Living the Good Life
Mollyjogger embraces the best of the Arkansas outdoor lifestyle
By Zoë Rom
A fire crackles beneath a cast iron skillet, frying up the day’s catch. Flannel-clad hunters and fishermen huddle around the warming flames to swap stories and tall tales of adventures deep in the Ozark Mountains. This is the aesthetic and storytelling that inspired Rick Stagner’s Mollyjogger, an online retail space that features adventurous apparel and accessories steeped in the American work-wear tradition.
The name Mollyjogger comes from an old hunting and fishing excursion club established around 1890. The Mollyjoggers were known for spring and fall Ozark expeditions that boasted bird dogs, waxed canvas and wool clothing and wagons laden with tasty provisions. Rick says the group adopted the title after a mountain man happened upon the group one night around the campfire and described them as similar to the Mollyjogger minnow: a small, spotted critter that is unappealing bait, even to typically non-discriminatingturtles and gar; “worthless when out on the creek—far from their homes and businesses.” The name stuck, and the attitude of casual pursuit of adventure that it connotes is just as appealing today as seasoned explorers and weekend warriors alike turn to traditional aesthetics.
Rick, a fourth-generation shopkeeper and Ozark native, is perpetually inspired by his home region’s geography and potential for outdoor exploration. “The Ozark region is blessed with pristine streams, lakes, mountains, caves and more,” says Stagner, who describes his mission as “taking time to unplug, enjoying the natural outdoors and spending quality time with friends and family.” It’s a mission evidenced by Mollyjogger’s look, which combines contemporary and traditional American work-wear into products that are both functional and unique.
Items available from Mollyjogger include custom scrimshaw knives (left); a fly-tying kit for anglers (middle); and maps, hats and other outdoor gear (right).
Storytelling is sewn into Mollyjogger’s DNA, and many of the products are infused with Ozark folklore. One of Mollyjogger’s bestselling shirts features the infamous Wampus Cat, which folklorist Vance Randolph describes as “a huge wildcat with supernatural intelligence and a talent for making beguiling sounds” with a tendency to lead hapless would-be hunters astray in deep cedar thickets. Not only is such folktale-inspired apparel popular in Arkansas, but the demand for whimsical, authentic regional apparel is growing nationally as well, and Stagner says the Wampus Cat T-shirt is a bestseller across the country.
Genuine adventure and individuality are also important to Stagner, and this is evident in one of his more niche products, the Scrimshaw Knife Kit. Scrimshaw, or the art of engraving whalebone with intricate designs and colors, is a traditional folk art that has been used in Arkansas for generations. This practice evolved from sailors using and personalizing materials readily available during their maritime adventures. Mollyjogger’s kit enables buyers to etch and engrave their own designs into a pocket knife for a unique and personalized product that harkens back to ancient, sea-borne adventures.
“Each knife tells its own special story,” says Stagner. “Scrimshaw is considered by some people to be the only original art form in the U.S.”
The knives, much like the majority of Mollyjogger’s products, are elegant yet utilitarian. Their form-meets-function mentality lies in their usefulness and appeal to nostalgia and a desire for handmade durable goods. Offerings such as handmade leather journals, hammered pewter pocket flasks and a guide-curated fly fishing kit tap into a recent trend toward tradition in outdoor sports, adventure and a sense of wanderlust, sentiments often steeped in regional arts and outdoor exploration.
“I like to think many of us, especially in these parts of the woods, have inherent mollyjogger traits,” says Rick, which for him includes such traditional Arkansas activities as “lounging in a hammock overlooking the Buffalo River, landing a rainbow trout on the Little Red, or getting lost in the spell of the campfire next to a historic CCC native stone cabin.” His adventuresome store equips and enables these adventures while promoting Arkansas pride and tradition, as best summed up by the original Mollyjogger camp cook: “Enjoy yourself as you go along in life, for you are going to be a long time dead.”
For more information, visit mollyjogger.com.