Central Arkansas Markets
Local Stores, Local Food
By Richard Ledbetter
Arkansas is blessed with a temperate climate and lengthy growing season, so it’s no surprise we also find ourselves fortunate in the number of fresh food sources available. Three locally owned and operated markets come to mind offering a wide variety of grass-fed beef, buffalo, elk, pork, lamb, poultry, eggs, honey, seasonal fruits and fresh, clean produce.
9325 Ferndale Cut-off Road
Owner David Rice told us, “We are a local mom-and-pop shop. I’m pretty much a one-man show with contributing volunteerism from my lovely wife, Micah.” Bramble Market began as a small operation with help from family and friends, who all pitch in as needed. Though they’ve only been around since August of 2018, they set their roots in a spot that’s been in the community for decades. “It was an old landscaping showroom we converted to a market. My wife and I both grew up within a few miles of here,” Rice says.
But the market doesn’t just provide basic groceries. They’re working to create a community food experience, something that’s made easier with their health department-certified kitchen. Rice says, “A private chef and I have done 40-person private dinners a few times. Essentially the crowd hires the chef to prepare the meats and produce we provide. We clear out the middle of the building and set up tables to just let everyone do their thing and enjoy themselves.” The meals were so popular, the Bramble Market developed a waiting list, and they’re working on setting up ready-to-heat meals that people can pick up and take home.
Bramble Market sources its meat from five farms around the state, and it also offers fruit, vegetables and mushrooms in season. Produce is gathered from local growers and distributors as demand requires. Rice says, “I want to see the farmstead or garden of every local provider to make sure they’re clean and wholesome. Our rice comes from a 10th-generation farm and our beef comes from a fourth generation farming family. It’s all naturally grown good, clean stuff. I can’t emphasize enough the value we attach to our vendors and how proud we are to provide a showcase for them. We have lots of art pieces and pottery from local artisans. We even have fresh baked cookies local 12-year-olds bring to us to sell.
“What I believe sets us apart from everyday markets is we’re near Pinnacle Mountain State Park and we have 4 acres here where we do a lot of outdoor programs. This coming weekend we’re working with the [Arkansas] Game and Fish [Commission] for kids to come in and assemble prefabricated bluebird boxes. We’re very involved with the community and work closely with the food bank. Most weekends we have one or two food trucks set up cooking.
“We have a fall harvest festival around the middle of October where with a pumpkin patch for the kids and some 30-plus vendors selling everything from homemade wooden spoons, cutting boards, soaps and pottery. Several food trucks show up for that with a variety of fare."
Rice concluded saying, “Every little market is looking for its own niche and rhythm. I’d say what best describes our store on a daily basis is we are like a farmer’s market with 50 different booths all under one roof, but there’s just one register.”
Call Bramble Market at 501-954-0754. Open Wed.- Fri. 9a.m.-6p.m., Sat. 9a.m-4p.m. and Sun. 1p.m.-4p.m..
The Bramble Market offers local honey, produce and community events.
Me and McGee Market
10409 U.S. Highway. 70
North Little Rock
Logan Duvall told Food & Farm, “My grandparents Debbie and Larry McGee started selling pecans by the roadside that they gathered on the property. My mom, Neva Collier, suggested planting a little garden for the family. A lot of folks travel Highway 70 and they just started pulling in. Mom suggested building a small stand, and customers just kept picking up until we couldn’t grow it all. That led to working with local farmers to meet the demand. When Grandpa Larry got real sick it broke my mom’s heart to see their roadside market just go away, so she moved out here and pitched in full time.” That’s about the time social media took off, due in no small part to Debbie’s efforts styling and photographing what they had to offer. From there, market traffic exploded.
It grew to the point that Logan quit the real estate business and ambulance service to join full time two and a half years ago. The family uses a lot of Dale Carnegie techniques, greeting people with a smile and remembering their name. Logan says, “It seems with social media these days we are more connected than ever while at the same time we’re more disconnected personally. Once we get people out here and they see what we’re doing, they keep coming back.”
“We were closed for winter and just reopened in April. Seeing all the smiling faces we hadn’t seen in months reinvigorated us all. We try to give everyone who stops in an experience they’ll feel worth repeating. But none of this would be here if it weren’t for the hard work and sacrifices of my mom and her parents.”
Me and McGee Market began as a roadside stand to sell extra produce from the family garden.
Call Logan at 479-857-4799. They’re open Weds.-Fri. 10a.m.-6p.m., Sun. 11a.m.-4p.m.
Heights Corner Market
5018 Kavanaugh Blvd
Eric and Louanne Herget took over Terry’s Finer Foods in March 2017. The spot has been a neighborhood market for over 70 years. Herget said, “It’s not easy today with so many large-scale competitors, grocery delivery and the like. But we’re in the neighborhood and we fully support local producers. We always go with grassroots growers. That makes it work for us and our customers. We offer a selection of wines and if there’s something you need after hours, track me down and I’ll get it for you."
In addition to the grocery store, Heights Corner Market has three restaurants under one roof. The market itself has a deli in the back offering fresh sandwiches. The Green Room, next door, plays directly off the Corner Market. “Our chef gathers his ingredients from our aisles every day just like our clientele. He has access to a broad selection of foods your typical restaurant won’t have,” Herget says. And if you see something in the market meat case not on the menu, just ask and he’ll prepare it for you. On Sunday, The Green Room serves brunch from 9a.m. until 2p.m.
The newly-opened Walter’s Coffee Shop and Speak Easy offers coffee and breakfast in the mornings, but after 4p.m. the Speak Easy opens with drink specials and occasional light music.
Herget says, “We are a small company, which allows us to make decisions quickly. If you suggest a dining idea, it may well appear on our menu that night. We take pride in telling people ‘yes’ and we carry out your groceries. We’re an old school grocer surviving in a Walmart world.”
Call the Heights Corner Market at 501-663-4152. Hours of operation are Mon.-Sat. 8a.m.-6p.m., Sun. 11a.m.-2p.m.