The Spa City beckons this time of year — the ponies are running, the botanical gardens are blooming, the National Park trails are looking good after months of dreary cold.
Unfortunately, the road to Hot Springs is paved with distractions. I’m talking about antiques stores, of course. Maybe a half dozen of them dot the I-30 frontage road between Little Rock and Benton. Let your eyes and your steering wheel veer off the interstate, and half your day will disappear before you even think to look at your watch.
If you want to make the rounds, exit I-30 just west of the intersection with I-430. You’ll drive a bit on the frontage road before you come to any actual shopping, but the road’s one way, so there’s no turning around if you’re still on the highway when you see a place you’d like to visit.
I started my venture off at New Day Junktiques, a place which I’ll admit looks a little frightening from the road. This is not the place for anyone prone to overstimulation: every single inch, inside and out, is piled several layers deep with everything from saggy (and, on a recent rainy day, soggy) jogging strollers to beautiful antique furniture and glassware. The sheer variety and quantity of merchandise make it a fun place to walk through — just don’t stick out your elbows very far, or you’re likely to knock something over. Fun stuff I saw: a giant metal Esso gas sign, not one but two suits of armor, several stoplights, and a complete set of Jadeite dishes. There’s a good selection of architectural salvage as well — wooden windows, cast-iron sinks and bathtubs, etc.
Next down the line is Blackwell Antiques, which looks interesting — lots of stained glass windows — but unfortunately was closed the day I went. (It’s open Thursday through Monday.)
I was luckier at Blue Suede Shoes, which has got to be the largest antique/flea market I have ever been in. You will think you’ve reached the end at least two times before you actually do. It’s not quite as overwhelming as New Day Junktiques, though — everything’s separated into individual booths, and there’s plenty of elbow room. But you could still spend a good two or three hours meandering through the aisles. This is the place to go if you’re into 1950s memorabilia — that’s not all they have by any stretch, but there’s plenty of it. Also Smurf figurines and a couple of gigantic Star Wars models (some kind of space ship and that big elephant-looking robot that the Storm Troopers ride in). My favorite, though, had to be the 14-inch-tall “Welcome Back Kotter” paper doll sets. That’s right, dress up Mr. Kot-tair and Vinnie Barbarino in all their favorite outfits. Hours of fun.
And if you need a break from old stuff, take a side trip to Express Yourself (611 Office Park Drive, Bryant), a small boutique that carries a wide variety of fun interior design accessories, a small selection of women’s clothing, and other odds and ends like stationery and costume jewelry.
n And now back to Little Rock:
• Smart Fitzjerrell, a new line of women’s clothing from Little Rock native Mary Kathryn Wells, now based in New York, will make its local debut at a party April 5 at Tallulah (5713 Kavanaugh). Wells learned to sew from her grandmother, and according to the Smart Fitzjerrell web site (www.smartfitzjerrell.com), her designs are about “good-humored style that breaks the rules of convention and still looks invariably polished.”
• The Handworks Gallery (2911 Kavanaugh) is having an inventory clearance sale, with major discounts on a pretty big selection of yarns.
• Great deals to be had at Parisian’s next charity sale, 6-10 a.m. March 24. Buy a $5 ticket from a participating charity and you get a booklet with savings of 10 percent to 50 percent off rarely discounted brands, plus $5 off your first purchase. For a complete list of participating charities, call 907-6200 ext. 310.