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Life often takes you places that you wouldn’t expect.
One day, you’re a young Dallas teacher pursuing a lifelong career in education, and the next, you’re opening up Cotter’s first downtown market alongside your mother.
And while the sudden shift in jobs might seem strange to some, that’s exactly what happened to Nicole Hatchet, the co-owner of the Cotter Bridge Market.
“I lived in Dallas and never saw myself living here. I was an educator in my past life, so I had time off from school to come up here for the holidays,” said Nicole Hatchet. “I was tired of the city. I reached the point in my life where I was ready for something smaller and quieter. When I came in Christmas, I really kind of fell in love with Cotter for the first time even though I’ve been coming here my whole life.“
Nicole Hatchet hails from a family with close ties to Cotter.
Her aunt, Caroline Gill, has lived in the small riverside community for nearly 35 years. Her mother, Jane Hatchet, is the previous owner of three Cotters standout businesses: The Cotter Trout Lodge, White Sands Café, and the Natural State Fly Shop.
Her journey to opening a new business in Cotter began when her mother noticed that a for sale sign had been put up on the Warrior Cafe across the street from the Cotter Trout Lodge.
“We bought the property three days before I sold the other businesses,” said Jane Hatchet. “I talked to Harold, and we agreed on a price and expedited the closing, and work began. I always had a vision of having a market here. When Nicole said she didn’t want to go back to Dallas, I wanted to make sure she was serious and told her that I had something I was getting ready to do.”
Nicole jumped at the opportunity to open a new business in Cotter and left Dallas, Texas, five months later. While Nicole was wrapping up her affairs in Texas, Jane was hard at work, ripping down walls and getting the structure ready for the remodeling.
With her daughter finally home, the pair began scouring Pinterest and other design sites to come with inspiration for their markets design.
“When she got here, I was the grounds person,” Jane Hatchet said. “We looked at everything to collect ideas, but she’s the one who really laid it out. I just got it ready to move into.”
The mother-daughter combo settled on creating a downtown market that focused on healthily serving its community.
The market’s food, milk, and cheese are organic and locally sourced. Its coffee comes from Norfork’s Ozark Mountain Mushrooms. Fresh soup and sandwiches are made daily.
The small market also sells organic hygiene products, bath salts, essential oils, organic laundry detergents, and more.
“We try to support local,” Nicole Hatchet said. “You know with local farms, artists, makers, teas, jams, and mushroom coffee. We have a lot of packaged things like organic soups, rice, pasta, and olive oil.”
The Cotter Bridge Market also features a small ice cream parlor in the back for those wanting to get something sweet after visiting Cotter’s park.
The ice cream parlor is Jane Hatchet’s “happy place” and features five flavors of ice cream, including Fly Fishing Fudge, vanilla bean, coffee, strawberry shortcake, and blueberry.
“I don’t sell things I don’t taste,” Jane Hatchet said. “So, I might open something up and start giving it to customers so that everybody can taste it. I’m a big proponent of giving samples.”
The Hatchet’s have also worked outside the building, adding a new deck that overlooks the park. A firepit sits off to the side for those wishing to get warm and talk around a fire.
“We have had a couple of fire pits, and after the bridge lighting, we had a little get-together, and several guests of the ceremony came up,” Jane Hatchet said. “Mayor Mac was there. Sheriff Montgomery and his wife, and several other people. They gathered up here, and that was the goal. It’s a community place.”
Development is still happening on the property even though the market is already open. Outside, the Hatchets said they were working with Cotter High School’s FFA students to decorate the grounds.
The bottom floor of the building is also in the process of being renovated into a community space. While plans haven’t been finalized, the Hatchet’s said the space could be used as a wine bar or for community events like yoga.
“We’ll be trying to finish the basement this year,” said Nicole Hatchet. “Believe it or not, there is a full basement down there. It’s a pretty good size, and we’ve already framed in the bathroom.Our plans are still evolving. We’re trying to ride the wave of in-betweenness. We originally thought of a wine bar or a beer garden, but there’s a lot of hoops to jump through.”
Once renovations are complete, Nicole said they would focus on adding art, music, and games to the leisure areas of the market.
The market is already offering free music entertainment, some evenings, and yoga classes while being taught by Nicole.
“I’ve developed a love and passion for health and wellness and sharing my knowledge and abilities,” said Nicole Hatchet.
Reception to the market has been positive, with a steady flower of workers, tourists, and residents stopping in to visit and purchase goods.
The Cotter Bridge Market is open Tuesday – Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
“Cotter needs this. This is a tourist place,” said Sarah Sample, lead singer for The Lockhouse Orchestra. “Things are happening in our little town. It’s exciting. I love what they’ve done. This is wonderful.”