Date: September 30, 2022 | Story: Stephanie Maxwell Newton | Photography: Connor North Goad |
Along the Arkansas edge of the Mississippi River is a region teeming with history and opportunity
When Ted Herget answers my phone call it’s after 8 p.m. in the French Alps. Surprisingly, he doesn’t ask me to call back when he’s returned to the States; I say one word about Jonesboro and he jumps right in. He wants to talk about the past, present, and future of the Delta—its agriculture, music, history—and, of course, its connection to the outdoors. This all-or-nothing passion is in part what’s led his outdoor lifestyle brand, Gearhead Outfitters, to such great success over the past 25 years.
Like many dreams, Ted’s started small. He was inspired to open the branded retail store after working one season in a ski shop in Breckenridge, Colorado. “I moved back and wanted that mountain feel; I realized you don’t have to be in the mountains to have it. There’s just an attitude when everyone’s outside and active,” he says, noting this quality is exactly what makes him feel so at home where he is—seven time zones away—while we chat. He describes the moment he stood at one end of Main Street in Jonesboro and realized his hometown had the potential to take on the same hum of energy he loved so much living in a ski town: “At the time there were just a couple of offices downtown. It’s taken a while, but then you get a pulse going,” he says. “We’ve been working on downtown for over 20 years now and there’s family-owned restaurants and people there day and night. It’s very authentic. The people who are there choose it, you know?”
The flagship location of Gearhead in downtown Jonesboro is just one of 19 the brand now boasts, and it’s stocked with equipment for camping, hiking, cycling, climbing, and even snow and water sports. While his personal love of mountain life might be what drew Ted to open the store, he believes it’s also a natural fit for the Delta. “If you look at the culture and history of the area, starting with Helena and heading north, it’s just such a bio-diverse region,” he says, also touching on opportunities for hiking and cycling around Crowley’s Ridge that make the area so amenable to tourists. “When you look at what brings people from, say, Bentonville to the Delta, it’s the hunting, the fishing, and the outdoors. You play to your strengths,” he says. Read on for a few of our favorite ways to discover Jonesboro and the Delta.
“Jonesboro is a cool mix. It’s very authentic, it’s grit and grind.”
A latte and scones served fresh at The Recovery Room
A bear models wares at Gearhead Outfitters
The Everyday Chef (theeverydaychef.net) in Jonesboro is a must-visit for cooking and entertaining enthusiasts. With cookware, linens, serving pieces, and even grilling goods and tabletop appliances, you’ll find everything you need (and probably a few things you didn’t even know you needed!). Take a moment for self-care at Fizz Facial Bar (fizzfacialbar.com), also in Jonesboro, where their efficient sessions are set to have you in and out in 30 minutes—all under $50 while leaving your skin refreshed and your mind relaxed. Plan on making a habit of it? Check out their monthly membership for perks.
Roots Restaurant (rootsrestaurant303.com) in Jonesboro offers a unique marriage of Arkansan and Ecuadorian flavors for a modern take on Southern cuisine. Influenced by the agriculture integral to their region, the menu at Roots prioritizes seasonal, local ingredients for every dish. For breakfast, drop by The Recovery Room Coffee & Bistro (therecoveryroomjonesboro.com) to start your day with a cup of joe and a pastry. The Main Street Jonesboro spot also serves lunch as well as a mouth-watering Saturday brunch. For lunch or dinner in Stuttgart, visit Open Season Sports Bar & Grill (instagram.com/openseasonsportsbarandgrill). Whether you’re looking for a night of live music or a down-home Sunday lunch, the spacious restaurant has a plentiful menu and often hosts entertainment.
The Delta is a region ripe for a road trip, so hit the highway and take in the sights while winding through patchworks of farmland. Arkansas Delta Byways (deltabyways.com) has resources such as a map marked with landmarks and lists of must-sees for foodies, birders, genealogy researchers, and history buffs alike. While Stuttgart might be the rice and duck capital of the world, you’ll find plenty of other reasons to include this Delta town on your tour. Explorers of all ages will enjoy a trip to the Museum of the Arkansas Grand Prairie (grandprairiemuseum.org). From the farm machinery exhibits to Waterfowl Wing, a space devoted to the area’s rich duck hunting history, there’s lots to see and learn in this local treasure.
Murals by local artists Beau Jones (left) and Shannon Lamb are part of local gallery Art House’s “Selfie Wall” at Monroe Avenue and Main Street.