Editor’s Note: The following story appeared in the Oct. 26 issue of the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal. “Then & Now” is a profile of a past member of the Business Journal’s Forty Under 40 class.
Donny Hubbard, owner of luxury men’s specialty store Hubbard Clothing Co. in Rogers, will soon reopen his downtown Fayetteville location exclusively as a speakeasy-style lounge, capitalizing on the success of the lounge at the Rogers store.
The 1,500-square-foot store off the Fayetteville square on Block Street is being transformed into a lounge with 56 liquor lockers in a 120-year-old bank vault. Hubbard, 44, expects it to open within a month and will retain the Hubbard Clothing brand.
“It will be 100% lounge with no retail,” he said. “It’s going to be very cool.”
The Los Angeles native grew up fascinated with fashion and the lifestyles often associated with it. He moved to Fort Smith when he was 13 and started working at Rainwater’s Clothing at 19. He was a salesman for Baumans and became part-owner of Baumans Northwest Arkansas in 2008.
The Northwest Arkansas Business Journal named Hubbard to the Forty Under 40 class in 2012. That year, he rebranded the Rogers store to The Independent after buying out the ownership interest of the Baumans owner in Little Rock. Hubbard also opened a denim shop in Fayetteville and had a Little Rock store. He operated the three stores for several years.
In 2016, he moved to Louisville, Ky., to work for Louisville-based retailer Rodes.
“The catalyst for that was the Little Rock store for The Independent was not doing well at all, and so we ended up shutting that store down,” he said. “At the same time, because of the problems in Little Rock, it bled over into what was going on in Rogers.”
Meanwhile, his son was diagnosed with autism, and retailers nationwide were heavily recruiting Hubbard. Before moving, he and his wife researched autism services in Louisville and believed they would be better in a bigger city.
Hubbard closed the Rogers store, transferred ownership of the Fayetteville store to his business partner and moved to Kentucky.
“The store I went to work for was a 105-year-old store that is one of the most prestigious stores in the country, and so I was the head buyer for the shop while I was there,” he said. “Randomly and shockingly, about eight months into my stint in Louisville, my wife and I found out we were having child No. 3.”
That led him back to Northwest Arkansas, where he and his wife have family, friends and support. He also said the autism care in Louisville wasn’t as good as they’d thought it would be, “and things were way better for him here. So it all happened how it was supposed to.”
In March 2018, he started Hubbard Clothing Co. in Rogers.
“When I came back, we opened the shop, and we came out of the gates doing insanely well,” he said. Later that year, he and business partner Steve Clark, founder and CEO of Fort Smith-based Propak Logistics, acquired The Independent, which had stores in downtown Bentonville and Fayetteville. Hubbard rebranded the business to Hubbard Clothing Co.
At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, he closed the Bentonville and Fayetteville locations to focus on the Rogers store. He has five employees.
The 2,800-square-foot store includes a 1,200-square-foot lounge and barbershop, a collaboration with a Dallas-based franchise. Lounge membership is $1,500 annually. Members have liquor lockers and can use the space for work, entertainment or meetings. Membership has risen to more than 40 and is expected to grow with the Fayetteville lounge’s addition.
“We’ve been successful with the [Rogers] lounge, and it’s a great catalyst to bring people in the store. And those people end up shopping,” he explained. “And frankly, between the barbershop and the lounge, it’s what kept people coming into the store during the pandemic.”
Amid the pandemic, he said business fell about 50% but has since returned. In September and October, business was flat from the same months in 2019.
“I feel cautiously optimistic that things are continuing to move in the right direction,” he said.
Hubbard and his wife, Robyn, have three children. He supports SLS Community and enjoys fly fishing, mountain biking and the outdoors.