BY JACLYN ROSE –
Michelle Cole is a long time resident of Polk County, whose family moved to Mena when she was four. A 1984 graduate of Mena High School she married her husband, Steve Cole, that same year.
Cole went on to x-ray school and began working for Mena Regional Health Systems (MRHS) in 1986. She continued her education and became the first female Radiology Practitioner Assistant (RPA) in the state of Arkansas. After working at MRHS for many years she began teaching at University of Arkansas in Fort Smith, but after four years of commuting Cole was ready to be home. “In 2011, I started working weekends in Sallisaw which left me at home during the week. For the first time I was free to take the Master Gardeners Class and get involved with the Master Gardeners, which I love,” explained Cole.
Always interested in gardening the Master Gardeners Class opened up new doors and ideas for Cole and she quickly saw the need for a local garden center. “A lot of local people would prefer to purchase their plants locally instead of driving out of town, so I saw a great opportunity to do what I love and help the local economy,” said Cole.
In April of 2014, Cole began The Happy Gnome, a garden center that specializes in annuals, perennials, shrubs and trees. Though still new to the industry, Cole has an impressive assortment of beautiful plants for sale.
The Happy Gnome, which received its name because a friend, remarking on Cole’s love of gardening and small stature, told her that she was just a little garden gnome, is located at 135 Polk Road 616, off of Ransom Road and can be reached by calling 479.394.5134. They will remain open all year with different events planned for the different seasons.
The Happy Gnome has wonderful plans for expansion over the coming years, with vegetable plants hopefully to come in the next year, with the addition of Cole’s greenhouse and exciting workshops on wreath and outdoor décor making coming soon. Cole also plans to carry more than plants with supplies for gardeners and gardening gifts on the horizon. “I want to have plants in my landscape that are in the ground and growing so that customers can see first hand what they will look like in the ground. I can also help customers understand better how to care for those plants and they can decide what will be good for their own landscapes,” explained Cole. “Customers are also welcome to bring their own pots with them and we can create their personalized arrangements.”
“I love Polk County. It’s my home and the people are just fantastic. Everyone has been so supportive and they all wish me well. The community is just wonderful and I love it here,” said Cole.