In the spirit of celebrating our 20th anniversary all year, we resurrected an old series, Day in Little Rock, where various central Arkansans reflect on their memories, pastimes and adventures in the capital city. Closing out the 12-month walk down memory lane is none other than Little Rock Soirée Publisher Mandy Richardson. Take it away, Mandy.
I grew up in Missouri and stayed in state for college. My freshman year, I became best friends with a girl from Little Rock. I knew little about Arkansas aside from it being south of Missouri, and not until the fall of 1996, when my friend asked me to go home with her over break, had I stepped foot in the city of Little Rock. Over the next four years of college, I spent several fall, spring and summer breaks in Little Rock with Jill and her friends, who soon became my friends, and grew to love the city.
I remember spending evenings and weekends during those visits walking around Hillcrest sipping coffee from Cafe D’Roma or Sufficient Grounds, being confused as to where we were in the city as we cut through neighborhoods to get from Jill’s Pleasant Valley house to see friends in Midtown and constantly mispronouncing street names with my Yankee accent. I remember shopping for the coolest, unique jewelry at Vesta’s when it was downtown (where The Rev Room is now) and being introduced to Brave New restaurant.
After college, I moved to St. Louis and within a couple years found myself dating a man from Arkansas of all places. At the end of our first year of dating, he moved to Little Rock. We dated long distance for another year, and I once again found myself exploring this city, but this time with the man I loved. We drove the streets of Little Rock — which I could now navigate and properly pronounce — we drank Play-De-Do's at Cajun’s Wharf and spent nights out at The Fountain or going to the movies at the theater where Lisa Academy now is in west Little Rock.
Nineteen years ago this month, after a George Strait concert at what is now Simmons Bank Arena, in a small west Little Rock apartment, Kevin asked me to marry him and move to Little Rock. After a short engagement and a lovely wedding, we packed up a U-Haul in St. Louis and I finally became a resident of the city I fell in love with years ago.
Now, almost two decades later, I explore our city with my family of four and a small group of amazing girlfriends, and I am blessed to have the job of leading a publication that exists to celebrate all there is to love about our Little Rock. When I drive the girls to school or downtown to work, I know the shortcuts through the neighborhoods. When we walk the streets of Hillcrest to see what’s new, I show them where Cafe D used to be. Date nights at Cajun’s and The Fountain have been traded for family dinners at Capers or Copper Grill and movies at The Promenade. We hike Pinnacle on comfortable spring and fall evenings and enjoy ice cream in SoMa and shopping in The Heights.
In 20 years, a lot has changed, but the charm of our city has remained, and my love for the city that has welcomed me at all the stages of my life has grown substantially. My love for Little Rock is strong.