Some know at an early age they want to join the family business. Others, not so much, actress Rebel Wilson among them.
“I come from a family of professional dog-showers, one step above carnies … I didn’t want to join the family business,” she once said.
Fair enough. The family business is either in your blood (think Michael Corleone) or it’s not (think Buddy the Elf). But in Arkansas, like any small, rural state, family business is big business. While there aren’t many generational dog-showing/walking/grooming businesses in the state, family business in Arkansas runs the gamut from obvious big boys like Walmart and Stephens to iconic resorts and even commercial real-estate firms.
In 1997, Jeff Hathaway became president of the firm his father Jim co-founded in 1976. Almost 50 years later, the Hathaway Group is one of the big boys of commercial real-estate development in central Arkansas and coming off what Jeff calls a record-setting 2019.
While the Hathaway Group has brought in new partners, the Hathaways remain a constant. Jeff’s brother John is a principal, and Jim stays involved even after his recent official retirement. Jeff said he considers it a privilege getting to see his brother and dad for significant chunks of each day, but in the end, they still have a business to run.
“While we have two generations and a cumulative 107 years of employment of family members in our firm, our style and culture has never been to think of ourselves as a ‘family business,’” he said. “Instead, we’ve thought of ourselves as a business where everything is earned regardless of name and where we are fortunate to be able to work with others in the family.”
So it is with all businesses that remain connected to a single family. This month, Arkansas Money & Politics provides a glimpse into 30 of the state’s more prominent “generational” businesses, and there are many. Each April, we’ll take a look at more of the state’s big family operations. And maybe one day, we’ll finally be able to profile that professional dog-showing family.
Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort
Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort, the state’s most popular tourist attraction, has been around since 1904. Among Oaklawn’s founding partners were brothers Louis and Charles Cella, who eventually gained complete ownership in 1916. Louis, however, died two years later making Charles Cella the sole owner.
Cella grew the popularity of horse racing across the state and hosted the first Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn in 1936. It had a purse of $5,000. Since then, it has traditionally been held there each year and the purse has increased to $1 million.
After 48 years in racing, Cella passed away in 1940 leaving ownership to his son, John, and grandson, Charles. They continued to market Oaklawn to increase crowds. Charles became president of Oaklawn in 1968 after the death of his father.
The family tradition of promoting racing and expanding Oaklawn passed on to son, Louis Cella, in 2017 after Charles passed away. Today, Cella is overseeing the $100 million expansion project that includes the construction of a seven-story hotel, a 14,000 square-foot, multipurpose event center and an additional 28,000 square feet of gaming space. The project is expected to be completed by the end of the year. It is one of the largest private investments in the state’s hospitality and tourism industry.
Five generations of the Ritter family have owned and operated Ritter Communications, which provides residential and business communication services.
Ernest Ritter installed a 10-line telephone switch in the back of his general store in 1906 to be able to communicate with his other small businesses. Soon, people became aware of Ritter’s new method of communication and wanted similar phone service. In 1907, the Marked Tree City Council approved a 30-year telephone service contract between the city and Ritter.
Today, Ritter Communications provides fiber internet, telecommunications, video and cloud services to more than 45,000 customers in Arkansas, Missouri and Tennessee. Members of the fourth and fifth generation serve on E. Ritter and Company’s board of directors.
Ronda Ritter Ray is a fourth-generation Ritter who holds the position of lead family director. As lead family director, Ray presents a board meeting summary at family council meetings and a family council report at board meetings. Katy Wilder Schaaf is fifth-generation and director of family engagement. Schaaf helps plan events and develops educational activities for the family.
The Ritter family has occasional generational summits to bring generations together and are currently educating the sixth generation about their history.
Harrell Bancshares is the holding company of Generations Bank, formerly known as First Bank of South Arkansas. Serving Arkansans since 1907, it has grown from a small-town bank to a full-service financial institution with the fifth generation leading operations today.
B.W. Harrell opened the Calhoun County Bank in 1907 and became the first to install a drive-in teller window in southern Arkansas in 1953. Harrell’s son, Searcy Harrell, eventually took over as president of the bank with the third-generation, Searcy Harrell Jr., following close behind.
First Bank of South Arkansas became a sister bank to the Calhoun County Bank in 1993 under the newly formed holding company, Harrell Bancshares. Harrell Jr. served as chairman of the board until 2013. Jon Harrell assumed the position as chairman of the board after his father’s death.
In 2016, the bank’s name was changed to Generations Bank to reflect the multi-generational Harrell family bankers serving generations of customers. The Harrell family added a sixth-generation banker when Max Harrell, son of the chairman, became a commercial banker at the Fayetteville branch of Generations Bank in 2018. Generations Bank has nine locations across south and Northwest Arkansas to serve the surrounding communities.
The history of Anthony Timberlands begins with the purchase of a small sawmill in 1907 by Garland Anthony. With the help of his brothers, Frank, William and Oliver, he formed Anthony Brothers Lumber, which soon built its first permanent mill in Hopeville. The companyy gained a reputation as the largest independent lumber producer in the United States during the early 1900s.
By the 1930s, they were operating 20 to 30 mills in partnership with others. Edwin Anthony, son of Garland Anthony, soon joined his father to help operate the mills. John Ed, son of Edwin, followed his father’s footsteps after his death in 1961. He incorporated Anthony Timberlands in 1974 and focused on growing the company by acquiring other lumber companies and building modern mills.
Today, he serves as chairman of the board and his son, Steven Anthony, has been serving as president of Anthony Timberlands since 2004. The Anthony family has built a successful business through sustainable efforts in the ownership and management of timberlands, sawmills and other wood products.
First Security Bank
First Security Bank was founded in 1932 in Searcy and later purchased by Reynie Rutledge in 1977. Rutledge’s father helped him finance and receive a loan when he was 27 to purchase the bank.
Since then, First Security Bank has become one of the largest financial institutions in Arkansas. Rutledge is the chairman of First Security Bank and his three sons all hold positions at the company. John Rutledge serves as CEO and president of central Arkansas and Adam Rutledge is the CEO and president of Northwest Arkansas. The youngest son, Nathan, is the senior managing director for Crews & Associates, an investment banking firm that First Security acquired in 2000.
Earlier this year, Reynie Rutledge was inducted into the Arkansas Business Hall of Fame.
First Security Bank has approximately $1.35 billion in total capital and more than $6.02 billion in assets. The company has 78 locations, 95 ATMs and more than 1,000 employees in Arkansas.
Welsco was founded as Welder’s Supply Company by R.G. Harrison in 1941 with the backing by his father, Claude Harrison. Although Harrison did not have experience in the gas industry, he saw a growing demand for gases and welding supplies in south Arkansas.
In 1959, Stephen Harrison and Richard Harrison, sons of R.G., joined the company and eventually took over in 1965. Over the years, the Harrisons worked together to grow the company across Arkansas, but Richard ended up selling his company shares to Stephen in 1985.
Today, Welsco, owned and operated by Stephen’s daughter, Angela Harrison, is one of the largest largest independent welding-supply and industrial-gas distributors in the country. As chairman and CEO since 1994, she continues to grow the company in customer base and territory.
Welsco has 16 locations that sell industrial and medical gases in addition to welding supplies. It conducts business in five other regional states with nearly 115 employees. Next year, the company will celebrate its 80th anniversary.
Stephens Inc. is a privately held investment bank founded by W.R. “Witt” Stephens in 1933. Originally known as the W.R. Stephens Investment Co., the firm sold Arkansas highway bonds and municipal bonds. Arkansas highway bonds were trading at 10 cents on the dollar at the time.
Stephens eventually gained a reputation for municipal bond expertise in addition to providing sound financial advice. His brother, Jackson T. “Jack” Stephens, joined him in 1946 after graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy and became the president in 1956. With a handshake, the two brothers established a formal partnership in Stephens Inc.
In 2006, the Stephens family announced that they were splitting the business. Warren Stephens, son of Jack, assumed control of Stephens Inc. and its related financial services companies. Today, he serves as the chairman, president and CEO of Stephens Inc. Witt’s children, Witt Stephens Jr. and Elizabeth Stephens Campbell, acquired the Stephens Group to pursue private equity investments.
Stephens Insurance LLC, an affiliate of Stephens Inc., is the largest-privately owned insurance brokerage in the Mid-South with Warren’s son, Miles, serving as president and CEO.
Stephens has 24 offices in 13 states as well as Stephens Europe Limited based in London.
Bruno’s Little Italy
Serving authentic Neapolitan food since 1949, Bruno’s Little Italy, the first to introduce hand-tossed pizza to Arkansas is well-known in central Arkansas. Vincent “Jimmy” Bruno, the founder, was the son of an Italian immigrant and began learning the art of Italian cooking at the age of 6.
Bruno’s Little Italy was located on Roosevelt Road for 29 years where customers could watch him twirl the pizza dough in the air. The restaurant eventually moved from Roosevelt Road to Old Forge Road in west Little Rock in 1978. However, it closed for a time in May 1987 due to financial struggles. A year later, Jimmy’s sons Jay and Vince re-opened Bruno’s on Bowman Road.
Jay eventually left the business to pursue a career in wine sales, while Vince was the head chef and manager. In 2011, Bruno’s had to close again due to the economy. Nevertheless, Vince persisted with his brother Gio to reopen Bruno’s in October 2013 at its current location in downtown Little Rock on Main Street. It was featured on the Food Network show Diners, Drive-Ins, & Dives in 2018.
Hathaway Group is an independent commercial real-estate company serving property owners, businesses and investment groups since 1976. Jim Hathaway and Terry Moore originally founded Hathaway, Moore & Associates on two desks and a card table at 312 W. Capitol Ave. in Little Rock.
Jim Hathaway’s sons, Jeff and John, joined the company as commercial real-estate agents in 1983 and 1986, respectively. Hathaway, Moore & Associates eventually became The Hathaway Group in 1985. Over the next few years, the Hathaways worked hard to develop their business throughout central Arkansas.
By 2000, Jim Hathaway had sold all of his shares of ownership to Jeff Hathaway and another key employee who later left the firm. However, Jim Hathaway continued as a successful broker and a trusted source of guidance. Hathaway officially retired at the end of 2019, and Jeff and John continue to run the company with Stuart Mackey and Wes Martin.
Hathaway Group has been involved in several impressive real-estate acquisitions in central Arkansas. In 2018, it acquired the Transamerica building in west Little Rock and began leasing the 100,000 square-foot, three-story office building at 1400 Centerview Dr. It was nearly a $9 million transaction. The firm also was involved in the acquisition of land for the Baptist Health Medical Center in North Little Rock, Shackleford Crossing and Westlake Corporate Park.
The history of Russell Chevrolet began in the 1950s when John Russell went to work as a general sales manager at Critz Chevrolet Co.
Russell eventually bought the dealership from John M. Critz, and Russell Chevrolet was established in 1963. His sons, Bob and Rick, started working for the company. Russell opened the first Honda dealership in Arkansas in 1972. After John’s retirement, Bob took over the Chevrolet dealership, and Rick assumed control of the Honda dealership.
The third-generation of Russells runs the dealerships today. Brett, Bob’s son, leads Russell Chevrolet and Jarrod, Rick’s son, runs Russell Honda. Russell Chevrolet has the largest selection of new Chevrolet vehicles in Arkansas and ranks as one of the 200 largest Chevrolet dealers in the nation.
Founded in 1969 in the heart of the Ozarks in Harrison, Cavender’s All Purpose Greek Seasoning has become a household staple for many families. For the Cavender family, it has become a third generation-owned family business.
Katherine and Spike Cavendar moved their family to Harrrison in 1948. Spike had a passion for making his famous Greek seasoning recipe that was gifted to him by a friend in the 1950s. After family and friends wanted the seasoning, Spike and his son Steve decided to market the seasoning by taking samples to a few grocery stores in Harrison. The seasoning sold fast, so his family helped him blend on the weekends, and he would deliver the orders each week.
Today, the company has its own production facility and is now owned by Spike’s granddaughters, Lisa Price and Cara Wohlgemuth. The seasoning is sold nationwide and in most parts of Canada.
For the past 20 years, Xpress Boats has been one of the top 10 boat companies in the United States. The story of Xpress Boats started in 1966 in a schoolhouse in Friendship (Garland County) with Kermit Bryant’s dream to develop the original “all-welded” aluminum boat. Bryant achieved his dream and began building a reputation for his company in the boating industry.
In 1979, Bryant’s son-in-law, Rodney Herndon, joined Xpress Boats and eventually became the CEO. He was inducted into the Arkansas Outdoor Hall of Fame in 2016. The third-generation of the family, Rory A. Herndon, has been the president of the company since 2016.
This spring, Xpress will finish up expansion that will provide a dedicated manufacturing plant for its Veranda line of luxury pontoons. The company purchased an old Reynolds Metals plant on 40 acres at the Hot Spring County Industrial Park between Hot Springs and Malvern. The expansion will add 377,000 square feet and require about 100 new employees.
At age 27 and with only $800 in his pocket, Tom Schueck started his own construction company in 1968 in the carport of his home. Today, Little Rock’s Lexicon is involved in various industrial, commercial and roadway projects. It has four divisions: Schueck Steel, Prospect Steel, Custom Metals and Heritage Links.
Lexicon has become a leader in the steel manufacturing and construction industries. The company builds steel mills, power plants, convention centers, arenas, golf courses and more. Notable projects include the roof of the AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys, and a few warehouses for Amazon.
On March 3, Schueck passed away at age 78. He was the chairman of Lexicon.
His son, Patrick Schueck, now serves as the president and chief executive officer of the company.
First Arkansas Bank & Trust
First Arkansas Bank & Trust was founded in 1949 by Kenneth Pat Wilson who led a group of individuals who saw a need for banking services in Jacksonville. The company started with three employees as Jacksonville State Bank. As the company continued to open new locations and make several acquisitions, it was renamed First Arkansas Bank & Trust in 1998.
Today, Wilson’s son Larry is the chairman of the board and president and CEO of First Arkansas Bank & Trust. Grandson Mark Wilson is a senior vice president and chief operating officer.
First Arkansas Bank & Trust has 23 locations, was named a “Best-In-State” bank and among the top 2 percent of banks in the country by Forbes, was recognized by the Institute for Extraordinary Banking, and is a multiple winner of the Military Bank of the Year among other accolades.
Sissy’s Log Cabin
This year, Sissy’s Log Cabin is celebrating 50 years in business. Sissy’s Log Cabin began in 1970 when Sissy Jones rented a log cabin along U.S. Highway 79 in Pine Bluff for $50 a month and stocked it with antiques from her home. Today, it is the largest independently owned jewelry store in Arkansas, offering a wide selection of diamonds, jewelry and antiques.
Sissy’s Log Cabin is a family-owned and operated business with three generations of Joneses contributing to the company. Bill Jones, the son, is the CEO, and his wife Sharri is the executive secretary. They have two sons who are also involved in the business. William M. Jones IV is the vice president of operations and serves on the Sissy’s board of directors with his parents. Wyatt Jones is a sales associate at the family business. Both are graduate gemologists from the Gemological Institute of America.
Sissy’s Log Cabin has five locations — in Little Rock, Conway, Jonesboro, Pine Bluff and Memphis.
Founded by William Robert Crow and J.G. Burlingame in 1919, Crow-Burlingame celebrated its 100th anniversary last year. The two met on a train to Conway and were in the grocery business before they began selling auto parts and accessories.
Although Crow-Burlingame Co. was founded as an Arkansas corporation in 1919, the first location did not open until November 1928 in El Dorado after it purchased Service Parts Company. A few years later, in August 1939, Fletcher Lord Sr., son-in-law of Crow, joined the company.
The company expanded over the years, opening 19 stores in one year alone, and Crow became chairman of the board while Lord Sr. became vice president in 1960. Fletcher Lord Jr. took over from his dad, and his brother Bobby Lord became vice president in 1974. At this time, the company had 46 stores.
Today, Fletcher Lord III, the great-grandson of Crow, is the president with Lord Jr. serving as the chairman of the board. Bobby Lord is now the director of the board and his son, Crow Lord, is the vice president of regional sales.
Crow-Burlingame is recognized as one of the largest, privately held auto parts distribution businesses in the United States. It has 177 company-owned locations with more than 1,000 employees in Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, Mississippi and Alabama.
Roller Funeral Homes
Roller Funeral Homes has been serving and caring for Arkansas families who have lost their loved ones for three generations.
Christine and Denver Roller established Roller Funeral Homes in 1881 and began acquiring funeral homes in Arkansas in the 1900s. Denver Roller also established the first crematory in Arkansas in 1974. Furthermore, he created the Assured Peace Funeral Plan, the leading pre-paid funeral plan in Arkansas today.
The Rollers’ daughter, Sue Roller Jenkins, and her husband, Lynn, built Citizens Fidelity Insurance Co., an affiliate with Roller Funeral Homes, with a mission to help Arkansas residents prepare for the costs associated with death. Both still hold positions on the boards of Citizens Fidelity and Roller Funeral Homes.
Renata Jenkins Byler, the granddaughter of the Rollers, is vice president of facilities and marketing for the funeral homes and secretary for Citizens Fidelity.
When Denver Roller passed away in 1985, Roller had 13 funeral homes, five cemeteries and two crematories. Today, there are 29 funeral homes, nine cemeteries, two crematories and two floral shops owned and operated by the Roller family.
Freyaldenhoven Heating & Cooling
Freyaldenhoven Heating and Cooling is a successful heating and air conditioning contractor that has been serving Conway and surrounding communities since 1970. The company was formed when two brothers, Bob and Buck Freyaldenhoven, started working together to fix air conditioners for their friends and family members. The Freyaldenhovens developed their business over the years and eventually retired in 1999. Their sons, Scott and John, followed their footsteps and grew the business into the largest heating-and-air-conditioning company in Faulkner County.
In 2006, the company created its mechanical division to serve commercial customers. Freyaldenhoven is also one of the largest Trane dealers in the state of Arkansas. The company is a Trane comfort specialist and has a showroom with the latest Trane systems for customers to see and hear.
Tipton & Hurst
From seeds planted in 1886, Tipton & Hurst has bloomed into Arkansas’s largest flower shop. Howard Hurst is the third generation of Hurst florists to oversee the company, having become president of Tipton & Hurst in 1984 at 26 years old. Under his leadership, Tipton & Hurst has become one of the 25 largest florists in the nation. “When I started as president, our sales were less than $1 million. Today, they’re more than five times that,” said Hurst.
From the start, the Hursts recognized the potential difficulties awaiting generational businesses. “My dad tried to avoid sibling rivalry and management by committee, ultimately making the decision to sell the business to only one of his three children,” Hurst said. “I plan to do the same with my kids.”
That kind of proactive management policy has allowed Tipton & Hurst to remain an Arkansas fixture for 134 years. “We’ve had wonderful success with growing and empowering a creative, hardworking and dedicated team,” said Hurst. “This long-standing commitment to our customers, employees and community at large has helped us thrive.”
Tipton & Hurst is currently revamping its computer systems to facilitate online shopping. “At the same time, we’ve expanded our wholesale market, both online and at our distribution center, with high-quality offerings from around the world,” Hurst said. “Once these omnichannel systems are firmly in place, we will look for expansion opportunities outside of the central Arkansas market.”
In 1935, two years after alcohol’s re-legalization with the repeal of the Prohibition, Harry Hastings Sr. opened Moon Distributors in Little Rock. Twenty years later, the company purchased Central Distributors. In September 1988, Central Distributors expanded further with a buyout of the McKesson Wine & Spirits Wholesale Co. Today, Moon and Central together represent Arkansas’ oldest, continuously-operated alcohol distributor, having been the leader in the state for almost 80 years.
Family-owned-and-operated, Moon/Central employs more than 175, including the fourth generation of the Hastings family.
Always determined to uphold their reputation for carrying the industry’s leading brands, Moon and Central remain two of the major wholesale houses in the state and operate as independent companies without several layers of management.
Moon and Central carry more than 6,000 active products. The company’s state-of-the-art facility encompasses 11 acres and more than 200,000 square feet of office and warehouse space.
The Tyson story begins with John W. Tyson, who moved his family to Springdale in 1931 in search of new opportunities during the Great Depression. As the demand for chickens grew, Tyson began raising chicks, grinding feed and delivering chickens. In 1947, the business was incorporated as Tyson Feed and Hatchery Inc. In 1963, the more familiar Tyson Foods was introduced when John Tyson, Don’s son, took the company public.
John H. Tyson, John’s son, led the company through a period of dramatic expansion. In 2001, Tyson Foods acquired IBP, becoming the world’s largest processor and marketer of chicken, beef and pork. Six years later, Tyson Foods’ Discovery Center was completed at the Springdale headquarters, serving the company, industry, and consumers as an unrivaled force of innovation. Speedy growth and impressive acquisitions aside, Tyson continues to also prioritize sustainability.
In 2010, the company celebrated 10 years with its partner Share Our Strength, together having donated more than 76 million pounds of products to hunger and disaster relief. Tyson’s global market also continues to grow. The company announced in February 2019 the acquisitions of processing facilities in Thailand, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. Last year alone, the company reported nearly 141,000 team members, 42 distribution centers and outside cold-storage facilities, as well as two research-and-development centers.
The history of Dillard’s stretches back to 1938 when it was founded in Nashville (Howard County) by William Dillard.
Growth through the 1950s and ‘60s including new stores opening across the Mid-South region, including its first mall location. In 1964, the Dillard family relocated the company’s headquarters to Little Rock, incorporating the company as Dillard’s Inc. Acquisitions in the 1980s and ‘90s expanded the Dillard’s footprint across the South and into the Midwest.
Over the years, Dillard’s became a cornerstone in various suburban malls and in 1977, William (Bill) Dillard II was named president and chief operating officer. The company is among the largest retail groups in the United States and holds tight to its spot among the Fortune 500. By 2020, Dillard’s had 285 stores in 29 states with net sales of $6.2 billion.
The first-ever Blackmon auction was conducted in 1938 by founder Eddie Blackmon Sr.
The story goes that Blackmon owned part interest in a cattle barn in DeWitt, but the auctioneer who was working for him got into some trouble running a scam and was run out of town. In his absence, Blackmon did the auction that night, and the rest is history.
Years later, in the ‘60s, Tom Blackmon Sr. took over the business, expanding it from a seasonal operation to a full-time business. He focused heavily on selling farm equipment, but in the ‘70s added construction-equipment auctions and in the ‘80s began including trucking, logging, railroad and manufacturing equipment. Under his leadership, Blackmon Auctions evolved from a regional business to a full-blown auction company that earned international renown. Blackmon’s son Thomas has led the company since 2010 and added real estate to the company’s portfolio.
Blackmon Auction provides more than 80 years in the industry, an average of around 70 auctions a year and employees who average 15 years of service.
Curry’s Termite and Pest Control
Curry’s Termite and Pest Control has been family-owned-and-operated for five generations. It’s currently owned by Scott and Tammy Curry Pinney, the latter of whom is the great-granddaughter of company founder R.G. Curry. From
offices in Little Rock, Pine Bluff and Monticello (and coming soon to Conway), Curry’s provides advanced, eco-friendly pest solutions for termite infestations and intrusions from other unwanted visitors, from bats and bedbugs to snakes and silverfish.
Curry’s may be the oldest pest-control business in Arkansas, but its methods are anything but.
“We constantly push ourselves to be on the forefront of implementing the industry’s leading technology,” said Lauren Pinney, a fifth-generation member of the extended Curry family. “We were among the first in the state to offer the advanced, eco-efficient Termidor HE treatments to our termite protection policy-holders. While we might have grown exponentially over the past 94 years, our company has fought to maintain that family-sized feel. We try to treat and serve our customers as if they were one of our own.”
Not only does Curry’s provide immediate support for ongoing infestations, its pest-control technicians can provide monthly, quarterly or yearly checkups as well as free preliminary termite inspections.
Fort Thompson Sporting Goods
The history of Fort Thompson Sporting Goods goes back to 1931 when Clyde Thompson opened a community grocery and hardware store in Rose City, now part of North Little Rock. Eventually, Thompson became successful at selling hunting gear like guns and ammunition.
Thompson’s son, C.B. Thompson Jr., began working at the store and took over ownership. In 1984, the Thompson family sold the company to Tom Denniston, a close family friend who worked at the store as a teenager. While C.B. Thompson helped operate the grocery side of the store, Denniston focused on the sporting goods section. Dennison began building a sporting goods store across the street from the grocery store in 1985.
Although the grocery store closed permanently due to an electrical fire in 1989, the sporting goods store became a popular place for those in the market to buy hunting and outdoors gear. Fort Thompson was able to offer lower prices as a member of Sports Inc., a member-owned buying group of independent sporting goods stores across the country.
Today, Fort Thompson Sporting Goods has a 19,000 square-foot retail space in Sherwood with approximately 20 employees, some who have been around for years, to serve central Arkansans.
ployees, some who have been around for years, to serve central Arkansans.
The Smith family has been serving Arkansans for more than 100 years at the Smith Ford dealership in Conway. The company has been passed down through five generations of the Smith family; the current owner is Ted Smith.
Ted’s great-grandfather, S.G. Smith, opened the dealership in 1916. Ted’s father, S.T. “Ros” Smith, eventually acquired the business and incorporated it in 1966. He moved the company from downtown Conway to its current location on Oak Street in 1972.
The dealership has grown throughout the years with the Smith’s family dedication to build lifelong relationships with their customers by simply treating them like family.
A few years ago, Ros retired and Ted, joined by his sister, Cathy Ketcheside, and her husband, Kenne Ketcheside, took over the business. Cathy and Kenne’s two children also work at the dealership.
Nabholz Corporation is a name familiar to many as one of the largest contractors in the United States and the recipient of numerous awards. However, the company has humble beginnings.
In 1949, R.D. (Bob) Nabholz was building a house for his future bride when a local Army veteran came along and made an offer on the house. Bob accepted the offer and with the profit, which was around $500, continued to build more houses and then duplexes. Eventually, he did build that home for his wife. Soon after, the opportunity to build apartments in North Little Rock presented itself and by the end, Bob knew there was a future in construction.
Thus, Nabholz Construction was born and in 1955 it was officially incorporated in the state of Arkansas.
The milestone decision in 1976 to offer company stock to the Nabholz management team and other leaders is often cited as being critical to the company’s long-term success, providing a broader ownership base and expanding their ability to grow service lines and offer more construction services geographically.
Hugg & Hall
Hugg & Hall Equipment Co. was formed in Arkansas in 1956. Originally known as Life Truck Sales & Service Corporation, it functioned as a distributor for Clark Equipment Co., an industrial forklift manufacturer. In 1960, the name changed to Clarklift of Arkansas.
A decade later, Charles Hugg came along and purchased the company, operating out of Little Rock and Fort Smith, and in the summer of 1990, his son John and John’s partner, Robert Hall, bought Clarklift. During their first year leading the company in 1991, revenue totaled $13 million.
Under their leadership, the company also expanded significantly, transforming into a regional concern with 12 locations in Arkansas, Louisiana, east Texas and Oklahoma. John Hugg oversaw multiple acquisitions, including that of Hugg Equipment Co.’s stock in 1995, which led to the company doing business officially as Hugg & Hall Equipment Co.
Other acquisitions including Arkla Taylor, a dealer for Taylor Machine Works in 2011. In 2012, the company purchased Westquip, a dealer for Toyota Material Handling in western Oklahoma. Over the years, staffing was increased exponentially. In 2013, annual revenue from forklifts, excavators and other material-handling gear totaled about $160 million.
Having started with only 22 employees, Hugg & Hall has become one of the leading construction and industrial equipment providers in the South with 13 locations and more than 500 employees.
Gaston’s White River Resort
In the winter of 1958, Al Gaston purchased a 20-acre section of White River frontage that consisted of a boat dock, six cottages and six boats. After a hard winter in 1965 that damaged the boat dock and the loss of his father in 1966, Al’s son, Jim Gaston, developed a plan, and at age 24, took on the business of revitalizing the resort, determined to make something out of six little pink cabins his father left behind.
After making his pitch to a Mountain Home banker, Gaston received a $15,000 loan to begin and poured his everything into the resort.
For years, he turned down significant offers from those interested in purchasing the resort and began investing in his two grandsons, Danny and Clint, who had lost their parents. They devoted their time to Gaston’s White River Resort, carrying on the family legacy.
Today, the resort covers more than 400 acres and includes a dock facility supporting 70 fishing boats, 79 cottages, a 125-seat conference center and its own restaurant, private club, a 3,200-feet airstrip and more, all maintained by a seasonal staff of 75 to 100. The amenities range from a tennis court and swimming pool to a fly fishing school.
Gaston’s remains one of the most beloved spots to enjoy fishing on the White River.
More than 90 years ago, C.L. George and his sons began a small grocery store just outside of Springdale. “It was just like everybody else in the ’20s, trying to make a living however you could,” company president and C.L.’s grandson Gary George said. Gary took over operations in 1980 from his father, Gene, who expanded the operation, raising and moving live turkeys and chickens from the poultry-rich region to the Midwest.
In 1973, the business became known as George’s Inc. Through the next 40 years, George’s became the seventh-largest vertically-integrated chicken producer in the country. The company has eight locations across four states, employs more than 7,000 workers and enjoys sales nearing $1 billion.
George’s also has diversified its products beyond rotisserie, boneless and bone-in wings. It also produces hamburger and sausage patties and a variety of par-broiled and fried products. “You’ve either got to grow or eventually you’re going to sell,” Gary said. Today, the fourth generation of the George family has joined the business as well. Gary’s sons, Carl and Charles, are also preparing to lead their company into further success and growth, while maintaining their organization’s commitment to family values and quality service.