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A well-curated shop filled with items made by real people with real stories is something you expect to find in cities like New York, where you might unexpectedly open a door to one as you explore diverse neighborhoods. But this type of retail discovery is less common in Arkansas.
Enter Domestic Domestic. Located in the Heights in Little Rock, Domestic Domestic is the best kind of store, where you can buy a luxurious face cream for yourself, a book on the nomenclature of colors for your artist brother-in-law, a bird caller for your animal- and nature-loving son, and a coffee press for your parents. It’s one-stop shopping; especially when you are looking for gifts.
Owner Heather Smith, who previously owned neighboring Eggshell’s Kitchen Co., says the product selection is her favorite part of the business, but also the most challenging. “If I only had a bigger store,” she said. “Many awesome products are on deck just waiting for floor space. Our shop is only 1,700 square feet with the mentality of 4,000 square feet.”
When its doors opened in 2014, the housewares and menswear shop promised to sell a “collection of high-quality American-made products made the right way and that celebrates communities.” Smith says the shop commits to 80% of products being made in the United States. And those are the companies they feature.
“I believe in the quality of American made goods but more importantly, I believe in fairly employing people to make those goods,” she said. “Our shop is a collaboration of sorts. We are the matchmakers connecting conscientious consumers with ethical companies.”
Smith takes the task seriously as she searches for products from makers who abide by this same principle. She says travel is how she finds the majority of them. “I have developed a network of professional peers,” she said. “We communicate with each other all across the country about great finds. It is not so much that one business wants to sell a particular product exclusively. We believe that the more we introduce our own customers to quality products, the more successful the maker will be and inspire the next generation of makers and tradesmen.”
Some of the makers featured include Seattle-based Filson, a line of outdoor clothing and bags; Chicago-based Field Notes, a line of vintage-inspired journals and notebooks celebrating themes such as national parks; and Red Wing shoes, a Minnesota-based line of handmade leather boots and shoes.
Smith also promotes Arkansas labels. “As far as Arkansas goods, I am from Arkansas,” she said. “I know the small towns in every corner. And what is proudly being produced. And fortunately, by word of mouth, these makers are reaching out to me.”
Some of her favorites include Northwest Arkansas’ own Onyx Coffee, which she drinks daily; letterpress creations from Cindy Feltus of Little Rock; and Dan’s Whetstones from Hot Springs.
One product she does not find in Arkansas, however, is clothing. “We are fourth in the nation of cotton production,” she said. “Yet so much is shipped and sold elsewhere. Any struggling small town would love a factory. Clothing, socks, sheets. Products we all use. And just think of the morale of supporting these farmers by creating a local product.”
Smith acknowledges that while Domestic Domestic’s prices may be a bit higher than a big box or discount store, “most of our goods will last you for many years to come.”
She adds, “One of my favorite quotes is, ‘The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.’”
Smith’s vision goes beyond her 1,700 square feet in the Heights. While she believes the business and consumer model is catching on in Arkansas among some, she says it’s certainly not enough.
“I believe the bigger battle currently is reminding folks to shop and trade locally, and if not locally, then with small businesses,” she said. “Know who and where your money is going. And do your part to keep main streets alive.”
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