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The latest trend to hit the Arkansas special event industry is mobile service and retail: from food trucks to mobile flower shops and everything in between. Misty Willbanks and Stacy Drilling are among the first in central Arkansas on the beverage scene with their new mobile bar, The Southern Sippery.
Willbanks and Drilling were friends long before they even thought of being business partners. They grew up in Morrilton, Arkansas and ran in the same circles in their youth. Fast-forward to the present day, where their children go to school and play sports together in the same town.
The women have day jobs—Willbanks in marketing and Drilling in health care—but they were looking for something extra to feed their creative and entrepreneurial spirits. They knew they shared a love for events and cocktails. They didn’t know where it would go or how quickly it would all come to fruition.
The idea struck for The Southern Sippery Mobile Bar when Drilling noticed something similar on TikTok, and Willbanks knew that central Arkansas had nothing like it.
“We took it and ran with it. We both felt that the Arkansas wedding industry and the world in general needed a mobile bar.”
They wanted the bar to feel charming and inherently Southern. They also knew it had to be adaptable to fit comfortably with just about any themed soiree. So, they scoured the internet to find the right equipment. It wasn’t long before they fell in love with a 1977 vintage horse trailer.
In a matter of weeks, and after a lot of sandblasting and paint, they had transformed the trailer into a sleek mobile bar with shiny gold trim and fresh white rims. Willbanks says they brainstormed ideas for a Southern name for the vintage-horse-trailer-turned-mobile-bar. “When ‘Jolene’ came up, we both just knew it was perfect for her.” The name is emblazoned in gold on the front with a photo of Dolly Parton watching over the whole operation.
Drilling added that they pride themselves on being a female-owned business. “One of the greatest female entrepreneurs in the world, Dolly Parton, is an example of what it means to be empowered women who seek to empower others.”
The ladies brought many talents into the business, including Willbanks’ more than 20 years in graphic design and marketing and Drilling’s hospitality and floral design background. It also doesn’t hurt that Drilling’s family owns and operates a successful liquor establishment in central Arkansas. They completed a course and exam to become certified bartenders to round out their skills.
Similar businesses have started to appear on the Arkansas event scene. But Willbanks points out that their combined talents and experiences set them apart. “We both have been the creative forces behind many events and are able to not just offer creative cocktails, but to create an amazing overall event experience.”
Anyone who has attended one of their events can attest that Willbanks and Drilling have an eye for details, right down to their matching leather-trimmed aprons. Catch them happily chatting with guests as they pass drinks through the bar window—truly elevating the entire event.
So far, the response to their mobile bar creation has been overwhelmingly positive. The Southern Sippery has already started booking events for next year. Willbanks says, “Everyone seems genuinely excited about what we have to offer.”
What they offer is an entirely customizable experience. The trailer alone is a beautiful addition to any event. But they can also design and implement a custom bar setting inside an event venue or make themselves at home behind an existing bar. Drilling talks about their ability to serve small and large gatherings. “Our services are easily scalable to any size event.”
From an in-home Botox party for 20 of your closest friends, complete with “syringe shots,” to a large lavish wedding, the Southern Sippery has it covered. They can even add something special to birthday parties and baby showers with a custom, alcohol-free mocktail.
Willbanks and Drilling say their favorite part so far is researching and creating custom cocktails. Lately, Willbanks has been on a creative kick with the “Spicy Sparkling Paloma” while the “Rosemary Frenchie” is Drilling’s favorite. Willbanks says quality is important. “We put in the extra effort it takes to make freshly-squeezed juices, and we try to use homemade or locally sourced syrups and garnishes whenever we can.”
The future looks bright for The Southern Sippery Mobile Bar. To offer even more, they have partnered with their local coffee shop, Big Cuppa, and local brewery, Point Remove Brewing Company. They have even tossed around ideas for creating a mobile bourbon-bar experience for the guys. They hope to expand with multiple trailers and more event services in the future.
For more information on available packages and booking, visit southernsippery.com or follow them on social media @southernsippery.
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