Big box and department stores abound (Arkansas is, after all, the home to flagship retailers Walmart and Dillard's), but independent and specialty shops also thrive. The Promenade at Chenal in West Little Rock made the biggest retail news, with the opening of the Apple Store, J. Crew and Nike; under construction at the Park Avenue shopping center in Midtown, where Target and Cheddar's Casual Cafe are located, scheduled to open in 2012 are Staples and Carter's children's clothing. A wrap-up of the best local shopping follows. We begin our journey in downtown Little Rock and work our way west, then travel across the river to North Little Rock.
Shops dot the River Market district along President Clinton Avenue. Here are some highlights:
The Heifer Village gift shop, located in the educational center on the grounds of Heifer International next to the Clinton Presidential Center, offers cool, socially responsible products, including educational toys, children's books, videos, world handicrafts, pottery, baskets, honey, chocolate, coffee and Heifer International logo items like T-shirts, lapel pins and coffee mugs.
Buy ethically sourced, artisanal products from Ten Thousand Villages, 305 President Clinton Ave., and the Clinton Museum Store, 610 Clinton, which continues to expand its collection of gifts, art, clothing and Clinton memorabilia. Managed by Connie Fails, whose own eponymous store was the go-to boutique in the '80s and '90s and a Hillary fave, the store has become a place for gifts you just won't find elsewhere (including bi-partisan coffee mugs).
The Cox Creative Center also has really fun gifts, including products from the hip line Kikkerland. From amusing magnets to bags and notebooks, there's always something eye-catching. Not to mention all the great, gently used books.
Tucked away in the Arkansas Studies Institute are the Butler Center Galleries, which include a retail gallery featuring the work of Arkansas artists and art related to the state. You'll find textiles, jewelry, ceramics, paintings and retro cool desk chairs and beautifully crafted tables by Tommy Farrell.
Main Street and more
The Green Corner Store, 1423 D Main St., is part of the SOMA (Southside Main Street Project) revival and bills itself as Arkansas's First Eco Lifestyle Store. It features a collection of quality goods for healthy, creative and earth-friendly living, including apparel and accessories for men, women and children; home and garden décor; kitchen, personal care and pet products; seasonal gifts and foods; and hand-crafted creations by local artisans.
As it has for decades, Bennett's Military Supplies, 302 Main, continues to meet all your camping, ammo and camo needs. For hipsters, it's the best place to buy combat boots and canvas military bags that double as purses or satchels and can be embellished to suit the stylish.
The Dreamweavers outlet on 1201 Spring St. is only open every second Saturday, but it's worth the wait if you're shopping for imported throws, rugs and pillows. If you can overlook some of the gaudy merchandise and a faint odor of fur, treasures await.
The Arkansas Arts Center Museum Shop in MacArthur Park offers unique presents with an artsy twist. It sells glass works, jewelry and gift items, as well as merchandise that ties into the museum's current exhibit. Great kids' section, too!
Midtowne Little Rock is an open-air "lifestyle center" with a variety of upscale national retailers, including houseware stores Pottery Barn and Williams-Sonoma, women's clothing stores Chico's, White House|Black Market, J. Jill, Francesca's Collections, Ann Taylor Loft; bridal boutique Alfred Angelo; men's stores JoS A. Bank Clothier and Evolve (moving in February to a new location); jeweler James Avery, and children's clothiers The Children's Place and Justice Just for Girls. Also in residence, Brighton Collectibles, an accessories store that carries belts, handbags, watches, wallets and much more, and The Container Store, where dreams of getting organized do come true. After a bit of vigorous shopping, you can head over for some tableside guacamole and a top-shelf margarita at Cantina Laredo, or grab some chicken lettuce wraps and tasty iced tea from Pei Wei.