It doesn't get any better than this  

Readers pick the Best of Arkansas. 

Arkansas Times readers (and a few ringers, more about which in a minute) have spoken.

This week, we announce the winners of our annual Best of Arkansas contest.

It's a simple business. We publish ballots in two issues of the Times. The ballots cover dozens of categories, from goods and services to personalities to food.

Then a battle-tested group counts the thousands of votes that are submitted. In the process, many ballots are tossed. We discourage multiple entries and ballot box-stuffing schemes, and when they are detected, our judges can be ruthless. No doubt, a few still slip by. Try as we might to discourage the practice, we're sure some ballots have been distributed to people who are not normally readers. We ruthlessly pitch out ballots when we sniff foul play and employ other means to beat ballot riggers.

To those who might have evaded our net, we invoke the immortal words of our fourth-grade teacher: "Cheaters just cheat themselves. What's a good grade worth if you get it by cheating?"

Many of the winners are familiar. But, as you'll see, the old order changed dramatically in some categories. On with the results, with the annual reminder that even an honorable mention is very honorable indeed:




PARK PLAZA. The handy, still shiny and easy-to-use upscale mall remains an easy winner over a much larger competitor in North Little Rock, even as it tries to scuttle a potential new challenger in the planned Summit Mall.

RUNNERS-UP: McCain Mall, the Heights, the Wal-Mart/Sam's combo on Bowman Road.


KROGER (chain) and BRANNON'S MARKET (independent). The market leader, with its numerous stores, was a runaway winner overall, but a new face emerged on top in the independent category, Chenal Valley's fancy foods stop, with its vast selection of freshly baked goods, fancy cheeses, gourmet-to-go, specialty meat and seafood and packaged luxuries.

RUNNERS-UP: Hestand's in the Heights, Beans, Terry's.


FABULOUS FINDS. Fans of the collection of individual antique dealers weren't deterred by the old favorite's move to a new location on Cantrell Road. It still finished well in front of the pack.

RUNNERS-UP: Morris Antiques of Keo, Lady I's Specialty Shoppe, I-40 Antique Center.


HAVERTY'S. Always a bridesmaid in previous years, the Little Rock outlet of an old-line national chain edged out Little Rock's big independent this year for the first time.

RUNNERS-UP: Brandon House, Hank's, Nichols Furniture.


BEST BUY. Yeah, yeah. What are records? The voters knew what we meant. And most of them still favor the big selection at the big box.

RUNNERS-UP: Barnes and Noble, Been Around Records, Hastings Books, Music and Video of Conway.


DILLARD'S. The department store chain with its vast inventory (sometimes even on sale these days) is a comfortable winner again, but our second-place finisher showed a strong and loyal following.

RUNNERS-UP: Shoe Connection, Payless Shoesource, Shoe Carnival of North Little Rock.


BLOCKBUSTER. Yawn. The megachain posts another easy victory, with a locally owned chain of friendly neighborhood stores coming next.

RUNNERS-UP: Family Video, Hollywood Video, Hastings Books, Music and Video of Conway.


BARNES AND NOBLE. Bigger is better again in books, or so the voters say. But we dare say the huge following of a small independent would argue to the last volume of Trollope on that.

RUNNERS-UP: Wordsworth, Books-a-Million, Waldenbooks.


DILLARD'S. There's a reason major department store chains won't venture into Little Rock to compete with this home-grown chain. It would take a huge investment to match the inventory of this deeply entrenched and hugely popular retailer.

RUNNERS-UP: Elle, New Traditions, B. Barnett.


DILLARD'S. Another year and another trifecta for the department store in our clothing and shoes categories. Again, however, some niche retailers enjoyed strong followings. But they couldn't beat the mass market appeal of Dillard's value-priced labels.


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