Hardy: “Like No Other Town in the Ozarks”

Published By:Cathy Drew Date:

Hardy’s self-proclaimed uniqueness is backed up by a three-block historic downtown area that includes everything from The Native Way, featuring native American inspired crafts, to the Cluttered Cupboard, a well-stocked antique and collectible shop well-known for its Rada Cutlery  and QMT Wind Chimes.  While their wives go from shop to shop checking out the pottery, jewelry, wood crafts, needle work, dulcimers, candles, and quilts, the husbands make their way to the Good Old Days Vintage Motorcar Museum, home to over sixty vintage vehicles and a gift shop with hundreds of auto-related gift shop.

The Ozark Classic Crafts Mall, the largest and most eclectic store in Hardy, features work by over one hundred American craft artists.  Owner Marc Herring has stocked his unique and colorful crafts mall with stained glass, hand-made quilts, jewelry, furniture, ceramics, rocking chairs, woodwork, toys, and puzzles, and pens. His more esoteric items include wizard wands, chimes, walking sticks, and laser sketch art. Herring has also created the “tuit,” custom engraved wooden coins that can replace business cards; they are also useful for reminding all of us “to get around to it.”  Custom “tuits” have proven to be useful promotional items for the Ozark Gateway Tourist Society when its director attends travel shows and conventions.

Marc’s latest creation is a small cross with an angel like shape. These relatively inexpensive pieces have proven to be extremely popular with churches and other religious organizations and have begun to spread across the nation.  Shoppers and arts enthusiasts who know Marc always visit the Ozark Classic Crafts Mall when they are in the area to see what he is up to next. His store has an almost magical feel to it and it’s easy to spend several hours just browsing.

Words & Afterwords is another “must visit” stop in downtown Hardy, especially if you are ready for lunch. This restaurant/bookstore/live entertainment venue/gallery is truly the center of the community. The restaurant is well-known for its panini sandwiches, Greek Pasta, Greek Salads, and sublime hummus. Espresso-based coffee drinks, uncommon in most small rural communities, are as good as you’ll find anywhere and go perfectly with the fresh bakery items. Words & Afterwords holds Open Mic performers on Thursday evenings and live music by both local and traveling national groups on Friday and Saturday evenings. Local art is on display, ranging from student works to creations by professional artists.  The bookstore area adjoins the restaurant; it includes an impressive selection of best sellers, children’s books, classics, and works by Arkansas authors.

Words & Afterwords owner Greg Bess, like Marc Herring, is deeply committed to the community. His multi-purpose business is the only one in the shopping district that offers free wireless internet access; it also provides handicapped access. Plenty of free off-street is available in the rear of the building.

Petals & Lace Creekside Loft is another business with a multiple mission.  Best known as a bridal studio that offers everything from elegant wedding gowns, brides maids’ dresses, tuxedos, flowers, a chapel, a banquet room, and catering, Petals & Lace also hosts live blues music and dinner once a month in season.  Visit www.creeksideloft.com for dates, times, and more information.

The Olde Stonehouse Bed & Breakfast Inn is a charming historic structure with inviting porches, Biggers Bluff Bed & Breakfast on the edge of town is a beautiful lodge with nine guest rooms, private baths breathtaking views of the Spring River, a pool and hot tub, cable tv, and internet access. Biggers also doubles as a Steak House Thursday through Saturday evenings from 5:00 p.m. until 9:00 p.m.

Hardy’s reputation as a summer destination is built around the Spring River, providing a perfect setting for camping, canoeing, swimming, and fishing.  3 Rivers Outfitters is widely-respected and can provide everything you need: cabins, campsites, canoes, rafts, kayaks, tubes, and guided trips. 3 Rivers is also an authorized Orvis dealer. Both the Harold E. Alexander Wildlife Management Area and the Rock Creek Area are “dream destinations” for outdoor enthusiasts. The former contains 14,000 acres for bird watching, creek fishing, and hunting in season with proper permits and licenses; the latter is preserved in cooperation with the Natural Heritage Commission because of its rare plants and wildflowers. Primitive camping is permitted and gravel roads allow access to parts of the preserve. Visit the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission website, www.agfc.com, for more information.

Hardy is a cozy, laid back kind of town town where visitors can recharge their batteries, sit back and “rest a spell,” feel comfortable in jeans and sneakers, and buy a Round Tuit.  What more can you ask for?