Good Acres Life

APPROPRIATELY ENOUGH, IT started with a healing garden.

After her father’s death, Mariette Spidel started planting herbs in the vegetable garden. More than just your typical garden variety, however, these were healing plants, plants with anti-inflammatory properties such as borage and calendula. From there, when she realized there were more there than just pretty flowers, she started to draw on her professional cosmetology background, and her newfound skills as a Master Gardener: She offered friends and family the sorts of salves and lotions that would make them feel … better.

As word spread and she started getting requests for products, Mariette decided that, well, if she was really going to do this, if she was going to make these products and sell them, she was going to do it right. After reconnecting with a graphic designer she’d known in Denver, she developed the brand. In time, she says, snap peas and tomatoes and cabbages ceded space to native plants—skullcap and bushy St. John’s wort and late figwort and jewelweed—to the point that she eventually made a whole new plot just for them, (interspersed, of course, with pollinator plants to keep the bees and butterflies happy).

Bath Infusion No.1 ($7); Soothing Salve ($20); Ozark Mist Nurture: All in One ($14)

But while Mariette might’ve had some help in getting things off the ground, she makes a point of saying that she’s very proud to call the brand her own. After all, it’s just her. She’s the one who can tell you how many days a jar of organic olive oil with chopped up flowers or stems has been steeping in the western-facing window of her office. She can tell you exactly how many milliliters of essential oil she’s using in most every product, save the clay mask. She can tell you why the packaging she uses is compostable, recyclable, repurposeable or plant-based, and why she considers the words “consciously crafted” to be the guiding principle of everything she does at Good Acres Life.

In short: The business she’s grown is very much her own.

What she makes:

Consciously crafted salves, balms and basic skincare products. Western red cedar gathering baskets and tool boxes

Where to get it:

Inn at the Mill, Ascend Hotel Collection, Springdale

The Green Corner Store, Little Rock

Details (and online orders):

Markham & Fitz

IN MID-NOVEMBER, Lauren Blanco was standing in Markham & Fitz’s glassed-in storefront in Bentonville, watching sleet shower the parking lot, talking about the warmer climes of the Dominican Republic. Some eight months before, Lauren recalled, she and her business partner, Preston Stewart, had stood in a much warmer drizzle, the cacao trees waving around them, the local farmer they’d partnered with filling his cheeks with the fruit to the point that he took on the aspect of a chipmunk. They were eating chocolate—or rather what had the potential to be chocolate, what would soon be chocolate.

At the very beginning, what ends as chocolate doesn’t taste like chocolate. It’s notes of pineapple, pear and jackfruit—tangy, earthy flavors fitting for the tropical climes that produce them. Soon, though, it tastes different.

After a many-days-long process—fermented and dried at the farm; hand-sorted, roasted, ground and tempered at the store—it’s a product all but unrecognizable from the original fruit: Wrapped in white paper, illustrated with wavy purple mountains, it’s placed on the shelf: Ooh La Lavender.

Ooh La Lavender ($9) and Festivus chocolate bars ($9)

A product of the beans from the Dominican Republic—along with vanilla, lavender oil, honey from Patagonia—this particular bar earned Markham & Fitz the coveted win from the Good Food Awards earlier this year.

But that process, knowing exactly what goes into the product, sits at the heart of the company’s ethos: They know what it means to walk the tumid earth of Central and South America, just as they know what it’s like to walk the floor of their still-somewhat-new space in Bentonville’s 8th Street Market. As Lauren said from the storefront: “A lot has changed over the past five years, but the thing that has stayed the same and grounded us are our values and our desire to make a difference in the cocoa supply chain for craft chocolate.”

What they make:

Bean-to-bar craft chocolate bars. Cookies, truffles, caramels, drinking chocolate, etc.

Where to get it:

Markham & Fitz Chocolate, Bentonville
Ozark Natural Foods, Fayetteville
Freckled Hen Farmhouse, Fayetteville
Snack Lab, Rogers / Bentonville

Details (and online orders):

Little Mountain Bindery

WHEN LESHA SHAVER launched Fayetteville’s Little Mountain Bindery back in 2005, it operated solely as a trade-service business specializing in traditional bookbinding and book repair, a service that still accounts for half of the bindery’s business. But about six years ago, the bindery ventured into new territory by developing its own flagship product: the fillion.

It’s a relatively simple design, really: a rectangular piece of leather, stitched with elastic cord. But for as simple as Little Mountain Bindery’s fillions might seem, their application and durability are incredibly impressive. Essentially, a fillion is a handmade refillable notebook cover used to hold cahiers, or soft-covered notebooks. They can serve as journals or planners, sketchbooks or field notebooks, or all of the above simultaneously. Depending on your output, an extra-large fillion can hold as few as two notebooks or as many as 10. (Fillions also come in small and large sizes.) And while modern consumer culture seems to have been built around planned obsolescence, Lesha designed the company’s fillions for the long haul.

“One of the things I think that set us apart is that we try to just be really careful that we’re only putting out really high-quality leather with high-quality cord so that it does last,” she says.

Large trifold fillion ($71)

The bindery primarily sources its leather for the fillions from the S.B. Foot Tanning Co. for its long history of producing some of the most beautiful and rugged boot leather on the market. Put simply, these things can take a beating, and they look good doing it.

The bindery started introducing the fillions to customers at craft shows, and as Lesha puts it, interest just kind of skyrocketed from there, with all manner of customers—from an Alaskan fisherwoman to our own staff photographer—drawn to the beautifully crafted notebook covers.

What they make:

Leather fillion notebook covers and accessories. Bookbinding, book repair and restoration

Where to get it:

Shindig Paperie, Fayetteville

Hillfolk, Bentonville

Moxy Modern Mercantile, Little Rock

Details (and online orders):

Little Bison Co.

A FEW YEARS back, Travis Sharp got a candle-making set for Christmas. At the time, he’d been casting about for a side gig, something that’d allow him to use his skills as a graphic designer but wouldn’t require him to use a computer after staring at a screen all day. And candles? They were simple: You used a double boiler to melt the wax, mixed it with the supplied scents of vanilla and amber, dropped in the wick, and then—voila—candle. You could say that was the light-bulb moment, or rather, the first spark of inspiration.

A few months later, in July 2017, the first post appeared on the Little Bison Co. Instagram page: “My name is Travis, and my wife, [Julia], and I are the ones behind Little Bison Co., a small-batch, hand-poured candle company based out of Northwest Arkansas. Take a look around the website, and follow along to learn more as we share our journey with you. #candlemaking.”

In the years since, Little Bison’s candles have become fixtures in home-goods stores across Northwest Arkansas, (the owners behind our past two “What’s In Store” features—Dandy Roll and Hillfolk—both raved about the small-batch candles).

Saltwater & Teakwood glass candle ($18)

Rather than emphasize scents with floral notes, Travis and Julia have opted for products with woodsier tones such as “Oakmoss & Amber” and “Saltwater & Teakwood.” However, while the company has grown—and is sure to continue to do so as word gets out—it’s still grounded in simplicity.

They’re still using the same tin containers that had come pre-packaged with that first kit, for instance, and they still hand-pour the candles at the island in their kitchen (with candle season approaching, Travis says it’s covered in brown craft paper and other candle trappings). But one thing’s clear: What Travis and Julia have built is burning bright.

What they make:

Hand-poured soy-wax candles

Where to get it:

City Supply, Fayetteville

Dandy Roll, Rogers

Remedy Road, Bentonville

Details (and online orders):

Rock City Thumps

JON HATTON IS is a self-proclaimed “tinkerer.” Growing up with an art-teacher mom and a woodworker dad, Jon says he was always encouraged to follow his imagination and try out his ideas, even if they didn’t always work out. “I was this kid that would take everything apart and not be able to put it back together,” he says with a laugh.

It should come as no surprise, then, that after seeing a speaker made out of a suitcase in a shop window while on a visit to California, he was inspired to sit down and make one for himself, just for the fun of it. “Everybody wanted to know where I got it, and I said, Well, I made it,” Jon explains. “And then they were like, Dude, make me one! And that just kept happening and kept happening and kept happening. And I accidentally started a business.”

Cigar box Bluetooth speaker ($170)

In the years since Rock City Thumps launched at the end of 2015, Jon’s speakers have only gotten more sophisticated and even more creative, thanks in part to his investment in tools such as a laser cutter and an engraving machine. Now he’s made Bluetooth speakers out of everything from whiskey barrels to cigar boxes to hardback books. But Jon still wanted to do more.

“Having the big fancy machinery, it is foolish if I don’t use it to make anything that I can think of to make with it,” he says. So Jon has expanded his wheelhouse to include products such as woodcut Christmas ornaments and lamps crafted out of liquor bottles and skateboards, and even a nightlight designed to resemble a Super Mario Brothers mystery box.

“As a maker, I have kind of branded myself as, If you have an idea and can’t figure it out, call me.” 

What he makes:

Custom Bluetooth speakers, holiday ornaments, lamps and other creative laser-cut products

Where to get it:

South Main Creative 

Details (and online orders):

@rockcitythumps on Instagram;