When you’re in the heart of Hochatown, Oklahoma – surrounded by pines, somewhere off US 259 – you get a feeling.
Call it a cliche middle-of-the-wilderness moment, but you know you’re on some kind of different wavelength. It’s a bit slower. It’s relaxed. Offbeat. And it’s a vibe that carries throughout the entire county. Creative entrepreneurs Jessica Alkirwi and Kim Kennedy felt it the minute they stepped foot into the lush area of southeastern Oklahoma more than two decades ago – long before they ever met (Jessica as a girl scout, Kim as a boy scout).
And they knew there was a word for it.
And in 2015 they’d turn that feeling – being on Hochatime – into a brand.
Armed with a logo, one design (neither can 100% recall whether it was for a hat or shirt), and the right amount of insanity (both agree this was required to pursue the business risk), Jessica and Kim launched Hochatime, a clothing and lifestyle brand based out of Hochatown, Oklahoma.
“We were trying to come up with something that captured the essence of the area,” says Kim. “It’s such a laid back area, and until you’re here, you don’t really get it. Everything moves at a different speed.”
After their first design launched on April Fools (yes, the humor was not lost on them), Jessica and Kim began to partner with local businesses to carry Hochatime shirts and hats.
Less than one year later, their merch was available at several popular McCurtain County shops and restaurants, like Grateful Head.
“To see the community really get behind it, once we created this word – Hochatime – has been remarkable,” says Kim. “It’s more than a place – it’s a state of mind, a pace of life out here. People in the community come up to us all the time and say this is it: you’ve given us an identity.”
For the Love of the Park
From the beginning, Jessica and Kim knew they also wanted to give back to the area that inspired Hochatime.
For them, all roads lead back to Beavers Bend State Park. So, they met with the Beavers Bend State Park manager about ways to partner.
The answer? Resurrecting the long-dormant Friends of Beavers Bend, a nonprofit group once dedicated to conserving Beavers Bend State Park. Hochatime would lead the cause of getting Friends of Beavers Bend back up and running – while also volunteering time and resources to the organization.
“A portion of every Hochatime purchase goes to Friends of Beavers Bend, and those proceeds go directly back to the park,” says Kim. “So, we’ve been helping them to help the park, very closely.”
For a little more than two years, part of Hochatime’s proceeds have gone toward everything from trash cleanups and community events to improving park infrastructure. Beyond giving back to the park, they also help with design work and merch for other local businesses in the area.
Next Step: Going Mobile
“We didn’t know what the future held,” says Jessica. “We came across an ad for a green bus – that had been a retail shop previously – bought it, and that essentially became our mobile shop. We would drive it around Hochatown and set up in different spots on weekends. That grew into – and fit into – more of the vibe and shopping experience of Hochatime.”
While running business through the bus, they plotted the next stage: an actual brick-and-mortar right in the heart of Hochatown.
Driving through the main drag of Hochatown shops and restaurants, you’ll see an Airstream, plunging through a cabin-like storefront.
A 1977 Argosy (affectionately called Betty White), to be exact.
And it’s definitely double-take worthy.
“Jessica has always had a love for Airstreams,” says Kim. “And this was a great way to bring that outdoor theme – and vintage vibe of Hochatime – inside. It was really complementary to what we were trying to accomplish.”
Jessica found Betty White in Joplin, and soon after, she and Kim met with an architect to figure out how to incorporate her into their brick-and-mortar dreams (without having to completely disassemble or destroy her).
The solution was to keep her intact and build around her.
Betty White now serves as almost a shop within a shop – where you can find anything from kid hoodies and tees to Hochatime onesies. Also, not a bad nod to their early mobile business days.
“It was super important for us to make it a unique shopping experience and weave in the outdoor vibe,” says Jessica. “I always wanted to do something different. We didn’t want it to feel like a strip mall.”
Pretty positive they achieved their goal.
Every detail of the shop reflects the Hochatime brand to its core. A little throwback, a little modern. A lotta outdoorsy. Full of character. Undeniably offbeat.
Kim attributes a lot of the interior to Jessica’s great eye – although she’d probably scoff and humbly call it a team effort (she truly is charming that way). She handpicked a great deal of the elements you see in the store – from Betty White herself to nostalgic pieces that represent Jessica and Kim’s past and love of the outdoors (like their old scout guides). The structure itself is even made from mixed materials – some new wood and some more than 100 years old.
Their love for the area – and the passion put into Hochatime – is clear.
“We did it for the area, first and foremost,” says Jessica. “Hochatime isn’t really about either one of us. It’s about our love of the area and the people, and passion for the park.”
So walk through the Ouachitas. Cast a line in Lower Mountain Fork River. Wade in Broken Bow Lake. Get on Hochatime. It’ll be hard not to, when you’re out here.
Insider tip: be sure to ask Kim about the showcased vintage ‘70s McCurtain County Gold tee, which inspired one of Hochatime’s later designs.