KEEP FAYETTEVILLE FUNKY

Have you ever heard of Fayetteville, Arkansas? It’s a beautiful oasis in the middle of Northwest Arkansas’ Ozark mountains and deserves to be recognized for all of its beauty. It has become a tourist destination, it is home to the Arkansas Razorbacks, and it is consistently named as one of the “Best Places to Live” (No. 3 in 2016, No. 5 in 2017, No. 5 in 2018, and No. 4 in 2019). It is well known for annual events in motorcycling, music, art, and film.

Fayetteville has a place in my personal heart too. It’s a place where moved when I was an 18 year old freshman at the University of Arkansas. It’s a place where I studied, made lifelong friends, became 21, became a “dog-mom”, graduated college, and entered into the hospitality world as a “real adult”. I’ve been in Northwest Arkansas since 2011, and in those eight years, I’ve made those memories, but I’ve also made up my mind about my favorite things about some of my favorite local hot-spots.

BITE + DRINK

Theo’s: I believe this is the best upscale-casual Happy Hour in Fayetteville. In the lounge, there is centrally arranged comfortable furniture, with TV’s at the bar (perfect for watching the Razorbacks, or my favorite – the St. Louis Blues, play). There are a few booths and high-top tables on the perimeter if the group is a little smaller and more intimate – whereas the lounge furniture allows for more socialization and meeting new people. If the weather is nice, there is also prime seating on their patio facing Dickson Street.

MC’s Pick: Trina’s Ginger Peach (vodka, peach, ginger syrup, lemon) + Charcuterie Board (two meats, two cheeses, accompaniments)

Bordino’s: This restaurant has been around for almost 2 decades. The atmosphere is a little less lounge, and a little more restaurant, as they do not have any TV’s in the bar area, but their cocktails and wine list do not disappoint.

MC’s Pick: Baker’s Blues (house-infused lavender & blueberry vodka, lavender simple syrup, fresh lemon juice) + Triple Threat (grana padano, roasted garlic, balsamic vinegar)

LOCAL LUNCH + DINNER

Hammontree’s Grilled Cheese: With a variety of gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches to choose from, most guests can find something that they like at this restaurant. A very casual atmosphere off Dickson Street, Hammontrees is a perfect spot to grab a bite to eat after some mid-morning weekend shopping or after a long day at work.

MC’s Picks: Sweet Potato Fries (with avocado ranch dipping sauce) + Cheebacca Grilled Cheese (sharp white cheddar, house cheese, bacon, pulled pork, onions, and garlic cilantro sauce on sourdough) P.S. I prefer no onions on my Cheebacca Grilled Cheese, and I add the house BBQ sauce!

Hugo’s: In business since 1977, Hugo’s is a Fayetteville staple, consistently ranking in the top 1-3 restaurants on websites like TripAdvisor.  It’s located in Downtown Historic Fayetteville, in the basement of an original building. It encompasses Fayetteville with the art and historical pieces around the restaurant, and even locals continue to go back. If you plan to stop by on a weekend evening, there might be a bit of a wait, so be prepared to arrive early! There’s not much of a waiting area, but most people just wait outside and get to know one another while they wait for a great meal.

MC’s Picks: Ace Pineapple Cider (Sebastopol, CA) + cheeseburger with ketchup, pickles, and cheese + Grasshopper Crepe (mint chocolate chip ice cream inside of crepes with hot fudge drizzle)

Sassy’s: Sassy’s BBQ sauce and spices are from a family recipe developed by Sassy Jones’ grandfather, Jasper Jones, in 1885. The sauce has been said to be good on pork, beef, chicken, dove, quail, duck, goat, lamb, rabbit, squirrel, deer, coon, possum, shrimp, catfish, crawfish, oysters, armadillo, rattlesnake, and just about anything else. Their menu has a little bit of everything, and they want their guests to enjoy and stay awhile by having TV’s with TV’s with the game on, porches for warm days, and the best part – good food.

MC’s Picks: Homemade Fried Pickles + Pulled Pork Sandwich Combo, with (2) sides: sweet potato tots and mustard potato salad

Farmer’s Table Cafe: With the motto, “where locals meet and eat,” Farmer’s Table Cafe is built for the locals of Fayetteville, and even those coming through town. It is a tiny house within Fayetteville, where patrons can enjoy a wonderful meal from local vendors, and meet others within their community.

MC’s Picks: Benny on a Biscuit (Ozarks version of the egg’s benedict: 2 poached eggs, Bansley’s farm ham, Dripping Springs Garden kale,  atop a handmade biscuit with hollandaise) or Pickled + Deviled Plate (deviled local eggs, pickled local vegetables, Great Ferments okra, Ozark All Seasons greens) + Chicken Salad (roasted chicken, dried cranberries, almonds, dill, celery, on Stone Mill Bakery sourdough)

Catfish Hole: In 1993, the owners of Catfish Hole opened their first location in Alma, AR. Not soon after, they added a location in Fayetteville, which has become a popular spot for locals and tourists. Most people rave about hushpuppies, but they’re especially known for their catfish – as it is a common catch in the Northwest Arkansas area.

MC’s Picks: Regular Catch of Catfish Filets, served with french fries + fixin’s (fixings include: hushpuppies, coleslaw, pickles, onions, lemons and green tomato relish)

Woodstone: A recent add in 2014 to the Fayetteville restaurant scene, Woodstone Pizza + Bar features wood fired, artisan pizza with a scratch kitchen, locally sourced ingredients, local craft beers and cocktails.

MC’s Picks: Lavender Gimlet (sub with Tito’s vodka instead of gin), + Queen Margherita (house red sauce, fresh mozzarella, local basil, herb oil)

A Taste of Thai: Since 2000, Taste of Thai has been established in the Downtown Historic Fayetteville Square. With a small patio, off a quaint and traditional dining room, this restaurant encompasses Thai culture, while also serving delicious food. Larger parties may need to notify the restaurant of their arrival, and guests can even order ahead for takeout.

MC’s Picks: A-7 Chicken Pot Stickers (grilled marinated chicken wrapped, served with homemade plum sauce) + 17. Pad Thai, national dish of Thailand (stir-fried thin rice noodles w/egg, bean sprouts, green onions, topped w/ground peanuts)

COCKTAIL

Maxine’s Tap Room: Named one of the Best Bars in America, 2019 by Esquire Magazine, Maxine’s Tap Room is an almost 70-year-old bar located on Block Avenue, in the heart of Fayetteville’s Historic Downtown Square. 24-year-old Maxine Miller borrowed $10,000 from her parents and with the ownership of her bar, became a surrogate mother to generation of college students missing their own mothers. After Maxine passed, management passed on to a team of local shop-owners and they thoughtfully remodeled the Tap Room with a payphone that still has the recording of Maxine’s last call: “May I have your attention, please! You have ten minutes to drink, then get the hell out!” One of my favorite facts about the bar is that it only has one window, exactly 8.5″x40″, in the front, which was the minimum size allowed by the building codes at the time of its being built.

MC’s Picks: Maxine’s Tap Room changes the menu seasonally, but one of my favorites is a simple cocktail with vodka, lavender syrup, and soda water, sometimes with a splash of lemonade. They have the best retro/classic cocktails, and the seasoned popcorn will keep you there for awhile.

Vault: This fairly new bar is a former bank vault that combines warm palettes of concrete, wood, steel, and leather, inspired by the idea of distillation. Their focus is on bourbon, and they pride themselves in having the best bourbon selection in the state of Arkansas.

MC’s Picks: EJ Highball (bourbon, tea syrup, lemon, house ginger beer)

Cannibal + Craft: Named after a beach bar in the Caribbean, Cannibal & Craft is a dual-bar with one side drawing inspiration from this island vibe, and the other side featuring a warm, earthy, American vibe. The island side focuses on fishbowl cocktails, while the other side features classic cocktails. If you’re a true local, you know that within Cannibal + Craft lies a secret bar called, Ben’s Apartment. Similar to a speakeasy from the 1920’s, this bar is exclusive and not open to just anyone. This secret bar requires a membership and a minimum monthly spend, but each guest is allotted 3 additional guests at no additional charge. But well worth the membership, this bar is for those who want an atypical Fayetteville bar experience.

MC’s Picks: Moscow Mule Fishbowl (or Bee’s Knees at Ben’s Apartment)

Fayetteville Ale Trail: Experience Fayetteville (my old parent-company!) launched the Fayetteville Ale Trail in August 2013. This self-guided tour gives both visitors and locals a glimpse into the unique craft brewery and cidery culture of Northwest Arkansas (it extends past Fayetteville!). More than 35,000 passports have been printed, and after 5 years, the Ale Trail has been recognized nationally and even locals still continue to enjoy it. Passports can be picked up at any of the breweries on the Ale Trail, via mail, or at Experience Fayetteville (Visitor’s Center) on the Downtown Square, located at 21 S. Block Ave.

Featured Breweries: Apple Blossom Brewing Co., Bentonville Brewing Co., Bike Rack Brewing Co., Black Apple Crossing Cidery, Columbus House Brewery, Core Brewing and Distilling Co., Crisis Brewing Company, Fossil Cove Brewing Co., Hawk Moth Brewery, Ivory Bill Brewing, JJ’s Beer Garden & Brewing, New Providence Brewing Co., Ozark Beer Company, Saddlebock Brewery, and West Mountain Brewing Co.

SWEET

Rick’s Bakery: Opened in 1980, Rick’s has become a staple in Northwest Arkansas. From their classic personal cakes (perfect for birthdays, big-little reveals, congratulation-moments, and more, to their decorative cookies (some even featuring frosting shaped Razorbacks, their baked goods are worth every bite.

MC’s Picks: tie-dye cookies + monogrammed petit fours

Smudgies: Taking a spin on sweets, Smudgies combines donuts, cereal, sweet treats, and more with ice cream. They are most famous for the smudgie itself, a donut stuffed with your choice of ice cream combination from the menu – or a creation of your own!

MC’s Picks: Salty Dog Sludgie (essentially a concrete with vanilla bean ice cream, salted caramel drizzle, + crushed pretzels)

Burton’s Creamery: Opened in June 2014, Burton’s Creamery provides premium (better than just everyday) soft serve to the residents of Fayetteville. Originally served out of a food truck, they now have an additional location in the Uptown Apartments + Shops. Their food truck is still located off Dickson Street in an area called Shulertown – a popular destination after the bars close.

MC’s Picks: Butterfinger Soft Serve on a Waffle Cone

Shop

RiffRaff: Kirsten Blowers, a native Fayetteville local, opened Riffraff in February of 2009 at the age of 21. Originally selling refurbished and hand-painted furniture, she quickly expanded to include clothing and small gifts.  By 2012, due to popularity and growth of the business from in-store to Facebook, Kirsten took the business online – launching an instant success. Nestled in the Historic Downtown Fayetteville Square, Riffraff believes in shopping local (while still reaching shoppers nationwide). Their style is always touching on the newest trends, and their social media presence (mostly Instagram) is very strong: @shopriffraff + @riffrafffayetteville + @riffraffhq.

Impressions: Built off the power of a first impression, Impressions offers a wide range of apparel to fit any woman’s unique sense of style. Between their physical location in Fayetteville or their online boutique, they are always following the latest fashions to keep their customers leaving lasting impressions.

Maude: The current location is Maude’s second location, but Maude has been in business since 2007. The store prides itself on excellent customer service,  and they enjoy the fun within fashion. They believe in fashion speaking to their customers and help their customers feel their dreams come true while being confident in the clothes they sell. They also have the cutest backdrop for photos (you can search #maudewall on Instagram).

The Mustache Goods + Wears: The owner of this store wanted to open a shop where he lived and worked (Historic Downtown Fayetteville), but he wanted it to be and look different than any other store, carrying products that shoppers don’t normally find. Their passion feeds off how the community loves their store, always finding a fun, friendly, and unique shopping experience.

E.Leigh’s: Erin Leigh Hohnbaum opened the shop in 2011 at the age of 26, with the goal to create a space where women felt strong, empowered, and better leaving than when they came in the doors. She is passionate about making customers and visitors feel good, even if they don’t purchase anything – so experience is everything to her. Located on Dickson Street, it’s close to restaurants and other shops in the Fayetteville area.

EXPERIENCE

First Thursday: On the first Thursday of each month May through October from 5:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m., Fayetteville’s Historic Downtown Square transforms into an outdoor arts district featuring more than 40 visual artists who create items in a variety of mediums. The event also includes live music, street performances, children’s activities, food trucks, a craft beer garden, and more. This event is hosted and promoted by Experience Fayetteville, and parking is available at Fayetteville Town Center.

George’s Majestic Lounge: Opened in 1927 by George Pappas, George’s was originally a restaurant, lounge, and general store. George’s saw many owners in its day, some of which shared their first dates at the bar, but regardless of ownership, it is the oldest and longest running bar in the Fayetteville area. It was also the first to integrate and the first to have color TV in its time. Its current owners, Brian + Day Crowne bought the building and eventually the land – serving as the regions premier showcase venue for concerts since 2004.

Walton Arts Center: In the late 1980s, the Walton family, the University of Arkansas, and the City of Fayetteville each individually realized the need for a venue that could accommodate major touring shows, local and regional performing acts, and even corporate meetings. Located off Dickson Street in Fayetteville, this recently updated venue houses these shows, events, and even more.

Theatre Squared: Reaching 45,000 patrons each year with 230 annual performances, Theatre Squared attracts varying shows by hosting them in an intimate space. In 2011, TheatreSquared was recognized by the American Theatre Wing, founder of the Tony Awards, as one of the nation’s ten most promising emerging theatres. Its audience includes more than 18,000 students and their teachers. They believe that all students should have access to live performances and leading arts-based learning tools. Theatre Squared is also Arkansas’ home for professional playwrights, developing scripts through the Arkansas New Play Festival in Fayetteville and Bentonville, producing new works and world premiers each year.

Donald W. Reynolds Stadium: Serving as the home field for the University of Arkansas Razorbacks, Donald W. Reynolds Stadium is an American football stadium in Fayetteville, Arkansas, originally opened in 1938. In 2001, it was renamed from Razorback Stadium to its current name, in honor of Reynold’s being a wonderful businessman and philanthropist. The playing field is named for Frank Boyles, the former head football coach and athletic director.

Mount Sequoyah Overlook: A beautiful spot for visitors to relax, watch the sunset, or picnic, Mt. Sequoyah overlooks Fayetteville with a large cross illuminating the area. Locals go there on dates, to see how wonderful Fayetteville looks at night, or say a prayer. The area is a church and retreat center, surrounded by homes with beautiful views.

Razorback Regional Greenway: A project years in the making, the Razorback Regional Greenway has been a goal of regional planners, cities, and residents of Northwest Arkansas for more than two decades. With a lot of planning, the Greenway became a reality stretching 36 miles from Bella Vista to South Fayetteville. It connects 6 downtowns, 3 hospitals, 23 schools, arts and entertainment venues, the University of Arkansas campus, corporate headquarters, historic sites, parks and playgrounds, restaurants, shopping areas, and more.

OUTSIDE FAY

Crystal Bridges: Founded in 2005 by philanthropist and arts patron, Alice Walton,  Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art began as a nonprofit charitable organization for all to enjoy. The building was designed by world-renowned architect Moshe Safdie and opened to the public on 11-11-11. Their mission is to welcome all to celebrate the American spirit in a setting that unites the power of art with the beauty of nature. Its name comes from a nearby natural spring and the bridge that has been incorporated into the structure of the building.  Meeting spaces and galleries surrounds two spring-fed ponds, including a glass-enclosed gathering hall. The museum also features a beautiful restaurant, a library featuring more than 50,000 volumes of art reference material, and trails that link the 120-acre park to downtown Bentonville, Arkansas.

The Walmart Museum: Sam Walton and his family moved to the Northwest Arkansas area in 1950, to satisfy his wife Helen’s desire for small-town living. According to Helen, this also allowed them to be within a short distance from Missouri, Oklahoma, and Kansas, so Sam could enjoy the different seasons, satisfying his passion for quail hunting. With this move, Sam purchased Luther Harrison’s Variety Store. Located in the Downtown Bentonville square, Walton’s 5&10 was the second store opened by Sam Walton, but the first to bear his name. The original ceiling tiles from Harrison’s Variety Store are still seen in the museum today, as are the original red and green tiles that Sam laid down prior to the famous remodeling sale. Some of the tile colors didn’t match; Sam accepted them “as is” for a better price – and this is worth mentioning because it is a part of the foundation for Walmart today. See, Sam was a frugal man, but according to history, not for the sake of frugality. “Sam knew that his customers wouldn’t be looking at his floor – or even care – as long as his prices were low and his shelves were well-stocked. He knew that saving money on expenses meant he could charge lower prices, saving his customers money so they could live better.” And this was the beginning of Walmart and Sam’s Club.

Scott Family Amazeum: Featuring approximately 50,000 square feet of exhibit and learning spaces, Scott Family Amazeum is built to bring families together, inspire curiosity, and bring learning to life using hands-on exhibits. Many of the interactive exhibits are focused on the industries and people who built the Arkansas culture and sustain it today – exhibitors including the 3M Tinkering Hub, General Mills Lift, Load and Haul, Market Sponsored by Walmart, Nature Valley Water Amazements, Nickelodeon Play Lab, Hershey’s Lab, and more. Possibly the coolest activity that Scott Family Amazeum does is at the end of the day, they have a “parade to leave” so the kids can “enjoy” the exhibits having to close.

The Peel Mansion Museum + Heritage Gardens: Built in 1875 by Colonel Samuel West Peel, it is a beautiful model of Italianate Villa Style furnished with authentic antiquities and artifacts. It his home to public and private events for the Northwest Arkansas area from bridal shows to weddings to cocktail parties to charity events.

Slaughter Pen Trail: Attracting visitors from around the country, this Bentonville mountain bike trail hosts one of the top bike events in the state. Featuring over 20 miles, with an easy trail connection via Lake Bella Vista to Blowing Springs mountain bike trail system, this is something that the avid biker does not want to miss.

STAY

The Inn at Carnall Hall: Built in 1905, Carnall Hall was the first girl’s dorm in Arkansas, named after Ella Howison Carnall, a beloved English professor. In 1967, it became a fraternity for 10 years, and in 1982, it was placed on the National Register for Historic Places, when it housed classrooms and faculty offices. In 2001, it was saved from demolition, thanks to private and public efforts. 2 years later, it reopened as The Inn at Carnall Hall, with restorations made to the staircase and front porch. In 2004, it was added to the Historic Hotels of America. Most recently in 2018, the Inn had a face lift, with contemporary elements complimenting the history of the building. Perhaps the most significant moment of this hotel’s history to me, is when I had the pleasure of working there. I started my career transition at Inn at Carnall Hall, and I am grateful for my experience there.

21c Museum: Located on the Downtown Bentonville Square, and within a short walk to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, 21c Museum Hotel Bentonville is an 104-room boutique hotel, contemporary art museum, cultural center, and home to The Hive  restaurant. They are well-known for the iconic Green Penguin, which I’ve mentioned in a previous post.

The Crescent Hotel: Opened in 1886, The Crescent Hotel was built to be a resort for the rich and famous, designed by architect Isaac S. Taylor from St. Louis, MO. Only open for a short time before it became unmanageable, it was reopened as the Crescent College and Conservatory for Young Women from 1908-1924. It opened again from 1930-1934 as a junior college. By 1937, Norman G. Baker, converted the building into a hospital and health resort. This is when the history gets a little interesting. Baker was a millionaire inventory and radio personality, but he also presented himself as a doctor (with absolutely no medical training). He claimed to have “cures” for ailments, including cancer. Baker eventually went to jail, and The Crescent Hotel bounced between a few owners, almost being burned to the ground in 1967. Currently, it has been titled, “America’s Most Haunted Hotel” and has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places as of 2016. Tourists and guests can go on ghost tours, and even stay overnight experiencing the supposed supernatural.

As I say goodbye to Fayetteville today, I felt that I could best say goodbye by paying tribute to the wonderful places I came to love during my time in Northwest Arkansas. I hope if you have a chance to visit, you can visit a few of these places and grow to love them too.

XO – MC

HOMEWARD BOUND-ISH

In my previous post, I mentioned that my mom recommended I look into a company based out of St. Louis. And though I didn’t find a position that I qualified for right away, I did the next morning. After cancelling my plans that day, redesigning my resume, creating a cover letter, and submitting before the day was over, I had applied for my dream job.

There weren’t many details about the interview process within the application. So if I were to even receive an interview, I didn’t know when that would happen. Even though it was the weekend, I was so excited about this potential job, that I checked my email the next morning (Sunday). And the next day. And the next day. Which happened to be Tuesday.

And that Tuesday morning, I received an email from the company requesting to schedule an initial interview with me. I was that much closer to my dream. I wanted to schedule my interview on the very next day, but I knew that I would be too eager, and I needed time to do additional research about the position and prepare for the interview.

The first interview went well. I had some help from friends finding a quiet, noise-free location away from work to take the phone call. The interview was fairly standard, filled with situational questions based on my past experience. I am grateful that I took the extra time to research and prepare, because I was able to anticipate questions while answering them confidently. By the end of the interview, I didn’t know if I was moving forward, but my interviewer made me aware that I would know if I moved to the next round of interviews or not, by the middle of the month.

Just as I checked my email every day after I submitted my resume, I checked my email every day waiting to hear hopefully good news. It only took a week to get the next email. I was invited to a second, in-person interview. I scheduled the interview for a Monday after a weekend I would be in St. Louis, though the company did offer to fly me to the interview. (WHAT?!)

I worked hard to prepare for this interview – more than I had ever prepared for an interview. I researched the company on Indeed, Glassdoor, and LinkedIn, and I discovered 20+ potential interview questions, with suggested answers. I adjusted the answers to fit my experience, and gained confidence as I answered the practice questions.

The day of the interview came, and I arrived about 30 minutes early (to the parking lot). I walked in at the recommended 15 minutes prior to the interview, and signed in at the security desk. Soon enough, I was interviewing for the position. This interview went similarly, fairly standard questions as they applied to the events industry, with the implication that situational answers were needed. It began with two managers within the operations team, followed by a separate meeting with the vice president. The first portion went well, though I was nervous, I felt that there was a smooth ebb and flow to the interview. The second half with the VP, was the most nerve-wracking interview I’ve ever had, and I walked away feeling… okay.

I felt just about all of the feels throughout this interview process. Nervous, excited, happy, anxious. When I saw the original job posting, I had a feeling that this was just “meant to be”. Each time I saw an email, I had the same feeling. I couldn’t shake that feeling. The day before I found the job posting, I discovered that I wanted to travel and that I wanted to begin the process of moving back to St. Louis sooner rather than later. And here was this job, that required travel 2/3 of the year, moving back to St. Louis, and let me continue to work in events. It almost felt too perfect.

Just as I did after the first interview, and on the advice of a kind family member, I sent my thank you cards to those who interviewed me during the second round, and waited patiently. (And checked my email multiple times a day.) I waited for almost TWO WEEKS. But it was worth the wait.

I got the job.

That feeling was real. It was meant to be. I was moving home. (Though I will be traveling throughout the world 250+ days out of the year.) I have my dream job. It’s happening. I’m homeward bound-ish.

XO – MC

DISCOVERY

This past February, I was in the process of interviewing for a job that would completely change my career path in hospitality. I was asked to interview for the position, which was a huge honor considering the field it was in and my lack of experience in said field. However exciting it sounded, I wasn’t sold on the potential of this new position. After all, I have been living and breathing hospitality for several years now, and I thought I had found what I was meant to do.

The interview process was extensive and I am grateful it was for a few reasons. It taught me about what I want looking into my personal and career-driven future. I hadn’t been seriously asked what I want my future to look like from someone outside of my current organization. Those who did ask, usually asked rhetorical questions or questions that had generic answers. I knew that eventually I wanted to move back home (to St. Louis) and have a family of my own one day, with maybe a job that at times, would allow me to work from home. But there was no real timeline, and there was no clear path of a career (even if it was in hospitality) that I wanted to follow.

This interview process taught me to rely on friends and family, and who to rely on, ensuring that the friends and family that I surrounded myself with would lead me to success. Making life-changing decisions is scary idea, and without support from those who surround you, you are making those decisions alone. So surrounding yourself with those who have strength and faith in you, is key to successful change. I believe that Matthew Kelly said it best,

“The people we surround ourselves with either raise or lower our standards. They either help us to become the-best-version-of-ourselves or encourage us to become lesser versions of ourselves. We become like our friends. No man becomes great on his own. No woman becomes great on her own. The people around them help to make them great. We all need people in our lives who raise our standards, remind us of our essential purpose, and challenge us to become the-best-version-of-ourselves.”

This interview made me think about how my friends and family would fit into my life as I tackle the new job. And as I talked to friends and family, I discovered those who challenged me to become the best version of myself, and those who didn’t. Those who encouraged me to become the best version of myself supported me, but they knew how to ask me the tough questions.

And while I was being interviewed with questions from the potential new employer (and my friends), I also learned to ask the right questions for myself. As I mentioned before, I considered what my future would like, but I also learned to ask about where and what hours I would be working. This helped me discover what I wanted from my work/life balance, and my comfort in my office space.

This interview was a truly positive experience. Two months into the process, I was offered the position. I asked the company for the weekend to consider the offer, because as silly as it sounds, I didn’t “feel it” when I received the offer. After work that day, I went to get food with a friend who helped me weigh the pros and cons scribbled in crayon on the back of a placemat. We eventually determined that the cons outweighed the pros, not necessarily about the job or the company, but the results from accepting the job and how it lined up with my goals. I learned that I wanted to begin the process of moving back to St. Louis. I learned that I wanted to travel, much like my family has/will have the chance to with my dad being in Europe. And I learned that I wasn’t ready to give up on hospitality.

That night, I talked to my mom who told me to research a company based out of St. Louis. I did, and I didn’t find anything that I qualified for related to hospitality. I felt very discouraged, because I was ready to grow in my career elsewhere, preferably taking a step towards moving home. The next morning, I had a weird instinct to check again. So I looked at LinkedIn. And I found something that I qualified for, that would allow for travel, and that would keep me in events. I immediately cancelled my plans for the day, redesigned my entire resume, created a cover letter in the same design, and submitted it all before the day was over. I took a chance on something that gave me “that feeling”, even after I just simply read the job description.

On Monday, I declined the offer to the other job. It was hard, but I thanked the company for their time and for teaching me a lot about myself. I had to follow “that feeling”. Ultimately, this interview taught me that though I wasn’t meant for a career in law, I was meant to stay in hospitality. I wouldn’t say I doubted my place in hospitality throughout this process, since hospitality is present in almost any industry, but I was unsure how it would fit in with my personal goals.

My biggest piece of advice after this experience is to take the interview. You’ll learn more about yourself than you thought was possible, even if you don’t take the job.

XO – MC

BACK TO SCHOOL

A few weeks ago, I was contacted by my college advisor from the University of Arkansas. I am still local, and I regularly reach out to her on behalf of my job for part-time help. But this time was different. She was asking me for something.

A huge part of hospitality, and working towards a degree in it, is actual experience. Accountants can be taught formulas and how to use QuickBooks in class, lawyers have to study the history and teachings of law before they can practice on their own, and doctors and nurses have to study anatomy and physiology before they can actually begin to intern and practice. Hospitality is learned or just naturally there. Experience builds on hospitality. It is hard to teach, and the times it is taught – is not nearly enough.

In a team retreat last year for my company, we watched a video, which is based on the art of hospitality. In this video, CEO of Union Square Hospitality Group, Danny Meyer, speaks to what hospitality is and what hospitality means. He compares hospitality to a dialogue, and that it is different than service. His company believes “the way you make people feel is what they remember, more than anything.” Meyer goes on to talk about what they look for in employees, a “high hospitality quotient,” which he says is 49% technical skills and 51% emotional skills. That 51% adds up to someone who is naturally wired to want to make people feel better.

Meyer continues with a phrase that has really stood out to me since watching that video, “always be collecting dots, so you can always be connecting dots.” He relates this to always knowing who you’re talking to – and what’s important to that person. When you make a client or a guest feel special by connecting the dots, you are creating a customized experience for them – and that brings them back. That might even make you their favorite. Meyer adds that being someone’s favorite, is better than being the “best”, because others can’t tell you what is or is not your favorite. Just like they can’t take a picture of the way a hospitality professional made their heart feel – showing the art of hospitality.

I couldn’t agree more.

The University of Arkansas’ Hospitality Innovation program has grown significantly in the past few years. One of the core requirements that they have added is the pre-internship class. This class focuses on the preparation for getting an internship – resumes, cover letters, elevator speeches, and interview skills. Which brings us to the opportunity that my college advisor presented me – she invited me, along with several other industry professionals and past alumni, to participate in mock-interviews with the pre-internship class students.

Building on that video, and what I’ve learned working my way through the hospitality industry thus far, I was excited for this opportunity to participate in the growth of these students. The guidelines for our mock-interviews were minimal, but they were encouraged to be a mini-version of an interview for the companies we represented. The students were tasked with researching us, in addition to our companies, and to be prepared for questions we might ask based on our jobs.

As most interviews go, I asked each student (candidate) to tell me a little bit about themselves. Most responded to this with their elevator speech, which usually started a great conversation. From there, we touched base on their job experience, and a few situational questions based on our respective careers. Overall, the students did well. Some students were outstanding in comparison to their classmates, and I could tell that some struggled. But the positive outlook in their struggles is that we, as industry professionals, could give feedback to help them improve.

We were asked to evaluate the students based on their communication skills, presence, and their self-confidence. The majority of the students were very successful on their presence, specifically in their attire. I could tell that their communication skills and self confidence had improved since they may have been freshman, and where there was room for improvement, we were able to address that. For example, some students struggled with the word “like” or “uhm” throughout their conversation, or fidgeting with their hands a little too much. These are mistakes that I still catch myself doing – so as I noted an opportunity for improvement on students, I also noted an opportunity for myself.

I don’t know who was more nervous for these interviews – the industry professionals or the students. Either way, it was a great experience for all of us and I am very grateful for the opportunity from the college advisor that still sees something in me.

XO – MC

PHOTOGRAPHY CLASS

Have you ever had inspiration to do something completely out of your normal? I had that today. I’ve been wanting to kick off this blog (and a little bit of photography) for quite some time. But I didn’t know where to start, or where I wanted this to go. I have a pretty good eye for a good photo, but my editing skills were lacking. I barely know how to use my super fancy Nikon.

A few weeks ago, I helped execute a bridal expo at work. One of the vendors, a semi-new vendor friend of mine, was at the show, across from our booth. His booth was so cute, complete with a neon-pink sign and balloon arch. Oh and he had petit fours. Our booth was amazing too, complete with the largest charcuterie board I’ve ever seen (credit to my Director of Sales), but for the sake of inspiration, we’ll focus on his booth for now.

I have met Dale a few times throughout my time working  within the Northwest Arkansas hospitality industry, the first time being when I was still in college and he had a shoot at the hotel where I worked part-time. I’ve always admired his work. He and his fiancé, Tyler, were prepping the booth and we all kind of hit it off – the petit fours absolutely had something to do with it. I mentioned how badly I wanted to learn from Dale and his photography skills, and even sent a few brides his way. By the end of the day, I owed him my sister’s vegan pumpkin muffin recipe.

About a week later, his Instagram story had an announcement about a photography class. I instantly signed up and invited one of my friends to come with me. I couldn’t wait. The class was at 21C Hotel Museum in Bentonville, about 30 minutes North of Fayetteville. I had been to this hotel and museum before for a luncheon, and I was excited to see the Green Penguins.

My friend and I planned the entire day – starting with a trip to Target for a cute notebook and pens, which conveniently had a Starbucks inside. As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, Starbucks is the way to my heart, but when you combine Starbucks and Target, it’s even better. When we were leaving Target, a kiddo around the age of 3  was screaming that he didn’t want to leave. We felt that on so many levels. After getting our caffeine, we drove to lunch at Big Orange in Rogers. Their menu has gluten-free buns, which makes a gluten-intolerant person like myself very happy.

After lunch, we drove to 21c, arriving early to get the best seats. Dale gave two presentations: Portraiture & Composition and Camera Settings. He touched on aperture, f-stop, shutter speed, iso, and exposure. We learned what effects adding flash creates. Dale talked about the best angles to take photos, leading lines, framing, repeating backgrounds, foreground vs. background, sizing, and more. As he went through the presentations, I realized that some of the elements he mentioned, I naturally incorporate into pictures.

Overall, I learned a lot from the entire day. I downloaded and discovered more with Adobe Creative Cloud applications, such as Lightroom and Photoshop, on my computer and phone. But something that happened after this photography class – almost completely unrelated to photography – is that I gained confidence to actually start blogging regularly.

A long time ago, I thought about what motivates me. What impact do I want to leave? I still don’t know exactly. What I do know is that I want to live a life of altruistic hospitality. I want to always serve others, and welcome them into my life in the kindest way that I am able. What I do know is that when I spend time with my grandparents, I love hearing about when they were children, young adults, newlyweds, or before they had grandchildren. I love reminiscing with them, and one day I want to do that with my own family. I take pictures all the time, and I enjoy documenting my life on social media. I love to document memories. But I love to write. And I want to write more – about my life, my job, my family, my travel, my dog, and everything in between. So what motivates me? I said something one day to a friend of mine, and it’s always stuck with me…

Document everything. Someday you will be embarrassed, laughing, crying, or smiling, and remembering how you didn’t take that moment for granted.

XO – MC

FAYETTEVILLE TOWN CENTER

I received a promotion today! This is my second promotion at Fayetteville Town Center, a convention center in Downtown Fayetteville, Arkansas. Fayetteville Town Center is an organization within the umbrella of the Fayetteville Advertising & Promotion Commission, as is the Visitor’s Bureau, Experience Fayetteville.

In March of 2017, I started at Fayetteville Town Center with the title of “Event Coordinator”. Within my first month, our Facility Director (essentially a General Manager) and Senior Event Manager submitted their resignations, in addition to the other two Event Coordinators. That left our staff with an Event Manager, a Director of Sales, and myself. We had an external set-up crew that also handled some maintenance of the facility, but other than that, it was just the three of us. To say it was rough, would be an understatement. But we made it work – because that’s the event world and we couldn’t sacrifice our client experiences.

In June, I was promoted to the role of Event Manager, taking on clients of my own. I couldn’t have asked for a better first 100 days at Fayetteville Town Center. I didn’t learn through a Training Manual, I just did what I could. I made mistakes, as I still continue to do, but I learned from them. And usually, whatever I did, worked. By August, the Executive Director of our parent organization had hired a General Manager to fulfill the role that the “Facility Director” left. A lot began to change after Jordan started. He quickly promoted the other Event Manager, Monica, to the role of Director of Event Services, and changed my title to Event Services Manager. Our Director of Sales left the organization in October, and we had to figure out how to sell our venue to new clients, on top of retaining our current clients. Our Director of Sales also had most of the knowledge of our internal booking system, so we had to learn that too. I took that as an opportunity to teach myself everything I could about it, through studying, trial, and error.

By the beginning of December, we brought on a new Director of Sales, Tina, and a Facility Manager, Josh. The Facility Manager’s role would be different than the previous Facility Director position that was replaced by our General Manager. Josh would be responsible for the upkeep of the facility, from the paint colors to the A/C units to the on-site resources. He would also inherit the upkeep of Experience Fayetteville, and the two other properties within the umbrella of the A&P Commission, the Walker-Stone House and the Clinton House Museum.

Right after Josh was hired, we all went on a team retreat in Hot Springs, Arkansas. It was great for building our new team, and beginning to discuss our plans for the future of Fayetteville Town Center. Monica and I proposed the creation of a Training Manual for operations, Jordan helped us brainstorm new core values and a new mission statement. Tina discussed her plans to bring in more business. And Josh sought improvements that he could facilitate. We had some fun too, and even made a friend on one of the evenings we spent in Hot Springs.

Since that retreat, our team has grown immensely and a lot has changed. We hired new Event Services Coordinators, and continued to update the Training Manual. We renovated our offices into additional breakout space, and rented a new office space. We repainted our lobby, and then our entire venue, and replaced the carpet in some areas. We transformed our linen room into a hospitality suite, and transformed our maintenance junk room into an A/V and linen room. We created a liquor room from a file room, while also increasing our liquor profit margin by over 50%. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t always easy to execute the change, but every change has been worth it.

Today, I received a promotion for Event Services Manager to Sales Manager. This position was created and posted at the beginning of this year, because sales are growing significantly. I will be responsible for gaining and retaining business within the “SMERF” market (social, military, education, religious, and fraternal). This will take some of the pressure off Tina, our Director of Sales, from all of the leads that come to FTC. In addition to this market, I will retain some of the responsibilities that I inherited throughout my time as Event Services Manager, i.e. accepting payments, maintaining the knowledge of outstanding balances, etc. I will be responsible for the social media and marketing for the organization, including (but not limited to) Facebook, Instagram, and Wedding Wire. I am so excited for this opportunity, to learn directly from Tina, and to see where I can grow from here.

XO – MC

FAYETTEVILLE FRIENDS IN THE FALL

Fayetteville, Arkansas is a beautiful oasis in the middle of the Ozark mountains. It is a tourist destination, home to the Arkansas Razorbacks, and is consistently named as one of the “Best Places to Live” (No. 3 in 2016, No. 5 in 2017, No. 5 in 2018, and No. 4 in 2019). It’s also a place where I have met some of my best friends.

This fall, I didn’t just meet new friends, I gained a Fayetteville family, and I am so grateful. I experienced some of the most memorable fall experiences that happen in Northwest Arkansas, with friends I will treasure for the rest of my life. We ate funnel cake at the annual Washington County Fair, saw Luke Bryan at the Walmart Ampitheater, and spent time at Beaver Lake floating the day away. We ate ice cream smushed inside donuts at a place called Smudgies, went to a family-owned pumpkin patch and jumped on trampolines in onesies. We became superheroes on Halloween, hosted our own “friendsgiving”, and saw the Christmas lights turn on in the Fayetteville tradition of Lights of the Ozarks.

I’m not from Fayetteville originally, and it’s never really felt like my home because my family isn’t here. I think that home will always be St. Louis. But it feels a little less “not home” when I can create memories, celebrate holidays, listen to music, and see Christmas lights, with friends in a town that celebrate its own traditions. Fayetteville is also a town that celebrates its locals. It’s made such an impact on my past eight years, and I would love to share the traditions, local hot-spots, and my own favorites with you in the post dedicated to Fayetteville, Arkansas.

XO – MC