IT’S DIFFICULT, knowing just where to start at Hillfolk, what thread to tug on first. Only because when you walk into the glassed-in storefront at Bentonville’s 8th Street Market, there’s so much of interest, visually speaking, in the minimalist’s dream of a craft store: the home goods, the candles, the looms, the enormous table at the back of the room, the vases of marigolds and roses, the intoxicating aroma that you can’t quite find a name for, and of course the massive cache of yarn, organized by color, tied into individual bundles resembling pretzel knots. It’s a predicament, says Bea Apple who owns the store with her partner, Trisha Logan, that many customers find themselves in when entering the store for the first time.
“It’s funny because a lot of people walk into our space and the first question they ask is, So, what is this place?” she says. “Because we’ve got an assortment of home good and candles and hand towels. But when they start seeing the yarn, the loom and the big sink that we have back here and the giant table that doesn’t have anything on it but stools around it—it kind of throws them off.
“Anyone who comes in here and has that question, we can tell them, We’re a retail store but also a maker space,” Bea goes on to say. “Our ethos is about investing in small family-owned [businesses] and small businesses that are also making things in a sustainable, interesting way. As opposed to just trying to source things from massive companies that don’t really have a sense of place or people.”
In other words, you could really start unraveling the story most anywhere. But, naturally, the yarn starts best with the yarn. As she stands beside what can only be called a “yarn wall”—a wall-spanning 5-by-9 grid of wooden cubbies filled with yarn—Bea points to a plush bunch of lose-yourself-in-its-nonexistent-eyes shade of blue yarn.
That color, she says, better known as Contento blue, takes its name from the subdivision where she and her family used to live—a small, tucked-away spur of a neighborhood, not 2 miles from the Bentonville square, just far enough to feel away from things. It was there, lounging by the backyard swimming pool, that the two women dreamed of what the space could be.
Even in those early days, Bea says, she and Trisha realized Hillfolk needed to be the sort of place that didn’t just focus on the retail side of things. They imagined a storefront that would become a hub for community, visualizing a space with a long, long table, where local makers could come by, pull up a stool. Eventually, when a path to making this dream a reality finally arose—Bea was on the board for Bentonville’s 8th Street Market and knew how special that development had to be—they went with it.
Bea then points to another bundle, this one labeled Yampa yellow. In June 2018, she says, when the store was still an empty box that needed to be filled—when they hadn’t even made decisions about the cabinets—the two women traveled to Craig, a small city in northwestern Colorado, where they met with a woman named Jen Guyor. Described on Hillfolk’s website as “an expert in all things wool and sheep, and artist extraordinaire,” Jen had been the key to tapping into the network of local farmers, to connecting with their mill. Its name? Yampa Valley Fiberworks.
Although most of what you see in the space hews pretty close to what Trisha and Bea originally had in mind for the space, there’s one element, however, that’s taken an unexpectedly outsized role—and that’s the spirit of collaboration that’s become so ingrained in most everything they do. It’s something that defines the answer to any question you might ask about the space.
For instance: Why are there hundreds of avocado pits drying by the sink in the back of the store?
Well, those came from their 8th Street Market counterparts, Yeyo’s Mexican Grill, and they’ll eventually be ground down and used to make natural dye, (for those interested, it’ll make a peachy, dusky rose color).
Or: What’s that pleasant aroma filling the space?
Well, it’s a layered combination, really, everything from palo santo and eucalyptus (used for dyeing workshops) to a summery olfactory blend of rose, sandalwood, oakmoss and amber, (a collaborative scent with NWA-based candlemaker, Little Bison Co.).
Or: What’s that muffled beeping sound?
Well, if you look out the front windows, no more than 200 yards away, you can see construction on The Momentary, the highly anticipated contemporary arts space debuting in February, and which will undoubtedly usher in even more opportunities for collaboration. Of course, with all of that being, there are many more stories that could be told. Those are threads, though, that you’ll need to tug on for yourself.
What we’d really, really like to leave with
1. Yarn, various colors and weights, $28
Yarn—specifically, “sheep to skein” yarn—is at Hillfolk’s heart, so it’s not surprising when Bea says, “It’s going to be apparent when you walk in that the things in our store are meant to be touched. Everything has a tactile look to it.” In addition to the retail-slash-maker space itself, that yarn is what sets them apart. You won’t find this anywhere else.
2. Indigo textiles, $80 to $200
For the past two summers, Trisha and Bea have gone to the Santa Fe Folk Art Market, where they’ve met the artists behind these textiles, which can be used for everything from shawls to tablecloths. In addition to being hand-dyed with indigo, the cotton they’re made with is hand-woven and hand-spun by a group of women in Mali.
3. Tea towels, $19
“Over the years,” Bea says, “we’ve just amalgamated a crew of contacts that we like to work with.” Those connections have made it especially easy to collaborate with local artists like Tram Colwin, who did these tea towels exclusively for the shop. “It’s pretty easy to do around here,” Bea says.
4. Little Bison Co. candle, $12
“Trisha and I both tend to gravitate toward more masculine scents,” Bea says of their first collaboration with NWA-based candle company Little Bison Co., which combined leather, rosemary and amber. Their second collaboration—rose, sandalwood, oakmoss and amber, which you might smell in the store—is their most popular.
5. Handmade mug, $28
“Number one, I really liked her pottery,” Bea says of potter Kimly Phanvan. “But she’s also one of the only Asian American potters in Northwest Arkansas. So I was like OK. Being of Asian descent myself, I wanted to have some representation in the store of people of color.”
6. House No. 23 picnic blanket, $150
“I mean, this is our best selling item, probably,” Trisha says. The pair came across the Turkish company—which is Los Angeles-based but sources their hand-loomed products back home from Turkey—at the New York Now trade show. “We sell a lot of their textiles, but they don’t sell like this. This one item we just cannot keep in stock.”
7. Mending Matters by Katrina Rodabaugh, $25
Although there are plenty of crafting materials and new textiles to be found, one of the more popular items in the store—the book Mending Matters—adheres to the Marie Kondo philosophy of honoring your clothes for being with you. “It’s a book about how you can repair your clothes rather than just getting rid of them,” Bea says. “It incorporates a style of Japanese stitching called sashiko. It’s basically visible mending.”