Junk Ranch co-founder Amy Daniels' dream of a Northwest Arkansas flea market started small. In September 2013, she hosted the Farm Fresh vintage market with around 45 vendors setting up on the grounds of the tiny Viney Grove community building in Prairie Grove. An hour or two after the sale opened, the traffic had gotten so backed up that Daniels' pal Julie Speed pitched in to help, directing the cars into the small parking lot and overflow parking across the street.
Nearly 1,500 people shopped at that first event. Both women say it was on that first day that they realized that the area could support something even larger, and the idea for Junk Ranch -- a huge vintage, antique and junk mecca -- was born.
More To Love
For a town of 5,000, Prairie Grove has more than its fair share of wonderful antique and vintage shopping. Don’t miss these other stores when you visit.
Redfeather Trading Co., 122 E. Buchanan St.
Summit Hill Cottage, 124 E. Buchanan St.
Crescent Department Store, 127 E. Buchanan St.
The Locals, 128 E. Buchanan St.
The Creative Fix, 136 E. Buchanan St.
Back Porch Designs & Gifts, 719 E. Douglas St.
WHEN — 10 a.m.-6 p.m. today; 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday
WHERE — 11195 Centerpoint Church Road in Prairie Grove
COST — $10 Friday (with free re-entry Saturday); $5 Saturday
INFO — thejunkranch.net
"We started talking about it right away," says Daniels. "I said, 'Let's get past this one, and we'll see about expanding.'"
This weekend marks the seventh Junk Ranch in Prairie Grove. The area's largest open-air flea market features approximately 250 booths filled with prime vintage junk by vendors both local and from all over the country. Add in 13 food trucks and performances by five different music acts, and the weekend promises to be nothing less than junk heaven.
In those early days, the duo knew that finding a larger setting was paramount, and, since they were looking at making this a long-term venture, they wanted to find a permanent location. Speed and her husband had already been in the market to purchase a farm to raise cattle, so they started a search for a location that would suit both purposes. When they found a 35-acre property with a barn and farmhouse right off of U.S. 62 on the outskirts of Prairie Grove, they knew it was a perfect spot. Speed and Daniels are both residents of Prairie Grove, and it was important to both that they keep the event local.
"We live in a small town, only about 5,000 people, so we know a lot of people in this community," says Daniels. "We know a lot of business owners. So we were motivated to do something that would be beneficial to the community and not just us. I think we've achieved that."
In fact, local business owners report that business spikes on the weekends the Junk Ranch is held.
"Our two biggest days were Junk Ranch days," says Jean Aldridge, owner of the bakery Fat Rolls in Prairie Grove. "It brings a lot of people into the community."
Prairie Grove Mayor Sonny Hudson agrees.
"People come to Prairie Grove for it and shop at other places in town," he says. "It does make an impact. I have heard from business owners that Junk Ranch brings out a huge crowd."
The pair acknowledge the enormous workload they shoulder: On show weekends, they can be seen hauling trash, directing traffic and selling tickets, to say nothing of months and months of preparation for a show of this magnitude. But they are quick to point out that they have lots of help.
"The vendors are the backbone in what we do," says Daniels. "As hard as we work getting ready, people come for the good junk and the vintage finds, and everyone here works hard to meet those expectations. And our volunteers and ranch hands are integral. If we didn't have those people willing to come out and help..."
"It really is about the people who work behind the scenes to help us," finishes Speed.
Though they end each show dusty and exhausted, Daniels and Speed agree that the fact that they've created something that delights so many shoppers makes it all worthwhile.
"It's nice to see how many people come from all over the state, outside of the state and locally," says Daniels. "A Facebook post showed us that there were 10 or 12 states represented last show. That's probably more satisfying than how many people come, that it reaches so many."
"And it's so much fun when they get here because they're so excited, and they can't wait for the gates to open," adds Speed.
Full disclosure: As someone who loves anything vintage, Lara Hightower has been a vendor at Junk Ranch.
NAN What's Up on 06/09/2017