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Shopping Trip to See What's Happening at the Mall
What's New at the Mall, Brands, Clothes, Toys, Stores

Window-shopping at the mall is a sensual pleasure for me. The variety, the distraction, the sheer visual and tactile entertainment of shopping are what I'm here for. Works of beauty and art, the latest offerings of designers and craftspeople, are arranged to tempt me. Here the finest goods brought from around the world wait for my approval, as if I were a princess. I study the coat; I feel the fabric; I look at the details. In a certain way, I know it inside and out. I don't have to buy that coat to feel that I own it.

I have no agenda for my afternoon of shopping at the mall. There's nothing I need, but that doesn't hold me back. The shopping mall is one of my favorite places to shop. It is open day and evening, rain or shine, whenever I feel the shopping urge. They tell me the mall has about a mile of corridors. There are hundreds of stores, plus the kiosks on wheels. Thousands of people visit every day. But we don't want statistics. We came to shop.

I walk through Rogers Jewelers, where they are showing diamonds and white pearls among black river rocks. They are looking to hire an experienced bench jeweler, if you know of one. Rogers used to sprinkle their carpet with sparkles, which gave a fairy tale feeling to the place. But lately they stopped the carpet sparkles, so they look like a normal jewelry store.

Bose has stacked their speakers up in the window like blocks. They are playing Finding Nemo on the big screen, and don't those fish sound good?

Next door, the Express has some hard-driving music. Express Men, which used to be Structures when it was on another level of the shopping mall, is now next door to Express for women. The side-by-side arrangement is probably more efficient, allowing them to share staff. In the window, they are showing dress shirts in fourteen colors with sleeves rolled up. For women, they offer pencil thin black slacks and gorgeous sparkling sweaters with outrageously short denim skirts. The sweaters suit me very well, if anyone is listening.

Itz a Puzzle has opened up where April Cornell used to be. Animals are big themes in the puzzle world, like polar bears and red-eyed lizards and dogs playing poker. You can get a picture puzzle of St. Louis or your favorite city. They also have photo-mosaic puzzles. Do you remember seeing a mosaic picture of President Lincoln that is composed of mini-photos of other people, a kind of optical illusion?

Outside the shopping mall, in the parking lot, I noticed that school children have painted the fireplugs. Pictures of the kids’ work are also displayed indoors on the bulletin board. One plug is painted like a Dalmatian dog with spots, a cute face and a collar. The top of the plug, painted red, looks just like a fire hat. Another fireplug is a seascape, painted deep blue where colorful fish, octopus and seahorses frolic. Another has the dove of peace with an olive branch and a circle of children holding hands around the plug. Some of the fireplugs are designed as tributes to fire fighters, everybody's heroes.

Guess has a New York high fashion look, with a poster of a model in shoulder-length furry gloves. I'm guessing they are imitation leopard. The gloves match her furry platform heels and the bow tie around her neck. Have you noticed the trend for stores to hang posters of the models wearing the merchandise rather than to use mannequins for display? A photo can make the clothes look better than a mannequin can.

When Build-a-Bear opened in the shopping mall, I was sure it wouldn't last long. Why would people want to stuff and dress their own teddy bears? Well they do, particularly the juvenile customers. What did I know? Build-a-Bear has gone public and bought up Vermont Teddy Bear, another public company, pulling off a big merger in the teddy bear world.

J. Crew takes the minimalist road and is dedicated to black and white. Not a hair out of place in that store.

It's pleasant walking along the corridor of the shopping mall. There are skylights overhead. The ferns and peace lilies flourish. I really could live here. I would eat breakfast in the food court, lunch at Panera and dinner at the Cheesecake Factory. Then I would curl up for a nap on the cushy beds at Restoration Hardware, read my way through Waldenbooks, play games at the Discovery Store, and dress myself very, very well. If I wanted to contact the outside world, there are lots of kiosks selling cell phones. What's that book about living in Wal-Mart? The author should have tried this mall.

We've come to the indoor fountain, with three pools of splashing water. I sit on the fountain wall and watch toddlers toss coins into the water. The coins that cover the floor of the fountain will be donated to the Children's Miracle Foundation. Some people throw quarters, and one little tyke seems to have lost a silver bracelet in the water. I throw in my own coin, watch it ride the waters and make my wish. I wish for... But, wait. It won't come true if I tell you.

Children's Palace has window posters of snow scenes that remind me of the Chronicles of Narnia, the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. They're featuring the layered look for little ones and they have a 50% off sale right now.

At the Discovery Store, among the games and books, they are selling an entertaining tube of blue water that rocks back and forth. It’s relaxation therapy. They call it Tranquil Tide. Yes, I do feel more relaxed. The sales person shows me how to play Twenty Questions with an electronic game. It's unbelievable how the machine can read your mind, he says. "Not my mind," I think to myself.

Bayou Beads, which used to have a kiosk near the food court in the mall, is gone. I ask the folks at the stuffed animal kiosk what happened. “They're going to sell wholesale from now on,” she said. I regret to see them go. The owner made her jewelry right at the kiosk, stringing beads in her spare time. For a while I thought I could have a future designing bead jewelry, too. I read a book about it, but that's as far as I ever got. Good luck, Bayou.

Farther along in the shoppin gmall, Abercrombie features pounding music and posters of young men. This merchandising strategy must work for them, because they've got two stores in the mall. But, if I go into the store, the music gives me a splitting headache. You know what they say. If the music's too loud, you're too old. Right on both counts.

The second Abercrombie store has wide, black plantation shutters across the store windows. They had a change of heart last year and took down all the shutters, and bared their soul to the public. But, this year, all the black shutters went back up. Store design is an art, not a science.

Somewhere nearby, a security alarm goes off several times, signaling either a very persistent shoplifter or electronics on the fritz. The sleeping baby in the stroller doesn't stir.

Pottery Barn and Restoration Hardware are near each other, location-wise and merchandise-wise. The bathrobes, dishes and upholstered couches are all color-coordinated. Greyed-out pastel colours are being shown this season, along with lots of brown leather. I help myself to the free catalogue inside the door. If merchandise could talk, it would say, "This is the lifestyle that you must buy." My lifestyle at home is a far cry from these stores. Home is unmatched, helter-skelter, higgledy-piggledy, shabby chic, with emphasis on the "shabby." But a girl can dream, can't she? Every princess needs a palace.

The shopping mall is a good place for people watching. Today, shoppers are wearing a lot of jeans and black slacks and khakis. I don't see any of the homeboy, hommie, look on the men; no more baggy, show-your-tidie-whities, oversized pants. No more oversized basketball jerseys down to the knees. Ah, we'll miss that fashion statement.

What I do see in the mall are interesting shoes, flamboyant bags, a few bare bellies, fleece and sweats and t-shirts. Quelle surprise. All the individuality is in the shoes. There are silver ballet slippers, wooden platforms, sling-back pumps, orange crocs, five-inch stilettos, flip-flops and those ubiquitous running shoes that the English call "trainers." Isn't that cute, trainers?

Football posters are very big at Deck the Walls. Yeah, yeah. Let's hear it for the team.

Bombay is featuring dinnerware along with its mahogany furniture. They just restyled the shop at the mall, restocked, organized things and improved the traffic flow. Where do these really friendly salespeople come from? Are they born that way?

In this next store, Ann Taylor has set up temporarily while they remodel their regular space. The music company FYE used this location for a couple of months while they remodeled their store on the other side of the mall. Before that, Organized Living was also in this location, temporarily, too, although nobody planned it that way. You don't hear much about the failures in retail, but retail is a rocky road. For example, Panera Bread is in the shop where a decorative glass store tried to put down roots, and before them, the Blue Sky bakery and, before them, a Dollar Store, and a couple others that I've forgotten. “The best-laid plans o' mice an' men gang aft a-gley…” (Robert Burns)

This brings us to Panera Bread just in time today for a free sample of cheese bread. They have very clean restrooms, in case you need to know. I sit at one of their umbrella tables outside the restaurant, and have a little picnic. Folks come here for food and for the free wireless hotspot. It's a very companionable place. Panera is a big chain owned by a publicly traded company, but it doesn't feel like it. There's lots of live greenery here, flourishing pothos, palms and Chinese evergreen.

Well, time to call it a day. I hope you enjoyed our excursion at the shopping mall. Does anyone remember where I parked the car?

I hope life brings you much success. I wish you a very happy day.
-----     Surfer Sam  

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