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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.
Across the street, Dillard's department store anchors the Park Plaza mall, where more than 80 smaller national retailers, including Ann Taylor, shoeWoo, Talbots, Eddie Bauer and the Gap, are also located. Much to the delight of the young and trendy, there's also a Forever XXI on the mall's lower level. Sephora, your one-stop shop for top-of-the-line beauty products, has a full store in the mall (a smaller Sephora is located within JC Penny's at Shackelford Crossing).
The Target store is the anchor for future Park Avenue mixed-use development. The layout is identical to the Target store out west lest one gets confused.
Head farther south and you'll find Hogman's Hog Pen, 1818 S. University, the place that meets all of your Razorback-related needs, from birdhouses to the boardgame Hogopoly. It's worth the trip just to catch a glimpse of the store's hog mascot, who can sometimes be spotted out on his daily constitutional.
For those who enjoy rummaging around and the thrill of a unique discovery, Mid-towne Antique Mall, at the corner of Markham and North Rodney Parham Road, is just the ticket. Head further west to 10720 Rodney Parham, and you'll discover the best kids' shoe store in the city, Heel to Toe. It has brands you won't see other places and a friendly, knowledgeable staff. For the guys, there's Greenhaw's Fine Men's Wear located at 10301 N. Rodney Parham Road.
Head west on Cantrell Road to find upscale shopping at Barbara Jean Ltd. (7811 Cantrell), and the stores of Pavilion in the Park, including Bauman's Fine Men's Clothing and B. Barnett (8201 Cantrell).
Pleasant Ridge Town Center, just west of Interstate 430 on Cantrell, has developed into a magnet for locally-owned boutiques. Along with the anchor, North Carolina-based Belk, are the following shops, though this is not a comprehensive list: Scarlet, Thread, Beyond Cotton, Roberson's Fine Jewelry, Vesta's, Faux Pas, Forsythe's, Kitchen Co., Jeante, Moda (under new ownership), Kristin Todd (women's clothes, jewelry, some home stuff); Glo Limited (beauty products); The Toggery (kids' clothier) and Tuck and Cover (children's furniture and decor); Cobblestone & Vine and Coming Home (home decor); and Solemates and Warren's (shoes and handbags). Please note: the Beyond Cotton in this location, though under the same ownership, is distinctly different from the one on Rodney Parham, next to Whole Foods. That one is geared more toward an older demographic that loves forgiving linen outfits and labels like Flax. The one in Pleasant Ridge is for the younger, edgier shopper.
Even farther out Cantrell, you'll find Companions (14810 Cantrell), which carries some labels hard to find elsewhere, and some staples like Velvet. This store successfully bridges the age divide, offering something for everyone. Though the loud techno being played over the stereo is off-putting, furniture store I.O. Metro (12911 Cantrell) offers contemporary pieces with an ethnic flair.
Shackleford Crossing, at the intersection of Shackleford Road and Interstate 430, includes Babies R Us, golf emporium Edwin Watts and J.C. Penney.
Little Rock's newest shopping center, The Promenade at Chenal near Rahling Road, is a village-style development with retailers like Ann Taylor LOFT, DSW shoes; Justice, Kay Jewelers, Aeropostale, Coldwater Creek, Destination Maternity, Just Dogs! Gourmet, Sunglass Station, RK Collections and Anthropologie. New additions that have generated excitement are J. Crew, Nike and the Apple Store. Kenneth Edwards Fine Jewelers opened a new location there at the end of November, and Francesca's Collection will open soon.
For big-box shopping, Markham Street, Bowman Road and Chenal Parkway are the streets to remember: There you'll find Barnes and Noble, Toys R Us, Target, Old Navy, Home Depot, Best Buy, Bed, Bath & Beyond, Home Depot and more. For those in search of discounts (who don't mind digging), a Ross Dress for Less (an alternative to TJ Maxx) opened on Markham a few months back.
Heights and Hillcrest
The Heights and Hillcrest neighborhoods are home to a variety of smaller stores, mostly on Kavanaugh Boulevard, making it easy to navigate — and support locally owned businesses.
Park Hill Home offers antique reproductions and home accessories with a country feel. The original location is in the Park Hill neighborhood of North Little Rock; the Little Rock shop is at 3001 Kavanaugh, across from Acadia Restaurant.
Box Turtle (2616 Kavanaugh) carries clothes by local designers, most notably Korto Momolu, a finalist on the hit show "Project Runway," and home accessories and jewelry you won't find elsewhere. Box Turtle is the go-to gift shop in this town. Downstairs find Cheeky Marshmallow, a toy and candy store that will delight kids and adults alike.
How eclectic is this neighborhood? Check out the offerings: antique stores (Kahler-Payne Antiques, Shoppes at Woodlawn and others), clothing and furniture (Haus Werk), fine art (Gallery 26 and Hillcrest Gallery Inc.) and coffee and coffee accoutrements (River City Gift Co.). The Freckled Frog, located within River City Gift Co. offers products for the hippie-go-lucky set — locally made goods, jewelry, coasters and the like. Clement and Sweet Home, purveyors of super cool, unique vintage and antique accessories and furniture for the home, are two separate stores that seamlessly share space. This place would be a mega hit in bigger city like New York or L.A.; out-of-towners have been known to swoon upon entering. Newcomer Vintage Socialite next to Pulaski Heights Realty sells (mostly) vintage clothing, jewelry and home accessories.
The independent bookstore lives!
WordsWorth Books and Co. is nestled between the venerable men's clothing store Mr. Wick's and the venerable toy store Heights Toy Center in the little shopping center at 5924 R St. Longtime children's clothier The Toggery is right across the street (another location exists at Pleasant Ridge). Eggshells Kitchen Co., at 5501 Kavanaugh Blvd., is a locally owned "toy store for foodies." For more traditional, subdued home decor, there's Cobblestone and Vine (5100 Kavanaugh); for on-trend mom and baby clothing Tulips (5817 Kavanaugh). Feinstein's (5600 Kavanaugh), Kristin Chase (5008 Kavanaugh) and New Traditions (1920 Grant St.) offer upscale women's clothing; for younger, hipper styles head to Ember (5709 Kavanaugh) and Proposals (5013 Kavanaugh) for formal. Now under new ownership, Proposals has expanded its offerings and has gotten considerably more fashionable. Find fine linens at Yves Delorme (5717 Kavanaugh) and more formal, traditional, European home decor at Dauphine (now on R St.) Ellen Golden's Antiques is located behind a New Orleans-like storefront at the corner of Kavanaugh and North Fillmore. A block east, Bella Boutique offers fine linens and luxurious beauty products at 5623 Kavanaugh. Make your own fine stuff with supplies from the Yarn Mart (5711 Kavanaugh). The locally owned Go! Running in the Heights (1819 N. Grant), located between the newly renovated florist Tipton & Hurst and jeweler Sissy's Log Cabin, has quickly become a destination for athletic apparel needs. A new children's clothier, the curiously named Krumphet Buttons, opened in the space formerly occupied by Sabb's Oriental Rugs. Owner Laurie Miller also opened an adjacent antiques shop next called Le Jardin Antiquities featuring vendors Pat Pflugrad (formerly of Pflugrad Antiques) and Providence Ltd. Interior Design.
There's more, with a range of restaurants thrown in for good measure.
Riverdale (a.k.a "The bottom of the hill")
Riverdale is the heart of home design in Little Rock. The warehouse row at 2400 Cantrell Road houses Soho Modern (the only place to buy contemporary furniture in Little Rock), Private Collections and New Orleans Antique and Jewelry Exchange. A bit further west on Cantrell, Fabulous Finds is for antique hunters. Cynthia East Fabrics (FYI: not only has the best fabric in town but also great gifts), Botanica Gardens, Bear-Hill Interiors, MertinsDykeHome and several antique stores are clustered around the Rebsamen Park and Old Cantrell intersection.
North Little Rock
North Little Rock has both big boxes and boutiques. Here's an overview of where to find what.
For big-box and mall stores, McCain Boulevard at Hwy. 67 is the place to be: Walmart, Barnes and Noble, Pier One, Steinmart, Home Depot and Lowe's, Linens-n-Things and Toys-R-Us, and the McCain Mall and Lakewood Village shopping centers can all be found along a single stretch of blacktop. (Drivers beware: This area is the Bermuda Triangle of Central Arkansas due to its confounding layout.) On East McCain, find TJ Maxx. Krebs Brothers Restaurant Store (4310 Landers Road) isn't just for professional chefs. It is the go-to place for restaurant owners, but also for the home cook.
If it's smaller boutiques you're looking for, head to JFK Boulevard in Park Hill to shop for clothes at ShopTrio, bridal gowns at Jodie Marie's and the Bridal Cottage, baby items at Lads and Ladybugs and gifts at Wicks and Wax. There's also ½ of ½ Name Brand Clothing, if you don't mind imperfect merchandise or "bargains that just need a little attention." Dig and you will find.
The Historic Argenta neighborhood downtown is home to Galaxy Office Furniture, but don't let the name mislead you; there are worlds within worlds of home furniture and accessories that will appeal to the vintage buyer. Check out the upstairs. Just down the street at 703 Main, Argenta Bead Co. is the stop for all your bead needs. This is North Little Rock's arts district; find fine art at the Thea Foundation, Greg Thompson Fine Art and Ketz Gallery, all on Main Street.