I sat with Jordan Garner of The Record, on the record, and spoke to her about The Rope Swing Group’s plans for their newly opened flex space. Just a skip and a hop from the square, it’s been built up vibrantly out of the stripped down Benton County Daily Record building and their events calendar is already filling fast.
“Originally it was the Burger Motor Company in the 1950s and there was plenty left of that to preserve. We wanted to create a place the entire community could use and enjoy, but we also had the goal to revitalize some of the details of the building that nodded to its history, and we kept the footprint the same,” Garner tells me.
We sit inside Onyx Coffee Lab on a sunny Friday morning. The sidewalks and shop are buzzing with people in and out, fueling up for their day, their bike rides, or their weekends ahead. She takes a moment to chat with Bear, our barista, congratulating him on his recent promotion as he steams the milk for her cortado. He’s a fixture in the industry of restaurants and coffee houses here and she talks with him the same way she talks about this new project – with affirming enthusiasm and genuine excitement.
Garner shifts back to me, “The Record is a meeting place, yes, and a venue option for individuals, but our aspirational vision is to schedule hip self-programming in-between bookings that will attract more people to the area that aren’t already spending time downtown. We want to offer a wide diversity of experiences.”
The building at 104 SW A Street was gutted down to the brick walls and concrete floors. To create a highly adaptable space for any event, the interiors were intentionally underdone to serve as a blank canvas. But instead of “empty shell,” they’ve achieved something more like “Zen minimalist garden loft.”
With historical touches left intact like the grand wood barrel ceiling and old paint-slapped brick, and with the smart additions of two sleek bars, a state of the art catering kitchen, plug and play audio/video capabilities, and a moveable wall that can split the space in half, they’ve nailed an act of preservation without compromising any function.
The enormous multi-paned original windows and garage doors invite the outside in giving the industrial space an airy and inviting quality. Attention was paid to growing green spaces on its concrete-covered corner, and bamboo will grow thick to fill the exterior planters bordering the North veranda in no time. Trees now serve as a border for the other exterior space, and vines grow on the opposite walls under the glow of twinkling lights strung above the courtyard. Add the vivid mural by Mexico City-based artist Edgar Flores, aka Saner, on the East side of the building (brought to Bentonville with the help of The Unexpected and Just Kids curatorial team), and every part of the building has been touched by thoughtful decisions and modern design.
“We’ve hosted the Friends of James Beard dinner which involved the top chefs in Bentonville. Most recently, we also had the International Mountain Bicycling Association World Summit for several days. It’s an adventure-forward conference that fit perfectly in our town with all the focus on building that demographic here.” She smiles and nods towards a couple ordering coffee at the counter dressed in head-to-toe cycling apparel and continues, “It was also a migratory event. They had programming in Downtown Bentonville, then at The Railyard and the recently re-opened Lake Atalanta in Rogers, and then at Blowing Springs in Bella Vista. So like all bigger conferences that book The Record, the groups attending have a much farther reach than our venue. All events will likely involve hotel stays and rentals, dining at area restaurants, attendance of shows, and shopping by visitors from all over the world. Honestly, we can’t exactly know just how far-reaching the positive impact has been or will be.”
The inaugural event held at The Record was Made by Few, a labor of love originally birthed in Little Rock by the company Few. Held yearly, the conference is an inspirational summit for startups and creatives in the tech world. Few’s company values are: Be nice. Work hard. Push yourself. Have fun. Be responsible. Stay Curious. And from their website, “We develop web and mobile apps, collaborate with clients on corporate branding, and incubate startups. Our goal is to have a positive impact on people’s lives, and this applies to our employees. We believe that if we focus on people and the quality of our work, the rest will take care of itself. . .”
It’s clear that the mission and values of one business can attract clients with similar ethos.
Garner says it perfectly, “We are proud of our neighbors in local businesses here. We are proud of the good people here who work hard so they can get out and play hard. Being in a position to help all that along using this business thoughtfully is an absolute win-win for everyone. We want to be a starting point for continued growth, and a place where people can get creative and offer unique events and entertainment. We want to see risk-takers and entrepreneurs use the space to try new things and bring concepts we’ve not seen here before. That’s the lofty goal, but we think it will work!”