I visited this week with longtime Newton County Chamber volunteer and board member Sandy Swayne of Red Rock Retreat. Sandy shared with me her unique story of how she landed in Newton County the same year as the Buffalo National River.
Sandy came from Illinois near the Mississippi River. While her initial plan was to teach, when a job on a river boat came along, she took it. That turned out to be a pretty good decision, as that is where Sandy met Captain Horst “Kraut” Graalmann who would become her husband. When he proposed Sandy said, “You’re going to have to buy me a farm in Arkansas”. They did land in Arkansas, Sandy worked on the Mississippi River boats another five years and Kraut continued working another 20 years as a Captain before coming home to stay and starting Red Rock Construction.
Sandy had visited the area as a child with her family on vacations and fallen in love with the beauty and peace of it. When the couple first arrived, she co-owned the Circle 7 Riding Stables in Jasper on what is the old fairgrounds. She soon started raising the famous dancing horse breed Lipizzans. Sandy sold the high-end breed to many buyers across the county including the circus. When a local log cabin home representative proposed a “horse trade” Sandy was all in, and Red Rock Retreat was born.
The cabin is nestled in the Arkansas Grand Canyon beneath an incredible view of Red Rock Point and because of that Sandy decided to name the cabin for the Red Rock Community. Kraut and friends set to work getting the cabin dried in and Sandy took over the interior. She learned to build cabinets and do rock work. She built the fireplace herself and admitted somedays the most important thing to do was to walk the creek looking for the perfect rock she needed. The result is truly a work of art. That is what happens when you pour your heart and soul into something.
The plan wasn’t to rent the cabin initially, but once the decision was made marketing was hardly an issue. Sandy had no problem operating on “overflow” and she was soon able to capitalize on the then new-fangled internet. As a result of demand, she now owns two more beautiful cabins in the valley.
Sandy does the landscaping and rock work herself and says many times her guests just want to sit outside and listen to the birds. “There are still trees here” she says. Sandy’s horses are never far away and guests often offer them carrots and apples. There are more tourists now, more demand, Sandy says, but that is really all that has changed. The things that first drew her family here all those years ago, are still the main attraction.
Sandy lost her beloved partner and husband last year. This will be her second season without him. Sandy is pillar and a great example. It is important to her to be active in, and give back to her community. She has done that. She has been involved with the chamber for more years than she can remember, and I for one am grateful and thankful for her experience, patience and willingness to share her wisdom and ideas. Thank you Sandy.
All the information you need to spend some time at Red Rock Retreat : https://www.ozarkcabins.com/redrockretreat/