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Statewide Hatfield Mena
Statewide Homegrown 2

Wooden Fajita Platters with Roots in Hatfield

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Cinco de Mayo, May 5, seems like a perfect day to talk about fajitas. As a matter of fact, if you find yourself at a popular chain restaurant eating the Tex-Mex dish, you have a man in south Arkansas to thank for not burning your hands on that hot, sizzling skillet.

Rick Chrisman is the owner of Revolutionary Designs, a woodworking company in Hatfield, Arkansas. Thirty-five years ago, he and his wife, Donna, were living in the Dallas area and through business connections, pitched a fajita platter prototype for the company supplying Chili’s Bar and Grill and On the Border. They loved what he did, and he quickly received the contract to supply the distributor. But he had to prove himself repeatedly, and each time, his team stepped up to the challenge.

The company uses a Russian birch plywood product that compacts 13 layers in a press process to create a dense product that supports the 350-degree heat of a sizzling fajita skillet.

Revolutionary Designs grew as both chain restaurants and local Mexican restaurants added locations. When the original distributor stepped out of the equation, Chrisman and his team then shipped their fajita platters directly to the restaurant warehouses. At one point, they had a production load of 40,000 annually.

Photo used with permission from Arkansas Parks and Tourism

As a child, Chrisman spent summers in Polk county with his grandpa. He loved the backtrails, the woods and the supportive and interconnected community when they went into town. So, 25 years ago, they left Dallas and moved their woodworking operation to a farm in Hatfield to be back in the Ozark National Forest and Arkansas mountain foothills near Mena.

Business continued to grow beyond what one woodworker and his team could do, and they expanded production with more partners. Today, their company uses a finishing operation out of Fort Smith to fulfill orders for their fajita platters and more.

Fajita platters are not their only food operation.

Revolutionary Designs also builds bentwood shaker boxes based on a 250-year-old tradition. Rarely can a company produce something like this and sell in a wholesale manner, but they figured out a way, and agreements with museums and specialty shops continue to diversify their business.

Photo used with permission from American Artisans restaurant

The Chrismans also own and operate American Artisans Eatery & Gallery, a restaurant in the Mena Downtown Network. Donna Chrisman was never really much of a cook. But she watched many Food Network shows and learned about flavors, food preparation techniques and serving others. A restaurant seemed like the right next step, and they connected with the culinary program at a local community college for insight and direction.

American Artisans started with a small menu of a handful of sandwiches and grew from there. Locals and tourists alike love the gallery with its rotating art and shop at the front of the store where customers can view and purchase items like handmade jewelry, paintings and notecards.

Photo used with permission from American Artisans restaurant

Every week, the restaurant’s menu expands with specials, two soups, and the standard menu offering, including house-made dressings, sauces and hand-crafted sandwiches.

The Chrismans are deeply connected to the local economic development leadership, Advertising and Promotion Commission, and the Chamber of Commerce. They are driven by the mindset that you can make a town the ultimate place you want it to be by being involved and lending your voice and time.

They are doing just that and not planning to slow down any time soon.

Meet the
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Keisha (Pittman) McKinney lives in South Arkansas with her husband and sweet Boxer, Bailey and one-year-old son! Keisha is passionate about connecting people and building community, seeking solutions to the everyday big and small things, and encouraging others through the mundane, hard, and typical that life often brings. She put her communications background to work as a former Non-profit Executive Director, college recruiter and fundraiser, and Digital Media Director at a large church in Northwest Arkansas. Now she is using all of those experiences through McKinney Media Solutions and her blog @bigpittstop which includes daily adventures, cooking escapades, #bigsisterchats, the social justice cases on her heart, and all that she is learning as a #boymom!

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2 responses to “Wooden Fajita Platters with Roots in Hatfield”

  1. Alda ellis says:

    you always find such interesting places!

  2. Kitty says:

    I LOVE that Keisha’s articles read like we’re having a conversation around her kitchen island. Sounds like we need to plan a trip to Mena!

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