Built off a burgeoning arts and culinary scene in the town of Bentonville, Arkansas, The Holler has set out to be everyone’s living room—the ultimate local hangout for a community ready to show the world they are so much more than just home to Walmart Corporate.
Designed soup to nuts by multidisciplinary firm Brand Bureau, (a sister yet stand-alone studio to AvroKO), The Holler is located within 8th Street Market—a first-of-its-kind for the area, mixed-use entertainment, dining and shopping destination that is centered around the development of the town’s first culinary school, Brightwater. But what was missing from the development was a central gathering place to anchor it.
Enter The “Holler,” a common colloquialism inspired by Ozark folk speech that means “ravine” or “valley.” It’s also a subtle wink at the more common understanding of the word: a shout or yell for someone’s attention.
“Naming a concept is always fun and challenging in different ways. For this project, it was incredibly important that the name captured the very essence of Bentonville, a place rooted in its passion for the great outdoors,” explains Lynn Juang, one of the co-managing directors of Brand Bureau. That love of nature is also of course reflected in the interiors with a blown-up mural of the Ozarks wrapping the entire space; washed-away graphics in the entry as well as canoe seaming details and canvas sails throughout; a work area inspired by the idea of a forest and its canopy as it sits above the sunken shuffleboard courts overlooking them. Additionally, the main street lamppost-inspired lighting surrounding it is a nod to small-town USA, providing “a sense of familiarity that maybe you can’t quite put your finger on,” she says.
The courts are in the center of the project, giving the space depth, texture and a bit of mystery as people are drawn to see what the buzz is about. “It’s a hub of activity and people naturally gravitate toward the center of movement and conversation. Because of the sheer size of a shuffleboard court, it made sense to put it in the center and act as the central gathering place where people could meet and commune, watching the ongoing matches,” says Juang.
Different seating typologies as well as residential styling touches such as books and potted plants on the hanging shelves further the sense of comfort and community and also help cater to a variety of customers and different day-to-night needs. Communal tables, banquettes, living room-inspired vignettes and counter seating can not only cater to those working from The Holler but also members of the busy, lunchtime rush tribe.
“Not only did we design the space, but our hospitality strategy team developed the overall F&B strategy and helped to define the framework of the experience. So, we needed to think about the space through the lens of each guest type and needstate, as well as from the operations point of view.” So from the early birds at the centrally-located coffee counter to the happy hour crew looking to blow off some steam and relax around the courts, the design and layout of the large footprint features wayfinding that is simple to navigate and keeps guests moving and comfortable. Just as a local hangout should. The yellow lightboxes at both entrances and the back bar serve as warm, glowing beacons.
And much like Bentonville itself as a relatively young city (the median age is 33) that has seen such growth thanks to Walmart’s headquarters and the influx of jobs and professionals filling them, the graphic design package is a diverse toolkit that can evolve over time. “Different coasters, patches and matchbooks might have different illustrations and logotypes but they still all feel like they live within the same design family,” Juang says. “None of the graphics are ‘matchy-matchy’ but they’re all rooted in the same creative inspiration and as a whole, feel cohesive within the space.”