CORNERSTONE CHANGES HANDS: John Chandler, a Little Rock businessman who owns several buildings in downtown Little Rock and North Little Rock, has purchased the building at 312 Main St., North Little Rock, that once housed Cornerstone Deli and Pub. Chandler plans to restore the 9,100-square-foot building "to its 1900 glory," spokesperson Tanya Fitzgerald said. The awnings will go, the second floor will be gutted and all the windows that have been covered up over the years will be reopened. Chandler is in negotiations with a restaurant for downstairs; upstairs will be either quiet office or loft space.
- OUTPUT: The Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub's Launch Pad draws entrepreneurs
THE ARKANSAS REGIONAL INNOVATION HUB: This is the year, the Hub says, that its Launch Pad for new businesses goes into high gear. The multipronged non-profit at 201 E. Broadway meant to give entrepreneurs a place to experiment and start new businesses has opened the workshop areas that house the Launch Pad, where in-house engineer Georg Seyerle Fleck of Germany is available to work with inventors and start-up promoters, and the Steam Lab, a partnership with the EAST Initiative. (The Hub's Art Connection, at 204 E. 4th St., which provides training for high school students interested in a career in the arts, has been in operation since 2012.) Not content with promoting new businesses and the arts, the Hub is also working to open a Regional Food Innovation Center, to work with the food industry. Ideally, the food innovation center will include a kitchen for developing new food products, will take advantage of the Hub's facilities to create new farming technologies and create a "gleaning" facility for fresh food collection.
GOOD FOOD BY FERNEAU, BUTCHER & PUBLIC. The space that was once the Argenta Market grocery store is now a combo deli/fine dining/chic drinking spot. Donnie Ferneau and pig roaster extraordinaire Travis McConnell teamed up to bring red quinoa and smoked pork chops and vegan butternut squash and pistachio pate and more to Argenta, in a urban-groovy atmosphere complete with Sputnik chandeliers at the bar. A good place to drop in after Argenta ArtWalk on the third Friday of every week, especially since ArtWalk participant Mugs Cafe is right next door.
- Leslie Newell Peacock
- INPUT: Good Food By Ferneau draws the hungry and thirsty.
LAMAN LIBRARY ARGENTA BRANCH: The William F. Laman Public Library in North Little Rock's handsome $2.8 million renovation of the old Post Office on Main gave downtown a branch library with 12,000 books in 15,300 square feet, a gallery, an auditorium and public meeting room. It opened in 2014. As welcome as it was, cost overruns in operating the branch have required cutbacks in library personnel, hours and the cessation of the Laman Writers Fellowship. North Little Rock has worked out a deal with Centennial Bank to restructure loans to the library and is seeking an extension on bond due dates to give Laman more operating capital, and just recently the Mid-America Arts Alliance announced it would underwrite the cost of two exhibitions at the library.
ARGENTA GALLERY: John Gaudin, who with business partners Harold Tenenbaum and Greg Nabholz have helped transform North Little Rock's Main Street, in 2014 finally realized the dream that brought him to North Little Rock in the first place: He opened an art gallery. The gallery is actually two narrow adjacent spaces, at 413A and 413B Main, and because it is Gaudin's, a portion of sales benefits the Art Connection art career program for students at the Innovation Hub, which he also helped found.