Two restaurateurs apply for open seat on ad commission

A file photo of the Hot Springs Convention Center. - File photo by The Sentinel-Record
A file photo of the Hot Springs Convention Center. - File photo by The Sentinel-Record

Two restaurateurs have applied for a position on the Hot Springs Advertising and Promotion Commission, including the current seat holder, whose term expires at the end of the year.

Stubby's BBQ owner Chris Dunkel, who was appointed to Position 6 on the commission in August of 2021 after former Ohio Club owner Mike Pettey resigned, has asked to be reappointed to the commission. Superior Bathhouse Brewery owner Rose Schweikhart has also applied for the position.

Dunkel said he applied multiple times before he was appointed to fill the remainder of Pettey's time on the commission.

"Now I'm up for a new term," he said. "I mean, I've just been a longtime business owner in Hot Springs, and I'm now living in the city limits of Hot Springs, I became eligible. Everybody kept prodding me, so I kept throwing my name in the hat. And I was asked to finish out this last term, and we've accomplished quite a bit on things that aren't prettier, just the all of the capital improvements to the convention center."

Currently the vice chair of the commission, Dunkel's application said he has worked with the Cooper-Anthony Mercy Child Advocacy Center, Habitat for Humanity and High Impact Movement. He said he hopes to see the city continue to grow and thrive going forward.

"I think the greatest item is just the fact that we have tremendous numbers of people continually coming into Hot Springs, Garland County, to join our lakes, our trails, the campsites. It's amazing. ... We have such a wonderful group of people that put together all these ad campaigns that you see, and it's all in-house.

"Now some of that is done in a Little Rock advertising agency, but we have such a positive group of people that it's in their heart, and it's paying off in spades. And it is so comforting to see the amount of people that are rolling in to Hot Springs with all the things that we have to offer. I mean, we have downtown, we have the thermal springs, we have the lakes, camping -- it's a family-friendly environment."

Dunkel's family purchased Stubby's BBQ in 1976, and it has remained in the family ever since, he said.

"I was 3 years old when they bought it," he said, noting it was originally located on Park Avenue. "I'm 50 now, so that was 47 years ago that we became business owners here in Hot Springs. So, you know, I just look to always have a great relationship with the city, with the county because we just take care of everybody."

Schweikhart, who has been in the Hot Springs community since 2011, said in her application that working with the National Park Service "for over a decade has given me a unique perspective on the needs of our community and the public-private partnerships that make it tick," and she completed the coursework for a doctorate in public affairs and administration at the University of Illinois, Springfield.

"As a restaurant, we collect quite a bit of the A&P tax, the hamburger tax as it's colloquially known, and also I'm definitely a beneficiary of the advertising and the promotions that they use these funds for," she said.

"So it seemed kind of natural to me that when a position came open, I just wanted to apply. Just another way to get involved with the community and just kind of help the city and help the tourism industry in our town that my business is very dependent on and I would argue that a lot of our downtown economy is as well."

In addition to her work with her business, she has been involved with the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival, Low Key Arts, Emergent Arts, Garland County Literacy Council, Cooper-Anthony Mercy Child Advocacy Center, the LGBTQ alliance and many others.

"I kind of I kind of like it that way; it keeps life interesting," Schweikhart said.

"I think all those activities, whether they're nonprofits or public services, are just fun things that happen. They kind of make this place special, and that's what's worthwhile about living in Hot Springs and being part of this place. And it's fun. Craft beer goes hand in hand with things like mountain biking, the film festival, all those all those fun activities. Part of it, of course, is advertising for our business, but it's more than that because just fostering a sense of community is part of what keeps us locals engaged and happy, too. It makes it a good place to live."

Schweikhart said that she feels this is a good time for her to join the commission because she sees the improvements that have been made in the city in the past decade.

"I feel like Hot Springs has been under constantly building upward trajectory over the past 10 years, and I don't really see that slowing down with things like new hotels," she said.

"Our hotel capacity is about to go up with some new projects happening, and I just see this momentum happening. I'm not saying I want anything to change or be different, but I think this would be a good time for me to get involved as things continue to grow."

The commission will decide on the position at its regular meeting later this month.

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