FROM THE OUTSIDE, the Dollar Saver in downtown Rogers is … square, brick, red. Described in such simple terms, it doesn’t seem like the sort of place you might come upon and think, “Oh, that must be home to some of the finest modern architecture and design NWA’s got to offer.” But make no mistake, that space, better known now as The 1907, which sits just across from the railroad tracks, is better described in terms of a geode—rough on the surface, gorgeous on the inside—the soon-to-be home of a host of NWA’s finest culinary stars—Onyx Coffee Lab, Heirloom, Foreman Bar and Doughp!, among others.
It’s precisely for this reason that we’ve got so much respect for architect Bradley Edwards—and Jon Allen of Onyx, and developer Morgan Hooker, and Heirloom’s Jason Paul—who opened the door and saw potential in the historic structure’s prone-to-flood basement, in the roof that was in a state of disrepair.
For the past year and a half, their vision for the space has ushered the deceptively large 30,000-square-foot space back to life, injecting the individual spaces of the open-market concept with their own distinct identities, while tying them all together. It’s the reason you’ve got brass filigree throughout. Why the lighting array—“this grid of lights, almost little dots of light”—carries through, but stops at the Foreman Bar. Why the Foreman is all leather and black marble, while Onyx is light wood and whiteness.
But it wasn’t just vision. When Bradley talks about the building that “just keeps on giving,” his emphasis is on the collaboration that brought it all to life, the fortuitous confluence of NWA creatives who believe in pushing the envelope—who’ve seen that envelope pushed in the years since they’ve been there, (in Bradley’s case, the early ’90s)—and who envision something better for the state.
Could you have gotten away with this sort of contemporary architecture in those early days?
When I first started practice, you kind of had to convince people that modern architecture was OK—that contemporary architecture was actually viable. And I think the mentality has changed. Maybe it’s a generational thing, but I do notice a lot of our clients are 30-somethings or 40-somethings, not later than 50s or 60s. I think we get a lot of clients who are risk takers, who want to get out there. I think that shows up in our work, and they are attracted to that; therefore, we get that work. When you get those kinds of people wanting architecture, they’re a little bit bored with the status quo, and I think that’s where we thrive. We’re bored with that, too.
I think it’s a transformation to a more sophisticated design aesthetic in this region, and I think there have been a lot of people who’ve been a part of that who have really helped make that. It’s been not just entrepreneurs, not just benefactors, not just architects and designers, but all of those people have kind of helped cultivate that. And I think we’re seeing the fruits of that.
Your website and social-media presence are all branded as “Ozark Modern,” but what is modern Ozark architecture?
Well, that’s a tough one because I think we live in a pluralistic society, so that’s going to be defined by everyone differently. You kind of have to go back to my roots. I did work for Fay [Jones], and I wasn’t necessarily a Fay acolyte—I didn’t get out and start mimicking Fay’s architecture when I went out on my own. But what I did do was take some of those tenets and take some of those ideas about how to develop space-making, and attention to detail and materiality. But I think, for us, what we try to do is make beautiful things in a simple way. And that sounds so default and cliche, but in a way, it’s one of the most difficult things to do—to hone and refine and clarify. And I think architecture and building are so complex that what we’re trying to do is really make beautiful, beautiful simple things. That’s kind of the mandate that we give ourselves.
How does the shell of the building reflect what’s inside?
The building is actually a modest warehouse from the turn of the 20th century, so it is not a great feat of architecture by any stretch. It was always meant to be something utilitarian. But sometimes what you try to do with these buildings with industrial, utilitarian spaces is, you try to get the architecture out of the way a little bit so that it can read, because there is a beautiful utility to it, kind of a perfect grid, a post and beam structure. We were always very intentional and aware of letting that read through the building always—to make as much of that chassis, that post and beam energy, let that be the thing that becomes the backdrop of the building. So everything snakes through that in a fairly theatrical way, but that’s always there. It doesn’t necessarily reflect its outside, but it definitely does allow for the old building to kind of be there and be present always. And I think that was important for everyone—to not cover up too much of that old building, let the building kind of read as it was. With a new life, obviously.
For a more in-depth look at The 1907’s interior, be sure to check out their Instagram: @the1907rogers. Also, keep an eye out for our fall issue, which’ll feature a certain restaurant from The 1907. (And don’t worry: We’ve got something special planned for our summer issue, too.)