The Ouachitas to bring bar and taproom to The Bakery District

by Michael Tilley ([email protected]) 2,250 views 

It was a happenstance meeting between Derek Campbell and Griffin Hanna during a beer tasting at Papa’s Pup & Pizzeria in downtown Fort Smith that an idea was born to open a new cocktail and taproom in the Bakery District.

The Bakery District, also in downtown Fort Smith, opened in June 2020. The first phase of the Bakery District cost around $2.7 million to construct, with an undisclosed amount for fixtures and equipment. Users of that space include a coffee shop, bookstore, and University of Arkansas at Fort Smith classrooms and offices. The space, once home to Shipley Baking, was developed by Bill Hanna, president and CEO of Fort Smith-based Hanna Oil and Gas Co.

Campbell is the co-owner of The Ouachitas, a company that has a brewhouse, coffee bar and taproom in Mena. He and his family members began the coffee roaster and bar in 2018 and expanded with a restaurant in 2019. The brewhouse and tap room opened in 2020 and now brews 18 different varieties of beer. Maddox, a west coast version of IPA, is a customer favorite, Campbell said in a recent interview with Talk Business & Politics. Another customer favorite is “Main Squeeze,” a blood orange hard lemonade, he said.

The company now employs between 10 and 15 people.

Campbell said he was working with Fort Smith-based Belle Point Beverages to host a beer tasting when he was introduced to Hanna, one of the sons of Bill Hanna, who helps manage developments through KMW Properties.

“It was the right place and the right time and the right conversation to make it happen. When Griffin first mentioned it, Fort Smith wasn’t really on my radar, but when I saw their vision and what they had built there (Bakery District), it was something we wanted to do,” Campbell said.

Derek Campbell, co-owner of Mena-based The Ouachitas

Tom Hanna, another Hanna son involved in KMW developments, said the deal began to come together soon after the unplanned beer-tasting meeting.

“I got a call one Saturday a few weeks after that (meeting with Griffin), and it was from this guy, Derek Campbell. He said, ‘Hey, I happen to be in Fort Smith and would love to take a look at the space.’ So I ran down and showed it to him. And that’s really what sparked it,” Tom said.

The plan is to open a cocktail bar and taproom in what is known as the Maple Room in the Bakery District. Campbell said they hope to have the space open by late summer or early fall. Design work is underway, so the cost to build out the space is unknown, but Campbell estimated equipment and furnishings could cost between $100,000 and $130,000. He also said they have not settled on a name for the Fort Smith site, but it will likely include “The Ouachitas” moniker.

Campbell said they might have a limited food menu to begin but have not yet committed to food being an initial part of the offering. Tom said the 3,000-square-foot space would reflect much of the design that Derek and his family have created in their Mena operations.

“Derek will be heavily influencing the design. He has a great design aesthetic. … It’s going to be the coolest bar in Fort Smith,” Tom said.

Tom also teased that The Ouachitas is not the only vendor planned for The Bakery District and the adjacent The Mill and The Exchange.

“None that we can really talk about at this point, but yes, there are some in the pipeline,” he said when asked about discussions with other potential vendors.