The Arkansas waterfowling community suffered a significant loss when Mack’s Prairie Wings president and CEO Marion McCollum died suddenly in early summer.
McCollum, 81, was a Stuttgart native and a commissioner and former chairman with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission from 1995-2002. He was inducted into the Arkansas Outdoor Hall of Fame in 2008 and, in 2020, became only the second person honored with the Winchester Legend Award from the noted firearms maker.
From its founding in Stuttgart by M.T. “Mack” McCollum, Marion’s father, in 1944, Mack’s became a nationally known waterfowler outfitter with a global reach, a Stuttgart institution and a go-to destination for wildlife enthusiasts frequenting the area renowned for its duck hunting.
Marion McCollum joined Mack’s in 1961 and helped grow it from Mack’s Sports Shop into Mack’s Prairie Wings. The store now stands at 102,000-SF and is known as “America’s Premier Waterfowl Outfitter.”
Mack’s Executive Vice President Chuck Lock recalled going to work at the store as a 15-year-old in 1975. Even then, the business and McCollum were well known, Lock said.
“My dad was an avid hunter and fisherman and I would go with my dad to the store and I just thought ‘Wow.’ Working at a sporting goods store just seemed like a dream job to me,” said Lock, who noted that McCollum had a vision for Mack’s that never wavered.
“[He said] ‘We don’t sell bread and milk here, we sell fun. And it’s our job that that person that shops with us has a fun experience here in the store and that experience goes out to the field as well,’ ” Lock said.
While the Stuttgart region had long been regarded as one of the nation’s premier duck hunting destinations, Lock said Mack’s nonetheless helped to enhance the area’s profile.
A major development was when the store began its mail order business in 1992, sending its apparel and brochures far and wide. In 2002, the store mailed out 2.4 million catalogs.
“Everybody came to Stuttgart that duck hunted always went to Mack’s sports shop,” Lock said. “But when we started the mail order business and started putting out a catalog — Stuttgart had always been a destination, but we romanced that destination.”
Among the merchandise sold at Mack’s were Rich-N-Tone duck calls. Jim Ronquest, with Stuttgart-based Rich-N-Tone for more than 25 years before moving to Drake Waterfowl Systems as a vice president, remembered McCollum for his warmth toward people.
“Every time you saw him he would brighen you up. When you shook Marion’s hand you’d better get ready,” Ronquest said. “Marion always had a smile on his face, always was quick to shake your hand and ask how you’re doing.”
McCollum was known for the generosity he showed to his employees and his local and outdoor communities, not just with money but with his time.
“He was the guy that, you know, I didn’t get to hunt with him near as much as I would have wanted to,” Lock said, “I didn’t get to fish with him near as much as I would have wanted to. But when we were hunting, the other person took the shot. When we were fishing, you always put [your line] in the hole first.”
McCollum’s generosity extended to his support of the Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation as well as the AGFC, and he was a backer of the foundation’s Arkansas Youth Shooting Sports Program. McCollum’s family, in fact, asked that in lieu of flowers, memorial donations go to the First Methodist Church in Stuttgart or the Marion McCollum Endowment Fund at the foundation to support the AYSSP.
“He was really, really passionate about youth shooting sports,” Lock said. “Really involved with the Game and Fish Foundation in launching that. Working with the guys in the Game and Fish Foundation and the guys at Jacksonville to put the shooting sports complex there.”