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Buttering them up: Ozark Folk Center finds a market for its homespun products in Hong Kong.

The Homespun brand of peach and apple butter is produced and sold at the Ozark Folk Center at Mountain View.

If you have a taste for apple or peach butter and a trip to Mountain View is out of the question, you could always try your neighborhood SOGO department store.

That is if your neighborhood is in Hong Kong.

The Ozark Folk Center recently shipped 400 cases of apple and peach butter to SOGO's Hong Kong outlet, one of 28 SOGO Corp. operations in the Far East.

SOGO also has stores in Japan, Thailand, Taiwan, Singapore and Malaysia. The company owns what is considered the world's largest department store in Yokohama, Japan.

This is the first time the products have been exported. But Homespun apple and peach butter have been sold at the center's craft store for 19 years and have been a mainstay of the restaurant there.

The staff at the Ozark Folk Center, which is operated by the state Department of Parks and Tourism, began selling the products by mail order several years ago.

The center's general manager, Bill Young, received permission last year from the state to market products at the wholesale level.

A SOGO Visit

The sale to SOGO, at a cost of $11,000, came following a visit by a company representative. He was traveling across northwest Arkansas searching for items to be marketed by the chain.

Following breakfast at the Ozark Folk Center, the SOGO representative approached Young with the idea of selling apple and peach butter in the Hong Kong store and possibly throughout the chain.

Young, whose store had never sold more than three or four cases at a time prior to the SOGO order, hopes the sale will lead to additional mass marketing in the Far East.

"If it works, hopefully they'll come back and order larger quantities," says Young, who has been general manager for almost five years.

The sale could lead to the exportation of other offerings from the Homespun Cabin Crafts Collection, the center's product line. The line includes handforged iron products, candles and baskets. The products have accounted for $500,000 in sales in the past year.

Expansion of the Ozark Folk Center's wholesale division could alleviate some of the problems the center faces as a result of the fact that it is closed in the winter. The center is forced to lay off many of its employees in December, January and February.

Young hopes to keep those employees, who range from craftsmen to maintenance workers, on staff 12 months per year.

He believes wholesale revenues can help the Ozark Folk Center correct what he calls the "nine to 12 problem. We have 12 months of expenses, but the park is only open nine months. I'm looking at wholesaling to generate revenue to cover those three months we're not open to the public."

The Ozark Folk Center includes a 60-room lodge, a 225-seat restaurant, a crafts demonstration area and an auditorium, the site of more than 200 music shows each year.
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Author:Taylor, Tim
Publication:Arkansas Business
Date:Jun 22, 1992
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