McCain Mall is a large, enclosed shopping center located at 3929 McCain Boulevard in North Little Rock (Pulaski County). Spanning 796,000 square feet on more than fifty-six acres, it offers about ninety stores, services, entertainment venues, and dining establishments, being anchored by major retainers Dillard’s and JCPenney. It is owned and operated by the Simon Property Group of Indianapolis, the largest owner of shopping malls in the United States.
McCain Mall is located near Interstate 40 on Highway 67/167. Although it attracts visitors from around the state, it primarily serves the Little Rock (Pulaski County) and North Little Rock metropolitan areas, as well as the nearby central Arkansas communities of Cabot (Lonoke County), Conway (Faulkner County), Jacksonville (Pulaski County), Maumelle (Pulaski County), and Sherwood (Pulaski County).
In 1973, McCain Mall was officially dedicated, having ninety-six stores, eateries, and services at that time. However, one of its primary anchors, Pfeifer-Blass (replaced by Dillard’s in 1974), had already opened for business in the latter part of 1972. At the time of its construction, McCain Mall was the largest enclosed shopping center in the state, a title it held until 1986 when an addition was completed at Central Mall in Fort Smith (Sebastian County). In the twenty-first century, McCain Mall is the larger of the two biggest enclosed shopping centers in central Arkansas. The other is Park Plaza Mall in Little Rock, which had its beginnings in 1960 as an open-air shopping center.
After World War II, the population of North Little Rock grew steadily, making a shopping center north of the Arkansas River an attractive investment. For example, in 1940, North Little Rock’s population was 21,137, but by 1950, it had more than doubled to reach 44,097—and the growth trend continued. The area was especially appealing for having two active military bases: Camp Joseph T. Robinson and the Little Rock Air Force Base.
The shopping center was built on McCain Boulevard near Highway 67/167, a major thoroughfare. McCain Boulevard had been named for civic leader Edward A. McCain, who died in 1967. McCain had managed the Park Hill-Sylvan Hills Water Company for three decades and was a colleague of developer Justin Matthews.
The locale around McCain Mall proved so attractive for commercial establishments that a nearby shopping center was also constructed around the same time McCain Mall opened. In the early 1970s, “The Other Center” began attracting tenants across the street at 4000 McCain Boulevard. Area residents understood that the “other” in its name was a reference to its much larger neighbor, McCain Mall, across the street.
McCain Mall’s location was representative of the general demographic shift after World War II, with a growth of the suburbs; it also contributed to the decline of downtown Little Rock’s shopping district when major retailers left downtown for the suburbs.
Since its opening, McCain Mall has remained a popular shopping destination. Unlike many enclosed malls and shopping centers around the state, McCain Mall has never been expanded. However, it did experience renovations and a general “freshening” in 1992 and again in 2011–2012. In 2012, the former location of M. M. Cohn at McCain Mall was repurposed as a Regal Entertainment Group movie theater. In 2020, the Sears store was closed as part of a plan to close almost 100 properties nationwide.
According to the Simon Property Group, in addition to a number of services, entertainment venues, and eating establishments, there were approximately eighty individual stores operating at McCain Mall by 2022. These included nationally known retailers such as Aeropostale, American Eagle Outfitters, Bath & Body Works/White Barn, Champs Sports, Claire’s, Dillard’s, Foot Locker, JCPenney, Kay Jewelers, Old Navy, Spencer Gifts, Sunglass Hut, Victoria’s Secret, and Zales Jewelers.
For additional information:
“Mall Named for Developer of Park, NLR Water System.” Arkansas Gazette, March 11, 1973, p. 3A.
“McCain Mall.” Simon Property Group. https://www.simon.com/mall/mccain-mall (accessed July 15, 2022).
“New Mall Will Introduce Shoppers to Various New Commercial Names.” Arkansas Gazette, March 11, 1973, p. 3A.
Nixon, Jennifer. “What’s in a Street Name.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, August 24, 2010. Online at https://www.pressreader.com/usa/arkansas-democrat-gazette/20100824/281517927429332 (accessed July 15, 2022).
“Virtually New City of 70 Stores to Be Unveiled at McCain Mall.” Arkansas Gazette, March 11, 1973, pp. 1A, 3A.
Garland County Historical Society
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Stationed at Little Rock Air Force Base from 1979 to 1983, I have a fondness for McCain Mall and surrounding stores during that period. I met and married my wife, and had our first child. We made “special” purchases at Gordon Jewelers, Dillard’s, a stereo store (whose name frustratingly escapes me), Spencer’s, Kaybee Toys, and many others. I even got my very first “line of credit” from Sears in the popular mall, for our first washer and dryer!