BY JENNIFER STANLEY PHOTOGRAPHY BY STRAIN PHOTOGRAPHY
Ashton Pruitt is a self-professed “proud Faulkner County girl.” The Greenbrier native credits her hometown for making her who she is today. As such, she commits to giving back to the community that gave her so much. “I love Greenbrier and the people who call it home,” she says, adding, “I bleed royal blue.”
Ashton serves as president of the Greenbrier Chamber of Commerce and owns Southern Savvy boutique. Most importantly, she is mom to daughter Myleigh- Pearl, a fifth generation Greenbrier Panther, and is married to Lane.
Upon graduation from Greenbrier High School, Ashton attended Arkansas State University, earning her degree in broadcast journalism. “I immediately got a job at River Valley Radio and hosted my own live afternoon show. I have worked
in the broadcasting and advertising industry for 13 years. This, along with owning my own small business, gives me a unique perspective serving as chamber president,” she says.
“I’m one of the lucky oneswho gets to do what makesme so happy. Bringing thecommunity together andimproving the quality of lifefor our town is God usingme for His good. The impactthis position has is farbeyond my dreams.”
– Ashton Pruitt, president Greenbrier Chamber of Commerce
After her years in radio, Ashton intentionally chose a different career path. “Every single night for I can’t tell you how long, I prayed for the Lord to use me for His good, whatever that may be. I was in a rut. A major rut financially, mentally, emotionally. You name it; I was unhappy about it,” she says. The commute and traffic wore on Ashton, as well as the toll the stress took on her family, Southern Savvy, and her chamber duties. “I loved my position and listeners, but I knew it was not where I was meant to be.”
Determined to make a change, she applied for several marketing positions in Central Arkansas. “I kept thinking I just needed a change of scenery and could not even get an interview. I was so confident if I could just get an interview, it would seal the deal. Nope. Not even a call back. Talk about deflating, but
that self-defeat added fuel to the fire. I kept praying for the Lord to use me for His good,” she says.
Ashton visited with several friends and colleagues and was encouraged to continue praying with the idea of working for the chamber in mind. At the time, she was a volunteer for the organization. “I knew I had to prove myself to our board and mayor to hire me to serve. I made many changes to our financial structure that set us up for success and allowed them to consider this as an option. They agreed, and it has been a whirlwind since that very moment. Thank goodness I never
got those interviews,” she adds.
Ashton began with the chamber by serving on its board for three years. “Our job is to be the voice of our small businesses and to unify them. We create networking opportunities not only for businesses to come together but for them to engage with the community,” she says. Ashton became president in January 2021 and came to the role literally armed with a plan. “I showed up with a three-year plan on a piece of computer paper filled with goals and dreams…I do not get nervous about much, but I thought, ‘These folks are either going to quickly regret
electing me president and laugh me out of here, or they are going to saddle up for this wild ride.’ Thankfully, it was the latter,” she laughs.
The chamber board embraced the plan with gusto, and then some. “Not only did we accomplish almost everything in one year, but we added or enhanced our major events.” These include Junk and Drive on 65, Pets in the Park, Back to School Breakfast and Expo, Hometown Holiday Open House, the annual Christmas parade, and the popular Glisten in Greenbrier, a collaborative effort with the city and chamber. The city’s first official mural, currently in progress,
will proudly display “You Belong Here.” The chamber also added over 100 new members in one year, a feat Ashton says would not be possible absent the chamber board and support from the community, businesses, and city leadership. The chamber also revamped its website, published its first city directory in-house, and cut overhead by moving its office. “While other organizations were still canceling events, we successfully held a digital banquet last year despite COVID. We celebrated our local Olympian, Kayle Browning, in style with a world-class community sendoff parade and silver medal homecoming.”
Ashton is particularly proud of Glisten in Greenbrier, specifically how it captured the town’s essence. The month-long winter celebration featured a light display, First Arkansas Bank & Trust ice skating rink, Piccolo-Zoppe Circus, concessions, special appearances from Santa, and horse-drawn carriage rides at Matthews Park. During the celebration, over 5,000 skates slid across the rink, 803 families across the state enjoyed the circus, and well over 3,000 cups of hot cocoa were sold. “This event brought thousands to our community and gave the public something to be proud of. The literal blood, sweat, and tears I cried were worth it. The smiles, the laughs, the precious children enjoying the lights and the rink were worth it all,” she says.
The chamber restructured Ashton’s role to become the Director of Communications in addition to president. In the communications role, she explains, “My responsibilities
include the creation and development of print and online publications, advertising, email marketing, website management, content development, press releases, social media management, city videos, and marketing materials for each city department. I also provide supervision and direction to city staff with internal communications,” she says. The dual nature of her job allows her to be the voice of Greenbrier and the bridge between its citizens and the city. Ashton is also event coordinator for Glisten in Greenbrier, which she conceptualized.
“I saw a smaller scale event featuring a tiny ice rink in Eureka Springs and thought, ‘Why not do this in Greenbrier at our beautiful
park?’…Chase Graham wanted to do lights in the park, so with Mayor Sammy Joe Hartwick’s blessing, Chase and I got to work,” says Ashton. She researched finding the rink and skates and determined how to staff and pay for the venture. Ashton assembled a team of volunteer organizations and trained them to ensure a memorable experience for attendees. “Chase and his team worked on the electrical side by keeping our rink lit and built the custom displays, custom arch, and our beautiful, unique tree. I felt like the little sister they never knew they always wanted or the fourth Graham brother. We were out there 24/7 making it all happen,” she says. Ashton credits the sponsors and volunteers for showing up and for
believing in the idea of Glisten in Greenbrier, saying, “Over 25 different volunteer organizations stepped up to help run the skate tent and concession stand each night. These organizations received 20 percent of the gross profits on the night they worked.” Ashton says the most rewarding part was the sense of community Glisten afforded residents. “Walking through the park after our massive, recordbreaking Christmas parade and seeing children sing on stage under the beautiful night sky, surrounded by Christmas lights. I teared up. Where else were these kids going to have this opportunity? Nowhere.”
As a local businessowner, Ashton brings a special appreciation to her role with the chamber. She owns Southern Savvy, named after her
siblings Scott and Savannah, which “outfits the young at heart,” she says. The boutique carries Hobo leather handbags; July Blue jeans; Corky’s footwear; beautiful apparel, jewelry, Panther spirit gear; and more. “Our newest, popular items are our Bibles, devotionals, and coloring books for women and young ladies. We plan to carry more gift items outside the traditional clothing and spirit gear we currently have.”
Southern Savvy has been in business for over eight years. “We are constantly learning, growing, and striving to be a light in the community. Our website, ishopsouthern.com, gets traffic outside Arkansas and is crucial to our success, especially during COVID.” Ashton credits her employees, past
and present, for the boutique’s success. “I have had several wonderful young ladies work for me through the years and, honestly, I would not be where I am today without their help. They are the glue that holds my sanity together…They help with things going on with Myleigh Pearl, the chamber, Girl Scouts, custom shirts we create, the Miss Greenbrier Pageant, and more. If I’m involved with something, they are close by holding the fort down or helping create. I even had to call Abby, my queen bee, one night when we were short some volunteers at Glisten.”
Ashton says, “I’ll be the first to admit; it is hard to work for me. I’m all over the place with the million hats I wear, but I’ve found some good girls I trust. While impossible to name them all, three who have been assets are Haley (Goodrich) Strough, Kristin (Miller) Payne, and Abby Stephens. It’s like I’ve watched these ladies grow up through their high school years, and I send them off to get married. It’s bittersweet because I wish I could keep them forever. They are always considered ‘my girls.’”
Ashton encourages local residents to shop Southern Savvy first. “We also joke we are the loudest Panther fans in the stands and appreciate everyone who shops with us for their spirit gear.” The store makes jerseys and custom bulk orders for businesses. Southern Savvy also gives back to the community by holding an annual “Pop Up Prom Dress” sale, which is a financial help to many residents. “We also sponsor the Miss Greenbrier Pageant that helps provide $2,000 scholarships on top of our social
impact initiatives.” Ashton also serves as Myleigh-Pearl’s Girl Scout troop leader. “I’m in the inaugural class of the Women’s Leadership Network Academy. I serve on the Faulkner County Fair Board, the Natural Resources Board, Greenbrier Area Arts Council, and I am the Miss Greenbrier Pageant Director.”
Ashton’s husband, Lane, runs Pruitt’s Mid State Stockyards, for which Ashton serves as “100 percent the silent boss. I’m my husband’s cheerleader, and I try to stay out of the way, honestly…Lane was chosen for Arkansas Business Top 40 Under 40. He is an extremely hard worker and provides for our family immensely, so I can do the things I enjoy and focus on making the community better. Lane is one of the last real ‘cowboys’ locally working to improve the agriculture and cattle industry one herd at a time. I do enjoy going with him to farms to pick up cattle when he hauls them to the sale.”
Despite her busy schedule, Ashton always makes time to root for Myleigh-Pearl. “She does competitive dance with Greenbrier Dance Academy and competes in national level glitz pageants. Nothing makes me more excited than seeing her on stage or just living her best life…I love pouring into her and making amazing memories.”
Ashton adds, “I’m one of the lucky ones who gets to do what makes me so happy. Bringing the community together and improving the quality of life for our town is God using me for His good. The impact this position has is far beyond my dreams.” fl
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