Date: November 1, 2022 | Story: Stephanie Maxwell Newton | Photography: Bailey Dougan |
Explore this region through the eyes of best friends who love NWA’s food, culture, and sense of community | A Special At Home in Arkansas Promotion
Over the past decade, reasons to visit Bentonville and Rogers have steadily multiplied along with the growing population. Of course there’s the museums, but add to that the ever-growing lineup of events—think Bentonville Film Festival, the new Format Festival, and acts at the Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion—and there’s always something new to see.
You’ll find evidence of these happenings and more when you follow Jasmine Hudson and Jae Merchant on Instagram (@JazzyJaeNWA). The two friends met after they were both relocated to Bentonville for jobs with Walmart, and they were instantly charmed by the area and joined at the hip. Now, they enjoy sharing their adventures with locals and visitors alike. “We decided to create an Instagram page that would basically be the chronicles of our life centered around food, art, and fun,” Jasmine says. “We share local events, happenings, and our experiences as two single, Black millennial women trying to navigate life in Northwest Arkansas.”
So, what does a day in the life of Jasmine and Jae look like? They wake up at their home base in Bentonville, a house remodeled by friends Dave and Jenny Marrs in the second season of the HGTV show Fixer to Fabulous. Then, you’ll likely find them working out of The Meteor Cafe, hanging out in Osage Park, or grabbing tacos at Yeyo’s Mexican Grill. No matter what, they love to dine and shop small. “It’s really cool to see how much people support local even though the world’s largest retailer is here,” Jae says. “Bentonville really roots for underdogs and small, mom-and-pop businesses.”
As members of Crystal Bridges and The Momentary, the pair explore every new exhibit, and they’re involved with events at The Amazeum. They’re also busy running their two other projects: Black Paper Party, a holiday packaging company focused on representation for people of color, and Black-Owned NWA, which evolved out of an Instagram platform of the same name. This one specifically spotlights Black-owned businesses in the area and has grown to include its own expo, which drew more than 1,700 attendees this year.
While they might not be Arkansas natives, the northwest corner of the Natural State now very much feels like home. “It’s a special kind of community. People come from all over to live here, so there are people from all walks of life; you never know who you’re going to meet,” Jae says. Read on for more ways to discover Bentonville and Rogers.
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville.
After two decades in Fayetteville, Romance Diamond Co. Jewelers (romancediamond.com) has expanded with a second storefront based in Rogers, where shopping fine jewelry and scheduling repairs is currently available by appointment only. For buying easy gifts in Bentonville, Jasmine and Jae recommend browsing the shelves at Two Friends Books (twofriendsbooks.com) or stopping in Ramo d’Olivo (ramodolivo.biz) for olive oil, vinaigrettes, and wine, perfect for hostess gifts.
Head to Airship at Coler (airshipcoffee.com) on foot or by bike for a unique coffee shop experience in Bentonville. The open-air café is a short hike from either entrance to the Coler Mountain Bike Preserve and has a varied menu featuring specialty coffees, beer, pastries, tacos, and more. Have a hankering for pizza? The Rail (railpizza.com) in Rogers is a must-try for creative takes on the pie, such as Thai peanut and buffalo chicken options.
Fashioning America: Grit to Glamour at Crystal Bridges (crystalbridges.com) explores the role fashion plays in the country’s culture. The exhibit runs through January 30, 2023. For even more fashion inspiration, snag tickets to Northwest Arkansas Fashion Week (interform.art), a one-day event at Crystal Bridges on November 12. In Rogers, check out the World’s Largest BB Gun and history of the namesake company at the Daisy Airgun Museum (daisymuseum.com).
Jae Merchant and Jasmine Hudson, @JazzyJaeNWA.