'The Martha Stewart of the South' | Arkansas Blog

Thursday, August 5, 2010

'The Martha Stewart of the South'

Posted By on Thu, Aug 5, 2010 at 7:07 AM

That powerful headline appears on a New York Times feature today on P. Allen Smith. He may be a few million short of being there so far (not to mention no time in stir), but that's a pretty strong endorsement in an influential newspaper as well as an informative read on Smith's growing empire. Arkansas itself gets a plug.

“He comes across as someone we could relate to,” said Yingling Dewitt, who along with his wife, Debbie, watches Mr. Smith’s national public television series, “P. Allen Smith’s Garden Home.” “It’s kind of like talking to your neighbor who can tell you what’s working for him and what isn’t.”

Yet despite the quarter-million gardening books in print, two TV shows and 100,000 e-newsletter subscribers, the name P. Allen Smith can draw a blank among a certain slice of the garden and design crowd.

“Don’t you think if he had moved to the Hamptons or Napa he would have had a different career path?” asked Lauren Shakely, senior vice president and publisher at Clarkson Potter, who signed the self-described hillbilly boy to a contract that has now run to six books and made him the company’s star gardening author.

But Mr. Smith, nearing 50 and about to introduce a line of products and his first cookbook, will never leave Arkansas. Although his brand is carefully designed to be universal and accessible no matter where his customers might live, Arkansas is the well from which he draws his inspiration and his power.

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