North by Northwest: CB Impact on Bentonville
If You Build it, They Will Come
It’s brought 10 new restaurants, 13 new retail shops and art galleries, and hundreds of thousands of people to downtown Bentonville, all within one year of its opening. Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art’s impact on the Bentonville Square, the city and the region has been monumental … and it’s all taken place since its opening Nov. 11, 2011.
“Crystal Bridges will be an integral part of the next 10 years of growth in northwest Arkansas,” said Kathy Deck, director for the center for business and economic research at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. “It will serve as the anchor for a newly-forming tourism sector in the area, and I think we can expect to see other amenities added as a result of its presence here. It will grow to be so important for the region that we won’t be able to imagine life without it, just like Wal-Mart or the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville.”
Initial expectations for the inaugural year were 250,000 visitors. The attendance surpassed 500,000 by September 2012, less than a year later. More than 7,000 households signed up for museum memberships, including 281 Art Infusion Members, a signature young patrons club.
“From the first day the museum opened, the response has been overwhelming, and we’ve happily exceeded our expectations in every way,” Kathryn Roberts, director of member and guest services, said. “What is most gratifying is to see that our members and the public in general are responding to all our offerings. Crystal Bridges has become a destination for many things.”
Transcending expectations went beyond the museum and diffused into the community as well. With a new, renewed energy to the area, in large part due to non-profit Downtown Bentonville, Inc. (DBI), Bentonville has seen an impact economically and socially.
“The downtown experience, just from the energy level to the language of possibility with investors, small business owners and residents, has expanded exponentially,” Daniel Hintz, executive director, DBI, said. “Crystal Bridges has brought local attention from surrounding communities, but also on a national level.”
Travel and Leisure named Bentonville one of the top 12 travel destinations in the world because of the American art museum, and Bentonville has quickly benefitted from its national exposure. Within a year, the Bentonville Convention and Visitor’s Bureau has seen an 88-percent increase in visitors seeking tourism information.
The Station Café and Table Mesa are the two restaurants that have been open the longest on the Bentonville Square. During the past few years, both have seen a significant increase in business: 64 percent for The Station Café and 126 percent for Table Mesa.
Employment has also been on the rise. The employment growth in northwest Arkansas is above Arkansas’ and the national average, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“Northwest Arkansas benefits from its dynamic set of employers and its particular industry mix,” Deck said. “From July 2011 to July 2012, professional and business services added 1,500 jobs, and leisure and hospitality added 1,400 jobs. We’ve seen employment in the leisure and hospitality sector grow more quickly than any other since the opening of Crystal Bridges.”
Aside from the economical impact of Crystal Bridges, it has revived downtown Bentonville socially. Through a robust farmer’s market, First Friday celebrations and culinary partnerships with the renowned James Beard Foundation, the heart of Bentonville has become a destination for families, young adults and businessmen alike.
“Crystal Bridges is a reason to come to Bentonville, but the reason itself offers a lot for people to stay in northwest Arkansas,” Hintz said. “We needed that excuse, or entry level, to bring people here. It’s a destination where people can rediscover middle America and the authenticity of our region.”
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art’s restaurant is named Eleven, an acknowledgement of the museum’s opening on 11-11-11. In celebration of its anniversary — not to mention the culinary ingenuity that inspires its menu — we offer you Eleven Fun Facts about CB’s Eleven.
- Eleven has sold more than 11,000 of its proprietary Double-wide Cookies.
- More than 1,000 Museum Members have attended Eleven’s monthly Wednesday Over Water event.
- The baristas have blended nearly 11,000 smoothies since opening.
- Airship Coffee, Eleven’s single Coffee and Espresso Supplier, imports coffee beans directly from property shared with an orphanage in Guatemala.
- The cooks on the Eleven lunch line have grilled 18,643 Eleven Burgers.
- The two trees that make up the Eleven logo are named Thelma and Louise and can be seen from nearly every seat in the restaurant.
- The coffee bar has sold more than 22,000 cups of brewed coffee.
- By Crystal Bridges’ first year anniversary on 11-11-12, Eleven will have made more than 12,000 boxed lunches for area children thanks to the Walker Family Foundation Gift.
- Eleven has sold 5,800 Shrimp and Grits, using grits exclusively from northwest Arkansas’ very own War Eagle Mill.
- Eleven’s Relleno 42 is an entirely vegan dish inspired by a visit from our 42nd president Bill Clinton.
- Eleven has artfully constructed more than 24,000 High South Chicken Salad Plates since opening.
Crystal Bridges Museum of American art
600 Museum Way • Bentonville, AR • 479.418.5700 • crystalbridges.org