 2010 edition of Shoppe Talk.)

Rev. Holly Patton Profile

Getting to know the Rev. Holly Patton

Tell us about your family. I have two sons, Patton Cain, who is almost 22, and Raney Cain, who is 25. Both of my sons are incredible young men - bright, handsome, and willful like their mother, and I love them deeply and am extremely proud of both of them. Patton is working and going to school. He's studying journalism at UALR. Raney works at Windstream and studies computers and engineering at UALR. He is the father of Addisyn, my precious read-headed granddaughter. She is an absolute angel in all our lives. I have been divorced now for 20 plus years, but I'm close to marrying.

Where were you born? I was born in Little Rock and grew up in Atlanta.

What's your favorite Little Rock restaurant? Brave New Restaurant.

What's your favorite food? A Turkey sandwich from Boulevard Bread.

What's the strangest thing in your refrigerator? A tube of Chanel pink lipstick. I hate for it to melt in my purse.

If you could have a dream dinner party and invite any three people, who would you choose? I'd like to meet Steve Martin, Mary Magdalene, and President Obama.

What would be on your recommended reading list? Kathryn Stockett's The Help. South of Broad by Pat Conroy and any book of poetry by Mary Oliver.

Is there anything you'd like to learn how to do? I'd like to learn how to fly.

What do you do in your spare time? I rollerblade, run, ride my bike, and hike.

Is there anything you would like to change about yourself? A lot. Yes, I am too impatient and way too much of a multi-tasker.

What's your favorite movie? Marley & Me.

Do you have any pets? I have a dog who is nine. His name is Goose. He's an English springer spaniel. And a cat about seven named Catty - very original.

Is there anything you'd like to see Little Rock do differently? No, I think Little Rock is on a great path right now. I am very excited to be living in Little Rock now.

The nation? I'd like for us to be less involved in war - to spend our money on other things.

(This profile was written by Bobbi Nesbitt and ran in the April 2010 edition of Shoppe Talk.)

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Wags and Whiskers Pet Care

Wags and Whiskers
Michelle Wilkerson with some of her furry babies: K-9, Tapers, Bella (the puppy with the sock) and Jessica (the small brown brindle). You may contact her at 416-7380. You may read more about Michelle by going to

Going on vacation? Got a new puppy who needs some love while you're at work? Just call Michelle Wilkerson at Wags and Whiskers, and she will provide quality care for your "furry babies" in their own home environment.

Mrs. Wilkerson started her business 14 months ago, and it has been a great success in no small part due to her genuine love for animals and their happy response to her care.

"I have a greyhound, the owner swears he gets mad when she gets home. I say at least you know he's happy when you're gone," Michelle said with a laugh.

When Michelle gets inquires from potential clients, she sets up an appointment to come and meet them and their pets.

After a bit of paperwork to get emergency contact numbers and their vet's name and number, Michelle will work with dogs to determine how they respond to other animals and to kids on a walk. Then the clients will choose the number of times a day they want her to come by.

"Dog people usually want me to come three times a day. It's a 30 to 40 minute visit (each time). Some families want their cats visited once a day. Others, twice a day. One older cat I sit gets morning tuna and night tuna.

"I walk the dogs if needed. Walk them, feed them, pet them - whatever they are used to. Some like to play ball in the back yard. I have several, we play ball and then we go walk. I want to keep them happy as they can be when their family is gone."

Decidedly, it is hard work. Often Michelle is up at 4 a.m. and doesn't return home until 10 p.m.

"Dogs have to go out early," she said. "If I have four different households doing three visits a day, that's all the dogs I can handle, but I am in the middle of hiring my first employee to help me at night when I get too busy.

"There will be times when I have two days off and other days when I'm working pretty hard, but I knew it would be that way."

She said the business is going really good. "And I know it's going to build and build."

Shameless Shoppe Talk Plug

Michelle said she had received a great response from her ad in Shoppe Talk, even generating many more calls from Chenal clients than her ad in a Chenal magazine.

"I really did get the best response from Shoppe Talk. Seriously, I get calls every week. What a lot of people do, they hold on to the ad, hang it on the refrigerator until they are ready to go, and then they call."

Michelle is licensed and bonded. And she is a member of the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters.

"I am responsible and security concious. I do take what I do very seriously. I treat every dog like I would treat mine, and mine are treated very well.

"I actually enjoy what I do, as crazy as that may be."

Many cats and dogs prefer to be in their own home environment rather than being boarded, and Michelle's service is less expensive than boarding.

"I'm not against boarding at all. Some animals do good, but a lot of them don't. I'm there for the ones that can't be boarded."

At home the animals get some perks that boarding can't provide - like getting to sleep with the sitter.

"They definitely like to sleep with me. It doesn't take very long. I've been sitting two little French bulldogs - the first one slept on my head, and the other one at my feet. It definitely made me feel at home."

Why? Because Michelle has lots and lots of dogs of her own. She didn't plan it that way. but when she and her husband bought 15 acres in the country about 16 years ago, they found out first hand some ugly truths about animal abuse.

Animal Abuse

"They dump them," she said.

"I always had animals growing up. I thought (all animals) were spayed and neutered and slept in the bed with you.

"355 have been dumped in front of our house - dogs, cats, litters of puppies or kittens. One had shot the mom in the head and left the puppies. It's terrible."

"I find homes for as many as I can. Others have to go to the Humane Society. It's hard, but when they are starving to death ..."

For a number of years, Michelle worked with rescue groups, but had to stop. "It was so hard on me. It's so sad.

"You think it (animal abuse) comes with a certain mentality or education level, but you'd really be surprised by the people who don't take care of them. It's mostly people in Little Rock (who dump animals). You hear things. Several people have said things like, yeah, I dropped my dog off in Roland."

Michelle said she believes one of the reasons so many animals have been dropped off at her country home is because she has the reputation as "the dog lady" who will help find them homes. "Word gets out."

One dog was dropped off in the rural area with his mouth duct taped, so he would starve to death.

"Of course, no one would take him. I have all the delinquents at my house. That was 7 years ago. He has a gray muzzle. He still has gray there where the duct tape was.

"I have 15 dogs. All my friends' kids want to come out and play with them.

"I always think, 'oh my gosh, I'm such a nutball to have so many.' But I know a lady in Chenal with seven cats and three dogs. I talked with an attorney in the Heights the other day who has 10 animals."

These are her people.

"I've always been involved with animals. There's no escaping it. It's in my blood."

Michelle Wilkerson

Tell us about your family. I have been married for 19 years. My husband's name is Jeff. I have an 18-year-old son, Tanner. And 15 furry children.

Where were you born? North Little Rock.

Is there anything you would like to learn how to do? Interior design.

What do you do in your spare time? I teach fitness classes at the Athletic Club and the Racquet Club and I help out Invisible Fence, training dogs on their system. Which I guess is all really work, she said with a laugh.

What's your favorite food? An Acai sunrise smoothie from Whole Foods.

Do you like to cook? No! My family actually told me not to cook. "Don't worry about it any more, mom." And it didn't hurt my feelings at all.

What's your favorite restaurant? Whole Foods. Seriously, I'm there every day.

What do you like to watch on the tube? The FBI Files, Cold Case.

What's your favorite movie? Dirty Dancing. This is pretty embarrassing.

Do you support any charities? I do. The ASPCA, and on my own, I get one dog in our community spayed every month.

(This story was written by Bobbi Nesbitt and ran in the March 2010 edition of Shoppe Talk.)

Monday, February 1, 2010

Ray's Massage Therapy

Steve Ray's clients love him. It's not just his upbeat attitude and the happiness he spreads, it's the healing results they get from his gifted hands.

Mr. Ray, owner of Ray's Massage Therapy in the Heights, is a master massage therapist who integrates different massage techniques to provide the best therapy possible for his clients.

Steve is expert in relaxation massage, deep tissue, active isolated stretching, sports massage, the Rossiter System, foot massage, trigger point therapy, and vital flex, a form of reflexology.

Pastor Charles Cunningham drives from Pine Bluff to Steve's office.

"I don't care if it was a hundred miles away, I would still come. Actually, I have gone to 20 to 25 therapists, and Steve has been superior to them all. He has techniques I know he learned in school, but there is a gift there too. I had diabetes. I went to the doctor, and now I have no neuropathy, I think because of this massage therapy. It has reversed my diabetes. I take no medication now."

Pastor Cunningham said the therapy he receives is just "beyond words." "You just have to go and experience it to reap the benefits. I would say on a scale of 1 to 10, Steve is about 100. And then, he's so caring, and he just connects with you. He's upbeat and cheerful all the time. I said to him, 'You're my massage therapist, but you're going to be my therapist, period.'"

Kim Freeman of Little Rock couldn't agree more. " I think Steve is a really great person, and massage therapy is one of his gifts. His personality and demeanor ... he makes me feel very comfortable and makes me feel good about going there and getting the service he provides. He's very friendly, just a good-spirited person."

Steve said his wife, Nella, and his daughter, Lawanna, encouraged him to go to Touching America and become trained as a massage therapist. At the time, nine years ago, he was working in a local factory that made computer parts, but lost his job.

"When I got laid off, my wife and my daughter suggested I go to school, because I had a gift in my hands and I needed to enhance it."

His training began there, and he has taken a number of continuing education classes to become a master massage therapist. He doesn't specialize in any one type of therapy, but integrates the different techniques he's learned to best address clients' particular problems. For example, he might combine sports massage with trigger point therapy, in which he goes into the muscle to get contractive knots out. In addition to all of the types of massage he uses, he also sometimes employs hot stones and essential oils. He even provides massage for relief of temporomandibular joint disorder, or TMJ, an inflammation of a joint that connects the lower jaw to the skull.

"I took a course at CARTI (in 2003 at Central Arkansas Radiation Therapy Institute) that taught how to work with cancer patients. And I work with fibromyalgia patients."

Steve said he loves his job "with a passion."

"I feel that when I do clients, I can just feel the energy that comes from me. It helps my clients."

He said massage is good for circulation and flexibility, and, of course, reducing stress.

"The benefit that I get, I am just a happy person. I am so enthused to do it. I get joy when I see a client relieved of pain. I mostly get what they get. I get a real workout. It's just like I've been to the gymnasium."

Steve moved his office to the Heights last year and is located at 5018 Club Road, Suite 108. He charges $55 for relaxation massage, $65 for therapeutic massage, and $75 for deep tissue. He also goes to homes and offices; that rate is $100 an hour. You may contact him at 296-9988 or I bet you know someone who'd prefer a massage to a box of chocolates this Valentine's Day.

Getting to know Steve Ray

Tell us about your family. My wife passed away in '06. I am raising my grandchildren. I am surrounded by three beautiful grandchildren: Gabrielle, 12, Isaiah, 11, and Kalob, 9. They keep me young. We do lots of things for the holidays. We like to get on the internet and find different things to cook. We all get together and enjoy ourselves. They are just as happy as I am. I have always been that way, but it looks like as I grow older, it just increases. I laugh a lot and enjoy life.

Where were you born? Grady, Arkansas.

Where do you live? Maumelle.

What's your favorite food? Southern food. Beans and cornbread. Broccoli and cheese ... .

Is there anything you would like to learn how to do? Have more of a passion for cooking, because my wife could really cook, and I wish I could get there.

What do you like to do in your spare time? I read, I exercise, and I watch movies.

What do you like to watch? Tyler Perry movies. Little House on the Prairie and I Love Lucy.

Do you have any favorite actors? Tyler Perry and Michael Landon.

Do you support any charities? (Steve said he donates massage services to a number of organizations, including hospitals, universities, churches and groups that provide help to domestic violence victims.) I take massage services to them or they will come to me.

If you could have a dream dinner party and invite any three people, who would you ask? My wife, mother, and father, all deceased.

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