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Connie Fails and Anita Davis

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Listen to Learn:

  • How the concept of place-making enhanced Little Rock's SOMA disctrict
  • How a love of purses, lead Anita to build and curate the Esse Purse Museum
  • Why she feels purses are containers for the Divine Feminine
  • How Connie got kicked out of therapy
  • How to take a leap of faith
  • About Curbside Couture (where one Saturday Night Live designer got their start)

Scroll down for a transcript of the show

Up In Your Business is a Radio Show by FlagandBanner.com

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Hilary Downey and Bridget Shinn

Anita Davis

Murfreesboro native Anita Davis has a bachelor of science degree and varied business life experience that began in the 1980’s with her mail-order catalog called “Pure and Simple.”

In the early turn of the 21st century, Davis became an accidental real estate developer. In 2004, Davis bought the Bernice Building at 1417 S. Main. In 2005, she purchased the empty lot at 1401 S. Main. It was in 2005 that Davis, at a meeting of the National Main Street group in Seattle, learned about "placemaking," the design of public spaces that reflects the character and assets of a community.

In 2006, Davis bought the 100 year old Lincoln Building at the corner of 15th and Main, where StudioMain, the Green Corner Store and the soda fountain that has helped make Loblolly Creamery’s products well known across Arkansas are all located. In 2007 on the other side of Main Street, she bought the Bernice Building which now houses the downtown location of Boulevard Bread Co. Also in 2007, she bought the Sweden Creme property where The Root Cafe now thrives. In 2011, she bought a building next door to the Root for her purse museum. With a 3,000+ collection of women’s purses, Davis decided to create the Esse Purse Museum at 1510 South Main St. The museum opened in June 2013.

In 2014, The Huffington Post included Esse on its list of the “World’s Hottest Museums.”
The Bernice Garden, established in 2011, is now a place that is home to everything from Mardi Gras celebrations to beard-growing contests to farmers’ markets to the annual Arkansas Cornbread Festival each fall.

Mayor Mark Stodola, a former downtown resident and president of the Quapaw Quarter Association, called Davis "a godsend to South Main."

Connie Fails, of Litchfield, Illinois, attended Southern Missouri State University where she was introduced to weaving which lead to an interest in vintage fabric and ultimately fashion design.

1n 1976, she left her job at a Little Rock stock brokerage firm and opened a small clothing boutique. Her original designs and finely crafted garments attracted a wide and loyal following both in Little Rock and posh boutiques as far away as New York City. In 1978 she met a new client, Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Fails made Clinton’s first Gubernatorial inaugural gown that is now on permanent display in Arkansas' historic Old State House. Twelve years later, Bill Clinton was elected president and Fails designed Mrs. Clinton’s inaugural pants suit. Mrs. Clinton also wore several other Connie Fails designs for the inaugural ball and other festivities that week.

In 2004, Fails accepted the position of Manager of the Clinton Museum Store. She has developed and managed several student mentoring projects including Curbside Couture— an annual program of creatively recycled fashions designed by high school students that culminates in a gala runway show at the Clinton Presidential Center and now provides scholarships. Connie Fails has been featured in the New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, Vanity Fair, People, Today Show, Good Morning America. 

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