A new fund has been established in the name of local entrepreneur Maxine Miller, the late proprietor of long-standing local watering hole, Maxine’s Tap Room.
The Maxine Miller Legacy Fund is a legacy endowment created to help support students in the University of Arkansas’ Gender Studies Program to help with scholarships, expenses and more.
The fund was created through a partnership with Andrea Foren, Maxine’s grandniece who took over the bar when she passed away, along with current Maxine’s caretaker Hannah Withers and UA Gender Studies professor Lisa Corrigan.
Corrigan approached the others about the idea as a way to honor the legacy of one of Fayetteville’s most well-known, and beloved local entrepreneurs.
“I was lucky enough to meet Maxine after I first moved to Fayetteville, and it was clear that she was a pioneering businesswoman who poured herself into her namesake bar and the community that she loved,” Corrigan said. “In the nearly 20 years I have lived in Fayetteville, I have heard hundreds of stories from community members about how important Maxine was to them and how many of their favorite memories occurred at Maxine’s. Because Fayetteville loved Maxine so much, I’m delighted that this namesake endowment will carry on her legacy of generosity to all and will reflect her love of the University of Arkansas.”
Foren took over the bar after Maxine’s death in 2006 before turning over the day-to-day reigns of the company to Withers and her husband Ben Gitchel in 2013. Foren said she couldn’t think of a better way to honor her great aunt’s memory.
“I am so thankful and humbled by this partnership,” Foren said. “Maxine’s has always been more than just a great place to get a drink with friends. For 72 years it has also been about friendship, tradition, and giving back to the community.”
Maxine Miller opened Maxine’s Taproom on March 18, 1950, the day after St. Patrick’s Day, when she was just just 24 years old.
She borrowed money to open the business from her parents, and it was so successful early on that she was able to pay back that loan within a year.
“She was so young, and there weren’t a lot of women-owned businesses back then,” Foren said. “It’s pretty crazy what she was able to do.”
Once the bar opened, it quickly found favor with working-class folks in Fayetteville.
“Back in the 50s and early 60s, when Maxine’s was a basically a white wooden shotgun shack and the beer was 20 cents, the clientele was more downscale,” a Flyer reader and former patron who remembered the bar’s early days once said in a comment. “Mostly guys dressed in coveralls who worked with their hands or, in the morning, Social Security recipients, glad for a convivial spot to relax and yak.”
Over time, though, the bar evolved, and the clientele changed with it. Famously, Miller developed a penchant for hiring players from the Razorback football team to tend bar, and to help out when things got a little out of hand with patrons who’d had a pitcher or two too many.
That helped her tap into a college-aged crowd that propelled the bar to even more success.
Maxine’s relationship with students, Foren said, make this an even more perfect fit.
“This legacy fund captures Maxine’s care and passion for Fayetteville and the University of Arkansas and it will help students achieve their educational goals,” she said. Over the years, I saw how Maxine cared for students and how much she supported them through their educational journeys. I have no doubt this would make her extremely proud and honored.”
The fund will support students in various ways, including scholarships, conference travel, and research support.
Maxine’s Tap Room turned 70 during the pandemic, and is set to celebrate its 75th year in business in 2025.
Withers said she is excited to see Maxine’s legacy honored beyond the walls of the bar on Block Avenue. In addition to the fund, the group is also working on a Maxine Miller archive at the UA for photos and artifacts from one of Fayetteville’s longest-running local businesses.
“We’ve always believed that Maxine’s is much more than a bar, and much more than just a small business,” Withers said. “It is a cornerstone of our community that has seen so many evolutions of Fayetteville, and has served as a place to celebrate, cry, dance, do business, gather, and build relationships. We are so excited to see this come to fruition, and we can’t think of a better way to honor Maxine’s contributions to Fayetteville.”
The first fundraiser for the endowment will take place next month, when the 9th annual Nog Off egg nog competition returns to Maxine’s before the holidays on Dec. 4.
Those who’d like to contribute to the endowment to honor Maxine’s memory may do so online here, by calling 479-575-3712, or by mailing a check to The University of Arkansas Foundation, Inc. (write Maxine Miller on the memo line), and mail it to:
Office of Development,
1 University of Arkansas,
525 Old Main,
Fayetteville, AR, 72701