About 10 years ago, a local girl went on a terrible double blind date that changed her life forever.
This date, which by all accounts was an absolute disaster, ultimately resulted in a marriage, and a family with two beautiful children. In a round-a-bout way, it also resulted in a thriving business, a highly anticipated annual event, and a social media movement that made what had been somewhat of a punchline of a city cool again.
All of this happened, and the girl didn’t even stick around long enough to even have to worry about an awkward goodnight kiss.
Oh, and the guy she was on the terrible date with? Not the guy she ended up marrying and starting a life and several businesses with. But we’ll get to that.
This is the story of local couple, Amber and Jonathan Perrodin, the husband-and-wife team behind local art supply company Perrodin Supply Co., holiday art show The Little Craft Show, social media movement Team Springdale, and a new art incubation space called The Hatchery.
It’s not the whole story, though. For the Perrodins, all of this craziness is just the beginning.
Love at first date…sorta
Amber and Jonathan met at a youth group function when both were students in high school. They were casual acquaintances through school, that found themselves running into each other at music-related events. Drum circles, to be more specific.
“We used to run into each other at those drum circles that used to happen in the rose garden at the Walton Arts Center,” Jonathan laughed.
One evening, Amber was on the aforementioned double blind date with a friend and a couple of poor guys, when, while taking a break from the awkwardness of the moment, she saw a familiar face in Jonathan walking by the bar.
“She was like, ‘I know him,'” Jonathan recalled. “So she just left her date, and we hung out the rest of the night.
“I bailed!” Amber laughed. “And we’ve been together ever since.”
Perrodin Supply Co.
The couple hit it off almost immediately, were married, and started a family at a pretty young age.
They worked odd jobs for several years through school, and Jonathan challenged Amber to put her artistic talents to work while she was still in college.
His encouragement of her art led her to book her first gallery show at local coffee shop, The Perk, something that required quite a few pieces and a lot of expensive canvases.
So instead of heading to the local art supply shop, Jonathan headed to the hardware store and learned to build the frames and stretch the canvases himself.
“I had no woodworking experience before that, but we were just dirt poor,” Jonathan said. “I thought, ‘Oh, you need some big canvases? I can just build some.'”
The first few were a little rough around the edges, but Jonathan eventually got the hang of it. And while they didn’t know it at the time, the Perrodin’s were laying the foundation for their first venture – not just as life partners – but as business partners as well.
The two graduated in the late 2000s, and after a few years working various jobs for other people, Amber left her job to focus on her art. Almost simultaneously, Jonathan was laid off, and just before Christmas time, they both found themselves out of work.
And out of necessity, Perrodin Supply Co. – a company that sold Amber’s artistic creations and the canvases that Jonathan learned to make for her art show several years prior – was born.
The company took off almost immediately. The couple began selling the canvases in bulk to artists all over the country. A friend and Art Center of the Ozarks curator Eve Smith got word of the Perrodin’s new company, and place an order for 400 five-inch canvases for the center’s annual small works show.
That snowballed into even more orders, as the artists who used the canvases at the show eventually came to the Perrodins for more.
The company still makes and sells canvases online through their Etsy site, as well as Amber’s prints and other works. The canvas-making part of the company has taken a bit of a backseat recently, however, if only because of some other opportunities the couple is currently exploring – including the explosion of popularity around another of the Perrodin’s creations – The Little Craft Show.
Creating a marketplace for local makers with the Little Craft Show
The same year that the couple found themselves out of work, they also started an event to sell Amber’s art at a local church called The Little Craft Show.
Amber and several artist friends decided to put together a group art show to see if they could make a little extra money just before the holidays.
All of the work in the show was priced affordably, the products were juried for quality and uniqueness, and combined with the perfect timing of the holiday gift giving season, became an enormous success.
“It was going to be a one-time thing,” Amber said. “We just wanted a platform to sell our things. We didn’t really think a whole lot would come from it.”
Once again, the Perrodin’s little idea took off.
“We had a ton of people apply to be in show, and we were blown away by the turnout,” Amber said.
The next year, they applied for and received funds from the A&P Commission to rent out half of the Fayetteville Town Center, which allowed them to accept even more artists and accommodate more shoppers.
The third year, they rented both halves of the space, and last winter the show was packed with more than 80 artist booths and over 4,000 shoppers despite a pretty severe ice storm that hit the city the night before the show.
The show includes all manner of handmade things, from local art prints, to paintings, hand-crafted jewelry, locally roasted coffee, leather products, home decor, t-shirts, and more.
This year, The Little Craft Show stands to expand even further, with the addition of a second day for shoppers to peruse the locally-made creations.
“We’re hoping to double the amount of shoppers this year,” Amber said. “I think we were on the verge of having 6,000 to 8,000 people last year and we probably would have if it wasn’t for the ice storm.”
As if the online art supply business, and creating what has quickly become one of the most anticipated annual holiday shopping events in Fayetteville each year wasn’t enough, the Perrodins have a few other irons in the fire.
The couple recently created a social media campaign around their hometown of Springdale that has been embraced by residents and city leaders alike.
The Perrodins started the phenomenon, called Team Springdale, out of simple admiration for their hometown, with maybe a side of frustration around how the city is portrayed by some folks around the region.
“We basically were tired of hearing all these negative things about Springdale,” Jonathan said. “Not that some of those things aren’t justified, but these people are missing a lot of things about Springdale that are really awesome.
“Before, it was like Springdale just didn’t know how to show off its best qualities,” he said.
The Perrodins took it upon themselves to change some of the perceptions of their beloved city, starting with simply showing it some love on an Instagram account they created. They tagged artful photos they took of little nooks and quirks that they loved about the city with the #teamspringdale label, highlighted local businesses, and before long others who lived in and loved the city followed suit.
Soon, t-shirts and meet-ups around town with like-minded Sprindalians followed, to the point that it has become a rallying cry for the city. Lately, even the local Chamber of Commerce and Visitor’s Center’s have taken notice of the sudden influx of Springdale pride.
The Perrodins aren’t quite sure what to do with the phenomenon they created, but they’re encouraged by the feedback they’ve received so far. The Instagram account has over 2,400 followers, and the accompanying Facebook page has more than 3,300 fans.
“It boils down to us just wanting to put a positive image on the city,” Jonathan said. “We just want to make this a better place to live.”
The Perrodins are putting their money where their heart is with Team Springdale, as well.
They recently purchased a 3,200-square-foot warehouse in the city, where they’re planning to create a new artist and community event space called The Hatchery.
The space is a couple years from being ready, they said, but the plan is to offer studio space for local artists and crafters, teach workshops on how to run a local creative business, host art shows and other special events.
All of these seemingly unrelated projects keep the Perrodins extremely busy, but as diverse as they are, they do have one thing in common. They are all about creating communities.
“Community has always been really important to us,” Jonathan said. “I just recently put those dots together, but there is continuity to what we’ve done since we were in college.
“It’s all about pulling people together with common interests,” he said.