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Attorney Lisa Ferrell tends mainly to real estate while her husband, attorney Jim Jackson, mainly practices law. But it was the COVID-19 pandemic’s devastating impact on one of Ferrell’s legal clients that led the developers of Rockwater Village in North Little Rock to found ARClothMasks.
Strictly speaking, ARClothMasks is a doing-business-as name for SBWT, a limited liability company Ferrell and Jackson established in 2004 as part of their real estate and development business. Last April, Jackson and Ferrell didn’t yet know whether 2020 would be a repeat of 2008 for the residential real estate industry, but the effect of the new coronavirus on Tian Yuan Garments was immediate. TY, a Chinese-owned garment manufacturer at the Port of Little Rock, watched its orders to produce sportswear for Adidas screech to a halt.
Ferrell was familiar with TY’s dilemma since the company is her client. “They were seeking options so that they could keep employees on and working, and we hit upon PPE and cloth masks,” she said.
Ferrell worked with TY to design face masks to the Center for Disease Control & Prevention’s standards, and ARClothMasks contracted to be TY’s exclusive U.S. distributor of the masks TY manufactures.
Ferrell, Jackson and their three children (16, 18 and 22) are all involved in the business, which lined up customers all over the state, including the state government itself, colleges, hospitals, corporations and 175 school districts. Ferrell said they learned this early on: “There is a need for quality, reliable suppliers.”
To that end, ARClothMasks lined up an Arkansas-centric supply chain. “One, we could be certain of the quality because we could see it. And two, it wouldn’t be disrupted by the pandemic or trade wars,” Ferrell said. “We could have our masks manufactured, logoed, packaged and sent straight to the customer from China, but we made a decision to use Arkansas vendors whenever possible.”
And how is their real estate business doing?
“We have just created a new phase of Rockwater called The Gardens, and it is doing quite well.”