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Pleasant Ridge puzzle 

Sale of Parisian chain raises questions about new site.

click to enlarge CAN YOU KEEP THEM:
  • CAN YOU KEEP THEM:

Alas, poor Parisian, we hardly knew ye.

Well, that’s not entirely true, in my case. I lived in a city with a Parisian for two years earlier this decade, and I loved the store. I couldn’t have been more excited when I found out we’d be getting one in October at the new Pleasant Ridge Towne Center. Then the rumors started circulating that Saks, Parisian’s parent company, wanted to sell off the chain. And finally, the horrible news that the purchaser would be … Belk?

I’ve been in plenty of Belk stores too, and well, I wouldn’t put them in the same league as Parisian. I’m not being snobby here — every price point has its place, and God knows I spend enough time and money at Kohl’s and Target. Which is exactly why I was so happy the new addition to Little Rock’s department store scene was going to be toward the higher end of the scale. Everybody puts stuff on sale eventually.

According to statements from Belk, Parisian stores will retain their name for a while, but all should be converted to Belks by fall 2007.

Maybe it won’t be so bad. I couldn’t get Belk’s spokesman on the phone before deadline, but the chain’s officials have said they tailor each store to its community’s specific wants and needs, so maybe the Pleasant Ridge Towne Center location, near so many high-income West Little Rock neighborhoods, will land us a Belk more like its flagship store in Charlotte, N.C., than the one in, say, Conway. That wouldn’t be bad at all — descriptions in online news articles made it clear the Charlotte store has no shortage of high-end designers and amenities. So I’m not particularly hopeful, but all is not quite yet lost.

The other part of the equation is, of course, what the change will mean in terms of what other tenants will be attracted to Pleasant Ridge Towne Center now that they’ll be sitting next to a Belk rather than a Parisian. Who knows? Warren’s Shoes, the women’s fashion shoe chain with stores around Arkansas, will be opening by March (its McCain Mall store is staying open as well), and plumbing permits have been filed for Indigo Home (modern home furnishings store based in Arizona), Strasburg Children (formalwear for young ’uns), Glo Limited (upscale skin care/bath and beauty products store based in Fayetteville) and Beyond Cotton, which is opening a second store in Pleasant Ridge. I’ll count on nothing, however, until the doors are open.

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Speaking of plumbing permits, one has been filed for another store at Midtowne Little Rock: Francesca’s Collections, a women’s clothing and accessories chain based in Houston (there’s a location in Jonesboro too, at the Mall at Turtlecreek). It advertises itself as having boutique fashions without the boutique price, and judging from its website, that’s pretty accurate. There wasn’t much that was more than $40, including dresses. Should be a nice addition.

Rumors are also going around that a couple of boutiques in the Heights will be opening second locations in Midtowne as well. (And have I mentioned the Ann Taylor Loft yet? I dropped by a Loft store out of state last weekend — GREAT sales. Three tops and a dress for $58, including tax. If you don’t know this chain, it’s got styles similar to Ann Taylor, but at more affordable prices. Really, it’s just about perfect.)

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Those of you who make the charity-ball circuit will be interested in Barbara/Jean’s “Shop Your Cause Black Tie Week,” a showcase of eveningwear designers. Shoppers can choose to have a portion of what they spend donated to one of five charities.


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