JCPenney returns to Dallas retail

It has been an irony on the level of the Big Tobacco office building being smoke-free or the beef industry lobbying group having vegetarian options on its cafeteria menu. JCPenney, once the ruler of catalogue sales and a retail captain, is based in North Texas but has not had a Dallas store since the one in NorthPark Center closed in the late 1990s.

Well, it’s back. And with a lot of style.

The new store, which officially opened at Skillman Road and Northwest Highway last weekend, is part of a huge new complex that includes a gigantic Wal-Mart that probably warrants its own congressman. The JCP store isn’t as big, but it is fairly fancy.

JCP has always been a mid-range seller that doesn’t compete with fellow Dallas-based icon Neiman Marcus but brags that is does offer style for less. (It’s VP in charge of design, Geoffrey Henning, is a longtime supporter and designer for DIFFA.) The new store — clean and fresh as a newly minted penny — lives up to the promise.

JCP staffers brag that the store is now the exclusive retailer for what they say is the most recognized name in women’s fashion, Liz Claiborne, though the designs have been updated from the 1970s-era when the brand became famous. Credit uber-gay Isaac Mizrahi, its comparatively new creative director, with turning things around. There are a number of exclusive deals and in-house labels at JCP, including a juniors line from the Olsen Twins, but the new venue is most excited about its MNG by Mango store-within-a-store, which does fast fashions for women. Another innovation: An in-house salon where you can get your hair cut or an entire makeover if you need it, then continue on with your bargain shopping.

The men’s department is smaller than the women’s, but the J. Ferrar line of clothes, pictured, is worth a look, and if you’re a fragrance junkie, an in-store Sephora shop.

For shopaholics like me, it’s always fun to browse at a new store, not only to see what’s new (lots of fall fashions are already out, despite the 99-degree temperatures this week) but also to take advantage of the bargains and enjoy the enthusiasm of a fresh staff in a beautiful space. And JCPenney doesn’t scrimp on the sales, coupons and discounts. It’s a great place to check out something new and save money doing it.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Tim Gunn gets dishy with new tell-all

Tim Gunn, the avuncular mentor on Project Runway and creative director of Liz Claiborne, might be the last person you’d expect to dish cattily and gossip about his colleagues. But that’s exactly what he’s rumored to do in his new book, in stores today, Sept. 7.

“My deathly ill mother, if she’s alive Tuesday, won’t be Wednesday,” Gunn said about the explosiveness of some of his observations in Gunn’s Golden Rules, including Gunn’s suspicion that his father was a closeted gay man who had a sexual relationship with former FBI director J. Edgar Hoover. Among the other revelations:

• “I keep thinking Martha Stewart will never have me back on her show again. I mean, I love her. It’s her bratty daughter who troubles me so, and especially because Alexis is so willing to do this in public.”

• About Gretchen Jones, a contestant on the current season of Project Runway: “The behavior that Gretchen demonstrated on the runway during that Q with the judges is about as close to psychosis as anything I have seen on the show. … I would have sent Gretchen home! I probably would have been mistaken but that’s what I would have done.”

The enitre interview, which appears on the Web site TheFrisky.com, can be read here.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones