I’ve been an almost fanatic devotee of the Farmer’s Market since I moved back to Little Rock two years ago. As soon as it opened in April, I was there every Tuesday, picking up the week’s allotment of fruits and veggies. There was no beating it for convenience. Plus there’s that small matter of how infinitely superior Arkansas strawberries and peaches are to anything California and Florida ship our way.
Between October and April, though, the River Market was just another place to grab a quick lunch. I stopped planning the week’s dinners around what I could pick up on my mid-day break. Started fighting the 5:30 crowds at Kroger again.
Poor, stupid me.
If you take 15 minutes for a slow spin around the River Market’s interior, you discover that you can buy just about anything you need there, year-round. Hardin’s River Mercantile has the fresh-produce area covered, and also sells Arkansas-produced all-natural milk, eggs, and meats and bulk beans, grains and rice. They even carry pickled eggs and peppers made by a woman who lives on Cantrell Road — you can’t get much more local than that.
Catty-corner from Hardin’s is the River Market Grocery, which packs an unbelievable variety of merchandise into a tiny space. Whatever you forgot you needed but you absolutely CANNOT LIVE WITHOUT one more night, they have: toilet paper, dryer sheets, cereal, cake mixes, People magazine. But they have less prosaic items as well, such as Indian-looking knickknacks like journals and jewelry boxes (inexpensive, and perfect for last-minute gift shopping for, oh, say, Mother’s Day). The store also carries the largest selection of House of Webster jellies/jams/fruit butters I’ve ever seen.
At the far west end of the building, V.K. Brown Meat Market has the steak and pork cuts you’d expect, but also specialty sausages like andouille and boudin that can be hard to find. They’ve also got a good selection of deli meats and cheeses, so you can pick up tonight’s dinner and tomorrow’s lunch at the same place. Just about all the food booths, actually, sell some grocery-related items — and some non-grocery ones, like Big on Tokyo’s lovely painted wooden chopstick sets.
There’s also Millefleur, a full-service florist, ready to perform a Mother’s Day rescue operation at a moment’s notice.
The inside vendors stay open until 6 p.m., too, so no need to worry about finding a place to keep everything cold between lunch and clock-out time.
And now to veer a little off my chosen track. On my way inside the market to report this column, I walked by a vendor I’d never seen before: John B. Wright, a Little Rock retiree who makes the most beautiful things from exotic woods — fountain pens, magnifying glasses, secret-compartment keychains, egg-shaped kaleidoscopes, letter openers, even a jumbo-sized pizza cutter. The woods come from all over the world, Wright told me, and their natural colors range from almost white to yellow to a dark rose to every shade of brown you can imagine. I couldn’t believe the prices — either Wright doesn’t spend nearly as long on each piece as it looks like he does, or he’s not charging for labor.
Other happenings on the horizon:
•The slowly-but-steadily growing Argenta district in North Little Rock has a new member: Ms. Annette’s Boutique and Resale, at 318 Main St. It’s the successor to Jenny’s¸ which kept lonely watch over the corner of Ninth and Rock on the south side of the river since November 2001. Owner Annette Waits told me she’s a big fan of vintage, but she stocks plenty of up-to-date designer pieces as well — dresses, shoes, handbags, the works. She also guessed my shoe size. The store’s open 11 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and, for now, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday.
•Barbara/Jean has a steady parade of trunk shows coming through in the next couple of months. Thursday and Friday, May 5 and 6, it’s Stuart Weitzman shoes, and May 11-12, M & J Savitt jewelry. There’s also a Bobbi Brown “event” set for May 12-13, if you’re running low on that favorite lipstick.
• Thursday, May 5, is the monthly Shop-n-Sip/Late Night in the Heights event, and there are a couple of good reasons to head out there after work. Heights merchants are celebrating Cinco de Mayo, so there’ll be free Mexican-themed treats to score. Also, down the hill, Hillcrest’s Box Turtle is holding a fashion show featuring local designers Georgia Ashmore and Missy Lipps. Box Turtle owner Emese Boone told me Ashmore’s best known for “casual but fun” items like skirts and T-shirts with quotes on them, while Lipps’ creations are a bit dressier and edgier. The fashion show runs from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
• Speaking of fashion shows, I promised you details about an upcoming one from Scarlet. It’s at 8 p.m. Wednesday, May 18, at Sticky Fingerz. It sounds like they’re going all out — a DJ and everything. You’ve got to be 18 to get in, but it’s on a school night anyway…
Sales? Comings? Goings?