There are a few Arkansas institutions that a person simply must experience to fully understand what this great state is all about. And on that distinguished list, Mack’s Prairie Wings, built into landmark status by President and CEO Marion McCollum, holds a place of particular distinction.
Swing by in late fall – the mammoth mallard statue out front lets you know where you are – and marvel at the points of origin of the many vehicles jamming the parking lot. Inside, a sea of people clamor for their hunting necessities, from ammo to camo and everything in between. The company’s trademark feather insignia is everywhere, the unofficial seal of the season.
Mack’s is the crowning achievement of the McCollum family, whose history runs for generations on the Grand Prairie. Starting as an adjunct of a humble hardware store in the 1930s on Stuttgart’s Main Street, the business’ seasonal sporting goods inventory grew into one of the first full-time sporting goods operations on record, Mack’s Sports Shop, in 1944.
M.T. McCollum, Jr., better known as Marion, joined the business with his father M.T. “Mack” McCollum when the business relocated to a 3,200-SF building on Highway 79 that would transcend its expansive hunting and fishing inventory to become a tourist destination for hunters and non-hunters alike.
Adding mail order in 1993 further stoked the fires of growth and the store ballooned to 18,000 SF. In just seven years, sales growth demanded even more space, and a new Mack’s Prairie Wings met the 2000 duck season with a 55,000-SF location on U.S. Highway 63.
As massive as that must have felt, it was only about half of what Mack’s would become. Now with 104,000 SF of space – 32,000 of it retail showroom – millions of catalogs sent every year and untold numbers of online shoppers, the store has justly been dubbed the Waterfowl Mecca in the heart of the Rice and Duck Capital of the World. In fact, Winchester Ammunition has honored Mack’s Prairie Wings as the No. 1 steel shot dealer in the world for 18 consecutive years.
As expansive as the company’s reach has become, it has avoided entirely the impersonal feel of the outdoor superstore chains. Employees with decades of tenure under their belts are not at all uncommon there, people who know and love the Arkansas outdoors as much as the waves of customers who come the through the front door every day.
Mack’s is still the kind of place where an up-and-comer can get an audience with the head man himself to pitch a new product, as happened 30 years ago with local duck calling hero and longtime friend Butch Rickenbach.
The late Champion of Champions winner had just rolled out his first duck call and with McCollum as his inaugural customer, Rich-N-Tone quickly grew into a major player in duck calls, opening a factory right next door to Mack’s.
Like the generations before him, McCollum’s substantial contributions to habitat conservation and promotion of shooting sports so vital to the local and state economy went well beyond his business interests.
From 1995 to 2002, he served as a commissioner with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission – including as its chairman in 2002. It was a particularly important period for the commission as a conservation sales tax had just passed at the polls and it was up to McCollum and his fellow commissioners to determine the best use of the funds.
Among those first accomplishments were acquisition of what is now Rick Evans Grandview Prairieview Management Area and Conservation Center west of Hope and increasing the number of wildlife officers to at least two for every county in the state.
McCollum is also a lifetime member of Ducks Unlimited,Waterfowl USA and Delta Waterfowl. He is currently on the Board of the Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation, the fundraising arm of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, and participates in many activities that teach the boys and girls of today about hunting and fishing.
McCollum has been recognized with induction into the Legends of the Outdoors National Hall of Fame in 2007, the Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation Outdoor Hall of Fame in 2008 and received the Jerry Jones Sportsman’s Award by Little Rock Ducks Unlimited in 2010.