Arkansas Business' 25 Entrepreneurs & Innovators (25th Anniversary)

by Arkansas Business Staff  on Monday, Mar. 23, 2009 12:00 am  

John A. McFarland, CEO of Baldor Electric Co. of Fort Smith.

20. Mary Gay Shipley
How can an independent bookstore in Blytheville, Arkansas, of all places, lure some of the nation's best-selling authors to give a talk or participate in a book signing?

Former schoolteacher Mary Gay Shipley opened what became That Bookstore in Blytheville on Main Street in the early '70s. Through a combination of hard work, a knack for knowing what people will like and energy, Shipley has built That Bookstore into a must-stop for readers – and for authors, including  John Grisham, Mary Higgins Clark and Bill and Hillary Clinton.

In 2008, the Associated Press travel editor listed That Bookstore among nine "destination" bookstores, putting it in the company of the legendary The Strand in New York.

 21. Scott Stevens
Scott Stevens learned about the pizza industry by making and delivering pizzas after school in Columbus, Ohio. He founded Pizza Pro Inc. in Jacksonville in 1985 and, in 1992, began franchising Pizza Pros for a fraction of the fees charged by Little Caesar's or Pizza Hut.

The company now claims more than 550 franchise locations in 19 states. Most of the Pizza Pro sites are in what the pizza industry called "non-traditional locations" from hospitals to bowling alleys.

22. Herman Udouj
After building and selling children's wagons in his family's garage, Herman Joseph Udouj positioned himself to profit from the baby boom that followed the return of veterans from World War II.

Udouj borrowed $5,000 to help build a $16,000 capital base and founded Riverside Furniture. The company built baby beds at its factory in Fort Smith. The company added bunk beds to its offerings and eventually a full line of wooden furniture.

In 1966, Udouj joined forces with Arkansas Best Freight Systems under the name of Arkansas Best Corp. Arkansas Best Corp. went public in 1966. Udouj passed the presidency on to his nephew, Richard Udouj, in the early 1970s.

About that time, Udouj and Al Nolte, a brother-in-law, invested in land southwest of Fort Smith. The land eventually became Fianna Hills Country Club, 25 subdivisions and adjoining commercial projects. Bradford & Udouj Realtors of Fort Smith was born. Udouj died in 1998 at 81.

Riverside, now a stand-alone private company, continues to make furniture in Fort Smith.

23. Ron Tyne
In the middle part of this decade, everyone and his dog seemed to be a homebuilder. Well, we all know how well that worked out. Ron Tyne, president of Rocket Properties of Little Rock, was building houses before it was cool and was incorporating green space and low-impact concepts into his subdivisions before those were cool, too.

His crowning achievement is the Woodlands Edge development in west Little Rock.



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