Emily Young is still in her twenties but has already built three businesses in her adopted hometown of Russellville.
Young started her first business in 2014 and fresh out of college.
“That’s when I opened The BrainStorm Agency,” Young says. “My focus was to help small businesses have strong branding and quality websites. I started out in the back of a nail salon, then moved to a nicer spot in downtown, then realized I can just do most of my work from home and eliminate the overhead.”
She followed her design agency in 2016 with Dog Ear Books, a bright, sunny spot in downtown Russellville full of books, coffee and an upstairs study area with students aplenty.
“I was craving more interaction with the public,” Young says. “A bookstore seemed the perfect fit. We have an amazing crew that really loves getting to know the customers and helping them find that perfect book.”
With Arkansas Tech University and roughly 10,000 enrollment in town, Russellville has no shortage of students so in addition to the study area, Young says, the bookstore has events for them like Open Mic Nights where they can, “let off steam.”
She adds, “We have new and used books, we have quirky book themed items, and an entire half of the store dedicated to kids. We try and create a ‘third place’ with the bookstore so it’s a place other than home or work you can go to.”
A design agency and a bookstore wasn’t enough for Young.
“In 2018 I realized there was still something missing from downtown, and I’ve always had a love of video games,” she said. “You could eat, you could shop, but there wasn’t really a place to entertain or sit and talk with someone while exploring downtown. So I opened The Garage Arcade.”
Originally envisioned as just a retro arcade, Young changed the idea as circumstances dictated.
“My friend was selling her coffee shop and I figured 2-in-1 would work,” she says. “So far, that bet has paid off. We’re able to host birthday parties, have movie nights, and just hang out with the community and give them big doses of nostalgia when they put their quarters into the games.”
Indeed, the arcade was full on a recent Friday afternoon as both young and old flocked to play games like Donkey Kong and a table-top version of Galaga.
For Young, the work is a labor of love.
“They’re all my babies and you know you can’t have a favorite child,” she says. “They are three very different businesses; service, retail, and amusement/food service, I put all I have into each one.”
Young first moved to Russellville when she was 13 when her father took a job at Arkansas Nuclear One, but hasn’t looked back.
“Russellville is an attractive place to live,” she says. “You have a wealth of unique businesses that were started by someone you live down the street from. It’s charming. It’s welcoming. It has its issues, as every town does, but it also has a lot of very passionate people ready to tackle anything to make the town a better place to live and do business.”
She then rattled off all the things about Russellville she loved: “Our half-marathon draws people from all over the world. We also have an aquatic center, plenty of beautiful outdoor trails, and events that the Main Street Russellville organization puts on, like Music Downtown at Sundown.”
And there’s more on the horizon.
“We’re about to get a dog park and that’s gonna be a big win for us,” Young says. “The quality of life is something that is currently blooming, and I think Russellville is a progressive town at heart, we are just trying to navigate to the position where that progress can really thrive.”