It was time to do something about it.
For years, even if only abstractly, 28-year-old twins Rebekah and Sarah Fess had thought about opening a design store, a place that sourced modern, artisan home goods and accessories that embodied their modern, minimalist aesthetics. Things with a narrative. Things that were hard to find in Arkansas. After all, design and interiors had long been “sort of a side passion” for the duo—they’d fixed up their homes, friends’ homes, their family’s homes. But they’d also held down other full-time jobs—that is, until last January, when their “Should we?” became “Why not?”
“I guess I’m the aggressive one,” Rebekah laughs, fidgeting with her denim tunic, “because I was like, Sarah, there’s a real gap here in Northwest Arkansas—and we need to do something about it.”
So they did. The easy part was the concept; the hard part was the space—at least until Rebekah did some sleuthing, stalked a realtor and landed a lease in the Center Street building that’s also now home to architect Marlon Blackwell’s new Fayetteville studio. Then came outfitting the interior, which was a family affair. Rebekah’s husband, Lucas, is a contractor and helped with the finishes; the rest of the clan rolled up their sleeves, climbed on industrial lifts and helped paint the cavernous space. And then came the sourcing, which was, as they’re quick to tell you—almost in the same instant, as only twins can do—“when things got fun.”
“All the small companies that you build a relationship with, and they’re excited to be in Arkansas for the first time? That’s what’s the best part for us,” Sarah says. Her black-on-black outfit—skinny jeans, leather jacket, flat ankle boots—is the sartorial version of the store surrounding her: simple, sophisticated and refined. As we walk around the space together and as Rebekah and Sarah gush over the products they’re most excited about (which, of course, is all of them), it feels less like shopping and more like engaging in some design-centric show and tell.
“Our sheepskins are from a farm in New Zealand, and we can barely keep them in the store,” Rebekah says.
“Oh, and here are the totes, the bucket bags, the envelope clutches from Fashionable in Nashville,” Sarah says. “They’re all hand- stitched by women in Ethiopia and Kenya. We also carry their jewelry. It’s made by local women in downtown Nashville—they’re training them to make jewelry.”
“Oooh, and we love Fog Linen. They’re out of Tokyo. The designer’s name is Yumiko Sekine,” Rebekah says, moving us toward the western wall of the store. “They do these linen kitchen towels, and then these trays are linen, but she puts a coating over them so they’re good for kitchen use—”
“And do you know the Danish company Ferm Living?” Sarah interrupts, motioning to a wire magazine holder. “The headquarters for all of their North American distribution is actually in Hot Springs. Can you believe that? We called and were like, Is this real? Everything comes from Denmark and is stored in a warehouse in Hot Springs.”
The twins have a story to tell about almost every item in the store. Those coasters? They’re made from slate hewn from a generations-old family quarry in upstate New York. That artisan broom? It’s part of a collection of wooden and natural-fiber cleaning supplies from a century-old German company. It’s an inventory unlike what you’ll see elsewhere in Arkansas, and that’s because the majority of the lines on With Home Supply’s carefully curated shelves are being represented for the first time in the state—something that was important to Rebekah and Sarah from the get-go.
“It’s just a totally different game now with social media and blogs and the accessibility the digital age affords,” Rebekah says. “Used to, you’d go to market and buy for a season. Now, we’re doing it through email and over the phone, finding these small companies that aren’t even displaying at markets yet.”
“There’s been many a late night where we’re like deep, deep into the Internet,” Sarah says, “and you’re like, How did I even get here? Just clicking through, clicking through.”
But there’s more to this business of owning a business than stocking the shelves—at least that’s Rebekah and Sarah’s philosophy. There’s also the local community it grows around, the relationships created within—and beyond—its walls. And in talking with the twins, it’s clear that they’re just as excited about bringing folks together as they are sleuthing out great products.
“We’ve always loved hosting and doing events, whether it was at home or for our jobs, and we’ve always loved finding creative ways to bring [the] community together,” Sarah says. “That’s huge for us. And in Fayetteville, there’s so many great things happening, and it’s fun to find new ways to give people something to do on a Friday night that’s not going to dinner, going to the movies or whatever. We’ve had fun scheming.”
That “scheming” has found them hosting BYOB live-music nights with Fayetteville Sessions—“super laid-back, super casual,” Rebekah says. And they’ve been tapping into the local small-business community, hosting pop-up shops and tastings with the likes of Flora, Blackboard Grocery & Eatery and Hill City Popcorn Co. The day we visited, Rebekah and Sarah were gearing up for a Valentine’s Day screening of You’ve Got Mail.
“We love the idea of using your home as a place to bring people together, so that’s a big theme running through our brand, or at least we hope,” Sarah says, glancing around the space. “We want to model that here.”