There are many state-of-the art manufacturing facilities headquartered at Chaffee Crossing, with innovative processes, skilled operators and precision engineering. Much ofit is high-tech.
There also are creative makers and artists to be discovered there, especially in the World War II-vintage warehouses and former Army barracks. Something about these reclaimed buildings seems to invite hand-making, originality and craftsmanship.
One of the first was a craft beer brewery. Now, it is joined by Fort Smith's onlywinery, JKC Cellars, "softly" opened by John and Kristie Coats this year. As they are not yet retired - he's a sales executive and she, a math teacher at Southside High School - they have been easing into opening their winery's tasting room and selling their first varieties. They're finding it to be catching on with patrons even more quickly than they expected. They've tried Friday, Saturday and Sunday hours to invite patrons to try "flights" of their wines but have soon found themselves holding fundraisers, business parties and even a wedding and reception.
A hobby home-brewer, John decided several years ago to learn winemaking, as well, and found it an interesting challenge. To date, they are offering about nine varieties, all with names chosen by their daughter Emily. They include Mockingbird Merlor, Game Day Rose, Diamond State Sauvignon Blanc and Taylor Peach Chardonney. Each has a charming, local or family-related back story.
Family is important to the couple. Along with Emily, who is a teacher in Nevada, their son Zach teaches at Northside. Both have helped in the 11-month DIY renovation of the warehouse into a handsome, open-raftered space with industrial lighting and a rustic, original wooden floor, with at least 40 hours of sanding invested in it. Their grandchildren (Zach's), have enjoyed playing in the big space and even have a cozy place to take a nap.
Out of the public view, the ]KC wines are maturing. JKC Cellars is not a vineyard. John creates the wines from juices sourced from all over the world. His next creation, aging now but perhaps to be ready this fall, will be his first dry red.
Although a focal point of the building is a big, handmade bar, patrons also gather at large tables with friends to enjoy wine by the glass with a light charcuterie plate, the only food that JKC regularly serves.
The Coats allow guests to cater their own parties, bringing in food of their choice. At events this summer, some local food trucks parked outside and offered their distinctive menues. JKC serves its neighbor's Fort Smith Brewing Co. craft beers and the brewery reciprocates by serving the locally made wine. As there was extra space available in the building, Grow Fresh Organics moved in as a tenant. It was from the organic garden and
wine/beer-making supplier that John first started brewing with a local homebrewing club that met at the store. There is a lot of synergy in the nearby businesses.
Art found its way to the walls at the request or suggestion of friends. The couple hopes to allow other local artists to exhibit. The Coats are so congenial, many more activities are likely to develop. Follow their Facebook page. They're family- and pup-friendly, too. Open 5-9 p.m. Friday and Saturday and noon-4 Sunday. 7709 Ellis Street, Chaffee Crossing.
Makers and Artists: Cre8tive Arts Network studio is open to all artists
Inside a converted barracks building in Chaffee Crossing’s Historic District is another place of makers - the Crea8tive Arts Network.
This non-profit art collective was founded in 2010 by Carter and Tammy Fujibayashi and others as a memorial of their son Justin, a young artist killed in a car crash.
The old building was gradually transformed to serve artists in a spirit of cooperation and collaboration. There are ongoing art classes, especially in clay arts but also in other mediums. Artists may rent studio space there. CAN invites the elderly, young children and veterans to learn and try art, or return to an interest.
CAN joins in community celebrations held in the Chaffee Crossing Historic District with art fairs and free activities.
Most of its events are listed monthly in this magazine’s calendar of events. Some are free and others may require a class fee for instruction or materials. It also maintains a Facebook page with news of opportunities and a gallery of creations. 7408 Terry Street, Chaffee Crossing.
The Learning Fields is a creative place, too
Mother Nature and Master Gardeners are the creators at the Learning Fields at Chaffee Crossing, demonstration gardens for the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture. On Oct. 5, its annual Pollinator Festival will be held from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Admission is free. Learn about honeybees, ask questions of garden experts, browse arts & crafts and taste fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables. Ask about taking the training to become a Master Gardener. The group holds events and does garden activities year-round and presents an annual Lawn & Garden Show. The Learning Fields at Chaffee Crossing, 7300 Gardener Avenue, Fort Smith, Ark.