Bye-bye, Wild Oats 

Hello Whole Foods.

click to enlarge TOM'S SHOES: Buy one pair, a needy child gets another.
  • TOM'S SHOES: Buy one pair, a needy child gets another.

It's been awhile since I knew with any certainty what to call the organic/natural foods grocery store at 10700 N. Rodney Parham. Wild Oats? Whole Foods? Closed?

That confusion will be resolved, at least superficially, on Wednesday, Sept. 3, when what has been Wild Oats for lo these many years will officially become Whole Foods. (And no, it won't be moving to Midtowne.) Whole Foods brand products have been for sale inside, but the Wild Oats sign has remained until now.

Just as soon as it's up, the sign may have to come down again. A U.S. appeals court recently reopened the monopoly claim the Federal Trade Commission pursued soon after the merger was announced last year. Anti-trust experts have said that while undoing the deal would be difficult, it wouldn't be impossible. There's no immediate timetable for the federal district court to rule on the case.

Undeterred, on Wednesday, Whole Foods will offer all-day grand opening celebration with fun, “foodie festivities,” cooking demonstrations, live music and tastings, starting with a traditional bread-breaking ceremony at 7:45 a.m. The first 300 customers to check out get a free gift.

And if the food isn't enough of a draw, there'll be a fashion show as well, at 4 p.m. It'll include some of the sustainable and organic clothing from Whole Foods, as well as new fall arrivals from neighboring boutique Beyond Cotton.

So what about this sustainable and organic clothing business? Well, you won't find much that's appropriate for the office - other than the undies, of course - but there are some cute little flowy hippie skirts and T-shirts, as well as socks and a few baby onesies.

And if your inner do-gooder needs some retail therapy, check out the rack of Tom's Shoes. They're made from hemp, comfy-looking, sort of like loafer-style slippers, cost $50, and come in men's and women's sizes. And for every pair the company sells, they promise to give a pair to a needy child. A slightly less expensive option: Buy a $30 FEED cloth shopping bag, and a portion of the proceeds go to fight hunger.

Overall, the change from Wild Oats to Whole Foods seems to mean  - at least for the non-food section, which is what I focused on  - some of the same categories of products, but different brands, as well as some products that I don't remember Wild Oats emphasizing as much. Seems like there aren't as many cosmetics lines, but there's a selection of kitchen gadgets now, for instance.

At any rate, definitely worth stopping by if you can make it on a Wednesday. If you can't, head over between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Saturday, when they grill out front and have a massage therapist and live music inside. (The day I went the music was from a guy playing some great old-timey bluegrass. I don't know who he is, but it'd be worth the trip out there just to hear him.)


Other stuff:

· I stuck my head in Beyond Cotton while I was out that way. This is the store's original location, and where they're now emphasizing their looser, more forgiving clothing. Lots of cotton and linen and flax. You can't help but relax as you browse. Even more so because there's a ton of stuff on clearance right now, some of it up to 75 percent off.

· Look for a new, larger Lads and Ladybugs to open in a week or two just a block down the street from the store's now-former location at 3225 JFK Blvd. in North Little Rock. The boutique carries high-end clothing for babies and toddlers, cribs and bedding, toys and other baby-related items. The best news: The new store will carry an expanded selection of Melissa & Doug toys. The original store had more choices than I'd seen just about anywhere else in the area, too. If you're not familiar, Melissa & Doug is a line of very cool, mostly wooden toys that are made with non-toxic materials. No worries about lead in the paint or chemicals off-gassing from plastic. The prices are right, too ¾ plenty under $10, and almost all under $20. I got a set of wooden vehicles for my own munchkin, plus a set of construction-vehicle puzzles, a decorate-your-own princess mirror kit, and a set of color-your-own wooden fashion dolls for various nieces and nephews with upcoming birthdays. 

· A couple more stores are open at the Promenade at Chenal - Aeropostale opened Aug. 22 and Coldwater Creek was scheduled to open Thursday, Aug. 28. Great pairing -  Mom can hit one, kids can hit the other. Both are holding drawings for shopping sprees. A third store, Just Dogs! Gourmet -  fancy treats for Fido  - is set to open Sept. 6.


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