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Going upscale out west

Chenal Supercenter a departure from Wally World.

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9/23/04I’m not a big fan of Wal-Mart, but I go there more than I care to admit. Running the gauntlet of narrow aisles crammed with people and shopping carts has never been my idea of fun, so making a recent visit to the new Supercenter on Highway 10 and Chenal Parkway was a revelation. First of all, the parking lot was half-empty, and I was able to snag a spot close to the entrance without much effort. Wal-Mart is trying to be more upscale with its exterior design — the discount giant used red half-high concrete blocks that resemble brick on the walls and some architectural elements to soften the look of the 210,000-square-foot building. The effect is more visually appealing than the uniform blue, gray and red big box the retailer is famous for, and it’s a better fit for the upscale neighborhoods that surround the location. Inside, I first noticed how quiet it was — almost like walking into a library. Only a few people were scattered through the aisles, and one could roam freely without having to mutter “excuse me” every three steps. The merchandise — especially the clothing — was well stocked and neatly displayed. There was a larger-than-usual selection of professional-look clothing from the store’s private label for women, George, most likely a nod to the tastes of the immediate area’s residents. Granted, my visits were made on weekday afternoons, so the Saturday afternoon rush may be as bad as at any other Supercenter. But in my experience, Wal-Mart stores are crowded most all the time. Wal-Mart’s got a good formula here as far as the look and feel of the center — let’s hope the company implements it in more. The UAMS Arkansas Cancer Research Center Auxiliary is offering a way to get discounts on your pre-holiday shopping and help raise money for the ACRC at the same time. For $50, shoppers can purchase the Partner Card, which entitles them to a 20 percent discount at more than 100 stores in Arkansas from Oct. 30 through Nov. 7. “It’s a win-win for everyone,” said ACRC Auxiliary president Beth Jackson. “It gives consumers a chance to save on early shopping and will hopefully bring lots of new customers to the stores.” Thanks to the underwriting of sponsors Merrill Lynch, Marge and Tom Schueck, the now-defunct Little Rock Monthly, Alltel Corp. and Balfour, the proceeds from the sale of the cards go to the ACRC Auxiliary. Jackson said the participating stores sell everything from antiques and art to jewelry, clothing and Oriental rugs. “They really cover the gamut,” she said. Call 350-8397 or 350-8398 to purchase a card. Severe water damage from a broken pipe three weeks ago has closed Warren’s Shoes and Eddie Bauer in McCain Mall until further notice. According to a sign posted at Warren’s, anyone with inquiries about returns, exchanges or special orders from the shoe store should call 791-3236 or 479-409-5691.

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