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. As of late, the biggest news in retail has to be the recent opening of an Anthropologie store out west — reason enough to visit the Promenade at Chenal. 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, artisan-friendly 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 one of the places to go for gifts and things you just won't find elsewhere (including bi-partisan coffee mugs!).
The Cox Creative Center, 120 River Market Avenue, also has really fun gifts, including products from the very 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!
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 purse or satchel and can be embellished to suit the stylish.
The Dreamweavers outlet at 1201 Spring St. is only open every second Saturday, but it's worth the wait if you're shopping for imported throws, rugs, art 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 store JoS A. Bank Clothier; and children's clothiers The Children's Place and Justice Just for Girls, as well as local boutique Evolve. 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 Penney at Shackleford Crossing).
The new Target store opened this fall to much fanfare. Located on the property once occupied by University Mall, this store will be the anchor for the future Park Avenue mixed-use development. The layout is identical to the Target store out west, lest one get 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.
n 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. Shops once in the Heights, namely Roberson's Fine Jewelry and Kitchen Co. (formerly Sauce Co.), have moved there. Along with the anchor, North Carolina-based Belk, are Scarlet, Thread, Beyond Cotton, Vesta's, Faux Pas, Forsythe's, Jeante, Moda, Kristin Todd (women's clothes, jewelry, some home stuff); Indigo; Glo Limited (beauty products); The Sassy Stork, Strasburg Children, Tuck and Cover (maternity, children's clothing, furniture and 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 edgier, younger, for those who favor tight-fitting Michael Stars' tees and the like.
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 some nice ethnic and contemporary pieces.
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 American Eagle Outfitters, Ann Taylor LOFT, DSW shoes, Claire's; Justice, Kay Jewelers, Aeropostale, Coldwater Creek, Destination Maternity, Just Dogs! Gourmet, Sunglass Station, RK Collections and, much to the delight of the young and the stylish — Anthropologie (which — hooray! — opened this fall) — and DSW (the best shoe selection in town). Also new, Eco Fab, billed as eco-friendly shopping experience featuring sustainable products for the entire family.
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. While out there stop by the fun, magical toy store, Toy Up, on Bowman.
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.
Chic Boutique (2205 N. Van Buren) specializes in apparel, accessories and gifts for girls ages 7-16; the older set will find what they want — some outfits handmade by the owners — at Ember (5709 Kavanaugh).
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 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; 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 handsome 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.
There's more, with a range of restaurants thrown in for good measure.
(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. MertinsDykeHome just expanded into an adjacent building, so there's even more fabulous, tasteful furniture to see.
North Little Rock
North Little Rock's got both big boxes and boutiques. Here's an overview of where to find what.
For big-box and mall stores, McCain Boulevard near its intersection with state 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 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 Half of Half 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. Just check out the upstairs. Prices are on the high end. 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.