Downtown Hot Springs presents ample opportunity to shop this holiday season
Holiday shopping guide Downtown Hot Springs presents ample opportunity to shop local this holiday sea son
T is the season to shop local.
Downtown Hot Springs has been alive with the hustle and bustle usually seen as the tourist season waxes and wanes, but now it is local shoppers filling the sidewalks in hopes of marking the perfect holiday gift off their lists.
Downtown boasts a wide variety of unique shops, art galleries, and restaurants, as the areas to the north and south of the historic district see their own growth spurts. The recent resurgence in businesses leaves little room for excuses not to check out one of the many unique shops lining the street downtown.
Lauray’s — The Diamond Center has served the community from the same location for more than 90 years, staying faithful to the downtown area despite challenges presented over the years. Their steadfast commitment to their roots gets families coming back to them for generations and generations, owner Mark Fleischner said.
Just recently, the jewelry store announced a merger with Murphy-Pitard Jewelers of El Dorado. While many were shocked to hear the news, newly formed business partners Toddy Pitard and Fleischner said it just seemed like the only logical move to make after Fleischner decided to entertain the idea of retirement.
“When we met Toddy and Amanda Pitard, it was almost immediate that we realized that their thought process, if you will, in being a jeweler (and) a jewelry company in a thriving town made it so Lauray’s and Murphy-Pitard were just a natural fit,” Fleischner said.
“It did not happen overnight, for sure. The comment that Mark made to me was, ‘You know, we’re thinking about retiring but we’re really not wanting to just walk out of the jewelry business. If you want us to do that …,’ and I said, ‘If you want to do that, I’m not your buyer. I want you guys involved,” Pitard said.
During the early phases of the discussion process, Pitard said they both felt a merger of the two businesses would benefit both stores in the long run. By combining over 170 years of experience as jewelers, the newly formed partners felt it would help them serve customers at a higher capacity and open the door for future upgrades inside and outside the building, including upgrading display cases, reverting the store’s exterior back to its original form, and even opening a second location.
Now that they completed their union, Fleischner and Pitard can focus on moving forward while still assisting their customers in finding just the right gift for that special someone. With more buying power as a result of the merger, they have the ability to offer a much wider variety of gemstones at competitive prices.
Lauray’s offers a huge selection of affordable jewelry alongside highend lines.
“Jewelry lasts; especially when it is properly maintained. For many people, while it’s somewhat envious from the standpoint of what you may wear, but the symbolic nature of a wedding band that duplicates what my father wore has dramatic meaning. It creates a memory and as we all know, memories last forever. I think jewelry is about the memory and what that piece represents,” Fleischner said.
Lauray’s carries lines like Pandora bracelets, John Hardy, Vahan, and Shy, giving customers as many price options as there are styles. Pitard advised that diamond studs always serve as a great gift for any occasion, laughing that he has probably sold three pairs to everyone in El Dorado.
“They’re good, they’re classic and if they already have a smaller pair, upgrade to a bigger set,” Pitard said.
Just further up the downtown strip, Mary Matthews set up shop just under two years ago with Blushed Beauty Boutique. What started as a way for Matthews to keep busy after retiring from the medical field quickly turned into a thriving beauty boutique specializing in independent cosmetics, gift items, and soon, skin care.
“I am big on small indie lines. I can’t compete with the big boxed stores so I try to find things that you can’t find at other stores. I am also big on using all- natural and organic products when I can get them,” Matthews said.
As the holidays approached, she made the decision to incorporate items more suited for stocking stuffer in hopes of grabbing the attention of local shoppers. Much of what she sells is exclusive to beauty products, but the store contains a nice selection of soaps, shower and bath bombs, and novelty items that make great holiday gifts for anyone. With the colder weather, skin care becomes more and more important.
The majority of products sold at Blushed are quite affordable. Items in the store range from as little as $6 for a bath bomb to as much as $130 for eyelash treatments.
One of Matthews’ most popular lines is the indie cosmetic line Frankie Rose. The line offers a full range of makeup from foundations that offer great coverage to long-lasting liquid lipsticks and every product is gentle on skin. The formula is so light and airy, it’s almost like you’re not wearing any makeup.
“I do a lot of research into brands before bringing them into my store. I get on the websites of beauty bloggers, I go to an indie beauty expo to try to find new things. There are a lot of smaller lines just trying to make it. They are very hungry and agreeable,” Matthews said.
Blushed is housed inside a small section of the Waters hotel. As their business grows, Matthews says she sees more and more bridal parties coming through the doors. In a decisive business decision, she chose to hire on two makeup artists who assist customers with trying out the many unique lines, application techniques, and give full makeovers upon request.
“We talk to the client to see if they want a dramatic look or a more natural look and then from there, our makeup artist matches your skin town and does your makeup however you want. If you don’t know what you’d like and just want to see something different, we do that too,” she said.
As holiday parties approach, Matthews says she expects to have people booking appointments for makeovers and scheduling makeovers for gifts.
In more recent years, the resurgence of downtown Hot Springs extended further up Central and eventually onto Park Avenue. The residences fondly refer to the area as “Uptown” and spent years working to change the area’s reputation one business at a time.
Housed atop a small hill behind Red Light Roastery is Briana Moore’s Larkmartin Soaps studio. After leaving her job as an interior designer, she began her own business venture that allowed her to say at home more with her children. She first started making soaps 12 years ago and once she realized there was a market for her product, she began selling soaps, lotions, and sugar scrubs.
“It’s just evolved from setting up at the farmers market to being here now,” Moore said.
Her products are proudly displayed inside Red Light Roastery, which she and her husband also own, but can be found all throughout Hot Springs. Larkmartin Soaps are also featured at Blushed Beauty Boutique, State and Pride, Thai-Me Spa, the Waters Hotel, and several other shops around the state.
“I make everything myself in small batches. My soaps lather really nice and just make your skin feel so nice. They are based in mainly olive oil and fragrances with high-quality soap fragrances and essential oils. I have a whole selection of different fragrances and scents,” Moore said.
Because she makes everything by hand, Moore said she quickly had to learn how to gauge orders and ensure she had enough supply to meet demands for her soaps. Around the holiday season, she starts making soaps, scrubs, and scents specific to the season. Her biggest sellers right now are the North Pole scent and Frankincense & Myrhh.
“I like to think that all my fragrances are gender neutral so you can find something for anybody.
Soap is something that you will use It’s not just going to sit and take up space. It’s kind of a useful luxury,” Moore said.
Moore said her products are also great for sensitive skin. While she does not claim to be a doctor, Moore said her soaps are soothing and do not irritate the skin. Still, she advises her allergy-prone customers to read all the labels.
Both downtown and uptown Hot Springs have so much to offer locals this holiday shopping season. While shopping online often appeals to the desire of instant gratification, nothing beats walking into a store where the people working can answer your specific questions and help you find the perfect product for even the hardest-to-please person.
“When you shop local, you are supporting your community and the people in your community trying to make quality products,” Moore said.