Real Plaza: Salaverry

20 Sep

Lima, Peru

Quick Review

If the design of Lima, Peru’s Jockey Plaza is inspired by North American malls—large, spacious, with large stores, even more massive anchors, and thousands of parking spaces—the design of Real Plaza Salaverry seems to be inspired by the malls of Asia: petite, space-conscious and built as urban in-fill in an already fully developed area.

Rather than focus horizontally, designers had to focus vertically; the mall has 5 levels compared to two at Jockey Plaza. Each features clusters of stores in one or two categories like fashion, home, shoes, and general merchandise.

The top floor features the food court and a movie theater. An oversized floor-to-ceiling window and high ceilings lend a feeling of spaciousness to the food court that features a nice selection of local and national chains. An ingenious use of levels on the exterior of the building makes entry possible on both lower and upper levels. Clustered near the entrances are major restaurants, including mid-and upper-market restaurants.

The selection of stores is nearly as impressive at Real Plaza: Salaverry as at Jockey Plaza. Despite its petite size, the mall features 3 anchor department stores—Oeschle, Ripley, and Saga Falabella—hypermarket Plaza Vea and home improvement retailer ProMart. It also features the tourist-oriented Kuna alpaca wear shop, international fashion retailers Adolpho Dominquez, Banana Republic, Brooks Brothers, Forever 21, Gap, Hilfiger Denim, Kenneth Cole, LaCoste, Mango, Rosen (mattresses), Swarovski, Zara, and Zara Home, among others. The stores are admittedly smaller than their Jockey Plaza counterparts and the selection in those stores is slightly more “curated” (a euphemism for more limited). Partly as compensation, the stores seem to be more efficiently designed and present a slightly cleaner look than counterparts in other locations.

Plaza Salaverry also features Casa y Ideas, a Chilean-based purveyor of fashionable, fun home goods who was recently kicked out of its Jockey Plaza to make room for the Paris department store and the significantly pricier Crate & Barrel.

For what it’s worth, despite several visits to Jockey Plaza, when the time came to buy, I bought everything at Real Plaza: Salaverry.

In other words, if you’re looking for a pleasant shopping experience with a wide variety of stores, pleasant options for a break or meal, and a few staples in a mall where movement is easy and the crowds a bit more subdued, Real Plaza: Salaverry perfectly meets your needs.

Mall at a Glance

Anchors: Department stores: Oeschle, Ripley, and Saga Falabella. Hypermarket: Plaza Vea. Home improvement: ProMart..

International chains (note that some are Latin American chains): Adolpho Dominquez, Banana Republic, Brooks Brothers, Forever 21, Gap, Hilfiger Denim, Kenneth Cole, Kuna, LaCoste, Mango, Rosen (mattresses), RadioShack (now Radio Shack / Coolbox, because the US chain went bankrupt), Swarovski, Zara, and Zara Home

Variety of merchandise: Outstanding. Broad range of fashion retailers, shoe retailers, and jewelry. Great office supplies and small bookstore. Excellent coverage of home needs: hardware, furniture, and soft-goods—both in specialty retailers and all three department stores and the hypermarket.

Prices   range from the middle to upper-middle ranges.

Special notes:

Like Jockey Plaza, prices might not be as low as one might expect. That’s because most of the retailers are global and many of the local stores sell global brands, prices on many items will be comparable to home (regardless of where home is).

Food court: At the top of the mall, designed to give the most spacious feeling possible.   Great selection of US and local fast-food options, including Popeye’s (chicken), Bembo’s, Dunkin’ Donuts, and China Wok (among others).

It looks like it has enough seating but could fill up during peak periods.

Wikipedia page: None.

Website (Spanish only):


Jockey Plaza

19 Jul

Lima, Peru

Quick Review

For Limenans, Jockey is the mall in Lima, Peru. But for visiting North Americans like me, Jockey Plaza is everything we’d probably never expect to find in a developing country.

The original design of Jockey Plaza was inspired by American malls of the 70s and 80s—with department stores at opposite ends, and two enclosed levels of stores in-between, plus a food court. This part of the mall is now called Nave Central.

But with its two anchor stores, Chilean-based Ripley and Chilean-based Saga Falabella, both establishing A-quality stores at the mall, the stores in-between represented international retailers and higher-end local retailers, like Tommy Hilfiger (a flagship), local designers Adolpho Dominquez and Joaqim Miro, local silver artist Ilaria, and American food outlets like Starbucks, KFC, and Pizza Hut. As is typical for most Peruvian malls, Jockey Plaza also contained a super market (actually, a Plaza hypermarket, where consumers can buy big screen TVs and have their eyes examined and order prescription glasses, while picking up milk and bread), and a super-sized Ace hardware. To keep shoppers around, the mall also includes ,an entertainment wing with several American restaurants (Hard Rock, Friday’s), an arcade, and a multiplex cinema. . Not surprisingly, Jockey Plaza quickly dominated the market.

But as other malls started to appear and contained many of the same stores as Jockey Plaza, Jockey decided to ensure its dominance with an expansion that more than doubles its size and, at the same time, brought many international and luxury retailers to the market. The second major section—a mall in itself—takes its design from California malls, and is outdoors (not a problem given the relatively mild, dry climate). Among its stores in this section called The Boulevard are tourist-oriented the local Kuna alpaca clothing and international jeweler, H Stern; international fashion retailers Zara, Versace, Salvador Ferragamo, Nike, H&M, Forever 21, Carolina Herrera, Chanel, Brooks Brothers, Calvin Klein (among others), and a restaurant area with high-end restaurants (most feature reasonable lunch time specials).

To further secure its market dominance, however, Jockey Plaza expanded twice more. In the first, it added local department store Oeschle and several stores, along with a parking deck. Additional parking, a Paris department store (the fourth major anchor) and a Crate & Barrel home store from the US (its first location in Latin America) complete the latest addition, which is in the process of opening.

A second hypermarket and a Sodimac Home Center (a South American Home Depot, Lowe’s or Rona), a few car showrooms, and a medical center (Jockey Salud) complete the mall.

The mall has a book store, CD store, and musical instrument store; classes of stores that are in short supply in most North American malls.

Most tourists visit Larcomar in Miraflores, which is more of a festival-oriented tourist center than a mall intended for real people. But if you’re interested in seeing how the locals shop—and, for the shopaholics out there—interested in doing a bit of shopping yourself, Jockey Plaza is a must. Catch a movie, relax with a coffee or churro, and enjoy a meal while you visit. Heck, spend the whole day.

However, note that because most of the retailers are global and many of the local stores sell global brands, prices on many items will be comparable to home (regardless of where home is). Furthermore, the experience of driving on the Javier Prado roadway to the mall provides another insight into the local culture.

Mall at a Glance

Anchors: Department stores: Oeschle, Paris, Ripley, Saga Falabella. Hypermarkets: Plaza Vea, Tottus. Home improvement: Sodimac Home Center

International chains: Zara, Zara Home, Sfera, Plantanitos Shoes, Payless Shoes, Rosen (mattresses), RadioShack (now Radio Shack / Coolbox, because the US chain went bankrupt), Mango and Mango Hombre, H&M, H Stern, Forever 21, Esprit, Crate & Barrel, Adidas,

Variety of merchandise: Superb, exceeds a North American mall. Includes everything from milk and toothpaste to diamond necklaces; business suits and cars to plywood, and mobile phone contracts and computers to books and CDs. Few malls have such a wide range and deep selection in each category.

Prices range from the middle to upper ranges.

Special notes:

  • The name Jockey Plaza admittedly doesn’t sound  Spanish. The name comes from its next-door neighbor: the Jockey Club del Peru. The land is Jockey Club land (though I am not sure if they still own the land or not).
  • Traffic around the mall is a nightmare, caused partly by the large number of people who visit the mall and partly by road design nearby that’s almost guaranteed to generate congestion.
  • Prices: global products have global prices; so don’t expect super bargains. Local products available in some of the local stores offer more attractive prices. For food: in the hypermarkets, expect reasonable prices on local foods and higher-than-home prices on many international products. Fast food places in the food court are lower than in North America. Restaurant prices are similar to those in North America.

Food court: Features a variety of Peruvian and international fast food options, in a bright environment with a soaring ceiling (several stories). Options include Bembo’s (top hamburger chain in Peru), KFC, Pizza Hut, China Wok and, in the hallway linking the food court to the mall, a few dessert choices.

But note–the food court was in the midst of a renovation when I visited so the selection might change (my guess is it will increase). Even though the food court looks larger, that could be a factor of the significantly higher ceiling. The old food court was filled with tables and never had enough for everyone who wanted to use them, and I have a feeling that this situation will not improve in the remodeled food court.

Wikipedia page:

Website: (Spanish only)

Colonie Center

15 Feb

Colonie (suburban Albany), New York USA

Quick Review

This is easily my favorite mall in the Albany area. On the one hand, according to the Wikipedia, it’s the oldest enclosed mall in the region, opening in 1966. On the other hand, it’s one of the most recently really renovated mall in the area and offers a more comfortable shopping experience and one of the most unique selections of stores available in a mall.

Part of what makes this mall special is three primary anchors: Macy’s, Sears, and Boscov’s. The Macy’s is the only one in the region that was actually built as a Macys (rather than a former Filene’s or Jordan Marsh converted to a Macys), and follows the once-standard Macy’s layout (which is a heck of a lot easier to traverse than any of the elongated, hike-a-thons that Filenes seemed to prefer). Sears features a nicer-than-typical selection, including a special in-store Land’s End boutique. (Although, to save its sorry finances, Sear’s chopped off a chunk of its first floor to rent to Whole Foods, giving the first floor a bizarre layout.) And Boscov’s is a throwback to department stores of yore, with departments that have long-since disappeared from other stores, like furniture, appliances, and greeting cards.

Part of what makes this mall special is its secondary anchors: some are one-of-a-kind between Montreal and the New York or Boston suburbs: LL Bean (which has an amazing selection displayed in such a way that even a couch potato like me wants to be an outdoorsperson), Christmas Tree Shops (where one can find close-out merchandise from Target and Pepperidge Farm, among other retailers), a Barnes & Noble (complete with café), a huge multi-plex movie theatre, a Whole Foods (great for a grab-and-go dinner, though grabbing takes an hour because the selection is stunning), and the newest addition, Nordstrom Rack. The Rack is special not only because it features Nordstrom merchandise at a price a civil servant can afford, but also because it filled a long-gaping vacancy in the Sears wing of the mall, and makes the mall feel fully occupied.

Part of what makes this mall special are one-of-a-kind services and stores, like a musical instrument store (rarely found in regional malls) and a US Post Office.

Part of what makes this mall special are the dining options, including a PF Changs, Cheesecake Factory, Five Guys, and Moe’s, as well as a food court with a slightly different selection of offerings, including the Soup Man, Arby’s and Nathan’s.

Part of what makes this mall special is its convenience. It’s located on Wolf Road, which features a number of other valued retailers nearby, like Jos A Bank, Bed Bath & Beyond, and Trader Joe’s.

Part of what makes this mall special is the traffic patterns: it’s much easier to get in and out of this mall than nearby Crossgates.

And part of what makes this mall special is its Adirondack décor: big wood-trimmed leather sofas and chairs set before fireplaces, rich Adirondack colors, and updated hardware.

Mall at a Glance

Anchors: Macy’s, Sear’s, Boscov’s.

National chains:

  • Mini-anchors: Barnes & Noble, Christmas Tree Shop, LL Bean, Nordsrom Rack, Whole Foods.
  • Other stores: Aeropostale, American Eagle, Children’s Place, Christopher and Banks , CJ Banks, Express, Famous Footwear, Gap, Payless Shoe Source, and Zales.

Variety of merchandise: Wide variety. Although slightly weaker on fashion than Crossgates, it more than compensates with a greater selection of clothing for the real world (LL Bean, Land’s End, Sear’s), outdoor gear, culture and entertainment (besides a huge Barnes & Noble, includes a musical instruments store—a rarity in regional malls), a Christmas Tree Shop which has more categories of merchandise than one might realize (including health and beauty supplies typically found in a pharmacy), good selection for soft home goods through the department stores, LL Bean, Nordstrom Rack, and Christmas Tree Shop; has a full-service organic grocery store (Whole Foods), and some services rarely found at malls, including a US Post Office.

Prices range from middle- to upper-middle raange.

Special Notes: A comfortable place to shop.

Food court:   Large with nice selection and plenty of seating. Includes Arby’s, Cajun café, China Max, Cosimo’s Café, Dunkin, Nathan’s, Soup Man, and Mr Subb. Other dining options include Cheesecake Factory, Five Guys, Moe’s Southweat Grill, PF Chang. Coffee available at the café in Barnes & Noble and Gloria Jean’s coffees.

Wikipedia page (English only):

Website (English only):

CityTips: Chicago

21 Sep

Occasionally, friends ask me for recommendations on where to shop in other cities.

And one of my favorite TV shows of the 2000s was a long-forgotten Travel Channel show called Let’s Shop, in which the host would visit a different city each week and tell viewers where to shop in addition to offering other travel suggestions. Nothing fills the void.

Until now.  The Malls Across America CityTips offer tips on shopping and sightseeing in different cities (and not necessarily just ones in Americas).

The first city? Chicago.

Why visit Chicago? Imagine Fifth Avenue with wider sidewalks and cleaner streets. The culture and mainline shopping are as amazing as in New York, with an entirely different vibe Exceptionally easy access thanks to a central location and serving as a hub for two airlines plus low-cost access through the city’s second airport.

In other words, a convenient urban weekend getaway for those who want the dense urban experience of New York, but not New York, or are attending a conference in Chicago and could stick around a few extra days (and should!).

What to see? Although this blog only celebrates shopping, life is more than shopping (really). In fact, I write another blog about museums.

So here are more suggestions than you can follow in a brief weekend:

  • If the weather’s decent enough, take a boat tour of Chicago architecture. For those who didn’t realize it, Chicago—not New York—is America’s most architecturally innovative city. It houses America’s first steel-framed skyscraper and was the early home base to Frank Lloyd Wright. More recently, the city’s Millennium Park launched a new age of urban park design. One of the unique ways to see the architectural landmarks of Chicago (and, in turn, learn a bit about the city and its history) is by taking one of the many architectural cruises, which float out out to Lake Michigan and back through the Chicago River while gliding past several Chicago landmarks. Best tour: by the nonprofit Chicago Architectural Foundation. About 2 hours (includes waiting time). Located at the beginning of the Magnificent Mile (a section of Michigan Avenue north of the Chicago River and the main area where tourists hang out in Chicago).
  • After the boat tour, check out the McCormick Bridgehouse & Chicago River Museum, which tells the history of Chicago by telling the history of its river, which has been reimagined and, when necessary, reengineered to serve the ever-changing and growing population of the area. Rises 5 stories from the river itself to the streets five stories above. About 45 to 60 minutes.
  • Still interested in the history of Chicago? Check out the Chicago Historical Society, which tells the story of a brash, boosterish city that rose to become America’s Second City (until Los Angeles overtook it in terms of population). About 2 hours, plus transportation time (located a bit north of the main tourist area).
  • World class art your thing? Then check out the Art Institute of Chicago, one of the largest and most famous in the world. Its signature painting is the classic American Gothic, but its collections rival that of the better known Metropolitan Museum in New York and its art school is second to none. Amazing collections of American and European art (including one of the best collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art in North America), native American art, Asian art, architecture and design, and medieval armor, among others. Minimum 2 hours, located at the edge of the tourist area. Could spend days.
  • Natural history? America’s premiere natural history is the Field Museum, located at the edge of the park that has the fountain prominently featured in the opening credits to the tv show, Married with Children. One of the characteristics that I admire most about this museum are its mesmerizing, immersive exhibitions, like full-size replicas of a wigmam, streets in Africa, and boats that sailed the Pacific. Its animal galleries probably cover the same territory as an introductory, university-level biology course and its galleries on Africa, the Pacific, and the Ancient Americas provide a similar quality introduction to these cultures. The Hall of Gems and Hall of Jades display jaw-dropping natural and human- worked stones. Minimum 3 hours, plus transportation time. Could spend days.
  • Museum of Science and Industry. Another best-of-its-kind museum in Chicago, this museum compliments the Field (don’t know if they’d say that, but I do), by exploring the wonders of engineering and industry. Among its highlights: a working coal mine, a gallery celebrating major innovations of the past 100 years and another celebrating main street of old, exhibitions on transportation featuring bikes, ships and planes, and one of my favorites: the working coal mine. Minimum 3 hours, plus transportation time (located outside of the primary tourist area). Could spend days.
  • Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership. An excellent introduction to Judaism and Judaica through its permanent exhibition, and various aspects of Jewish art and culture through its changing exhibitions. Minium 90 minutes. Located just south of the Chicago River on Michigan Avenue, at the end of the tourist area.
  • See a show! Chicago has a thriving theater and comedy community; in fact, its Steppenwolf Theatre Company served as the training grounds for some of the best American actors including John Malkovitch, Laurie Metcalfe, William Petersen, and Gary Sinese, as well as playwrights like Tony Award-winning Tracy Letts. Second City offers comedy and a host of other local theatre companies also produce shows.
  • Check out the North Pier, which offers a variety of activities for the entire family.

Where to shop? To be honest, there’s enough shopping in the main tourist districts—the Loop (just south of the Chicago River and west of Michigan Avenue) and the Magnificent Mile—Michigan Avenue just north of the Chicago River—that I haven’t explored much else in this city. Here are some of my favorites:

  • Design Within Reach, which sells reproductions of mid-20th century modern furniture. At various times, the reproductions are authentic or not, and “within reach” is a bit of a stretch in terms of prices, but it’s pretty to look at.
  • Bloomingdale’s Home Store built in a converted theatre, which is near Design within Reach. In keeping with its theatrical home, the presentation of merchandise is dramatic. Includes table ware, kitchen, bath, bedroom, and furniture departments.
  • Room & Board, my favorite furniture store in Minneapolis from which I bought some of my favorite pieces of furniture and has since expanded throughout the US. Features comfortable, clean modern furniture that anyone would proudly display in their home.
  • Walgreen’s on the Magnificent Mile: there are two, one in the Wrigley Building (as in the gum), the other across from the Water Tower. The only place you can get a flu shot, pick up a missing office supply, and get a bottle of wine and dinner, all in the same place. (The Walgreens across from the Water Tower Place is my favorite Walgreens but, since it was remodeled, the Wrigley Tower Walgreens is a close second.)
  • Crate & Barrel, which is based in Chicago, has a flagship store on Michigan Avenue.
  • Eataly, a 50,000 square foot gourmet department store, partly food court with the best sandwich I ever ate and a Nutella bar, part food hall a la Harrods in London (complete with counter service in the fish and pasta departments), part cooking school, part grocery emporium, and every bit an eyeful. Named after the country of its origin with a more apt verb in its name.
  • The Magnificent Mile also features all of the luxury shopping standards: Sak’s, Nordstrom’s, Neiman’s, Bloomingdales and, for something more affordable, Macy’–plus the stores that hang around them like the Gap and Zara. It’s really like a Fifth Avenue with wider sidewalks. It also has a couple of indoor, multi-level malls, like Water Tower Place and 900 North Michigan Shops.
  • But skip the Macy’s on the Magnificent Mile. Instead, go south of the Chicago River to the Macy’s in the Loop. That was the original Marshall Field & Company. It’s a flagship for the city, a bit better than a typical mall-based Macy’s but not quite as exciting as the New York’s Herald Square or San Francisco’s Union Square stores. This store is also the home to the original Frango mints, a Marshall Field standard that has been adopted by every store that ever bought out Field’s, including Daytons, then May Companies, then Macy’s.

Where to eat? To be honest, I’m still a bit sour on food in Chicago since my favorite diner there—the Cambridge House—closed to make way for a condominium.

But one must eat, so I’ll make some recommendations.

  • Chicago is famous for its pizza. But prime among its pizza joints is Gino’s East.  Prepare to wait in line–and yes, it’s worth it.  (Don’t go to Uno—you can go to Unos anywhere.)
  • Billy Goat Tavern, the classic burger joint that inspired the classic Saturday Night Live skit, has a few locations in the heart of the tourist area.
  • Chicago has great Greek food, but I do not have a specific recommendation.
  • Lawry’s, for whom the seasoning is named, has its signature steak house location in Chicago.
  • Weber Grill, the restaurant of the Webber Kettle grills, also has a restaurant in Chicago.
  • Chicago also has great Greek food.  A concierge can probably suggest a few places.

To be honest, I usually eat at the slightly-better-than-fast-food threesome: Panera, Cosi, and Corner Bakery (whose first stores were in Chicago). They’re not exactly gourmet offerings, but the food is relatively healthy and Panera has its own points card.

Where to stay? For people who want to stay near the heart of the city, Chicago’s Loop and Magnificant Mile / River North areas offer a host of hotels, starting with mid-range to luxury options. Some of my favorites (mid-range to upper mid-range, mostly Marriotts because that’s who has most of my points):

  • Allerton: a classic hotel in the heart of the Magnificent Mile with adorable (smallish) rooms.
  • Comfort Inn & Suites Michigan Avenue, a superbly located hotel (half a block south of the Chicago River) with equally reasonable rates, nice rooms, free Internet and free breakfast.
  • Courtyard by Marriot Downtown River North, which is basically a standard Courtyard in a good location.
  • Fairfield Inn Chicago Downtown/Magnificent Mile is actually on a sidestreet, but one of the funkiest hotels in the chain, featuring an updated 1960s London aesthetic.
  • Inn of Chicago, a classic hotel that’s just 1 block east of Michigan Avenue. It’s more basic than some of the hotels in the area, but it has historic charm, an unbeatable location, and provides a comfortable night’s rest.
  • Intercontinental, which was remodeled in the early 1990s and maintained ever since. A classic hotel with all of the modern conveniences, including a Walgreens across the street.
  • Marriot Magnificent Mile, the ultimate conference hotel, and the site of the first major conference I planned. Large rooms, comfortably appointed, and the excellent services and amenities one expects from Marriott.

Also note that Hyatt Hotels are based in Chicago, so they have a significant presence in the city.

Other tips.

  • Avoid driving and road-based transit to the airport (either one). The roads clog up more than most drains in showers of homes of hairy people. Chicago’s MTA—or subway system—has stops at both Midway and O’Hare Airports. The stations are a bit of a schlep from the airports but the ride is much more stress free.
  • In fact, use the MTA to get around most of Chicago (except to the McCormick convention center, which seems to be off of anyone’s radar).
  • But if your business is limited to the Loop and the Magnificent Mile / River North areas, you can walk to just about everything.
  • No matter what time of day the need arises, the Walgreens across from the Water Tower can take care of it. They’re open 24 hours.
  • Chicago has some of the coolest and most extensive collections of converted 1900s-era warehouses.

This is probably more than a weekend’s worth of stuff. And I didn’t even begin to suggest day trips outside of the city.

But that’s the point: Chicago is an endless source of fun. Come once to fall in love with the city (my favorite time of the year is early to mid fall); come again and again to discover its many nooks and crannies.

Charlottetown Mall

17 Aug

Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada

Quick Review

This is a small (60-store) enclosed mall at the edge of Charlottetown and the de facto centerpiece of a district of big-box retailing, mostly in strip malls.

As far as store selection goes, the mall contains many, though not all, of the “standards” in Canadian malls in smaller communities: Aldo, Bentley, Dollarama, Dynamite, La Senza Moore’s, Northern Reflections, The Source, Sport Chek, Stokes, Tip Top Tailors, and anchors Winners and—in an outbuilding– Superstore (Loblaw’s large discount format in the Maritimes). The store selection includes a surprise or two, like the growing retailer SoftMoc and youth-oriented Garage.

Food selection is limited: what appear to be locally owned Asian, burger and pizza options, and an array of snacking options (great for guilty pleasure not so much for health).

A Target briefly replaced long-time tenant Zellers but it almost as quickly as it opened. The mall recently announced plans to subdivide the space into other stores.

Although the mall underwent some renovations for Target, unlike others that went through a total renovation, the renovations appeared minimal.

Not that a make-over wouldn’t help this mall: my take-away impression of this mall was that it was depression in three-dimensions.

Many of the store fronts looked like dinosaurs of mall design from decades past; few having had been renovated in decades unless the store opened more recently than that.

Like the storefronts, the fixtures throughout the mall were original. For example, benches are metal mesh, typical of those found in public parks. The standard for most malls now is either plush seating (in more upscale malls) or wood fixtures (in more basic malls).

The sense of dread was augmented by the lighting: fluorescent lights covered by thin white plastic waffling, a standard design of the 80s and 90s.

That most of the major stores like Winners and Moore’s have private exterior entrances suggests two things: (1) They don’t want shoppers coming in through the mall; (2) the owners have even less incentive to make desperately needed renovations.

And those renovations are necessary because an attractive mall not only catches shoppers’ eyes, but also makes shoppers feel safe and comfortable.

What’s surprising is that the mall is owned by one of Canada’s largest and strongest mall managers—RioCan.

Perhaps the renovation of the Target space will bring much needed renovations to the rest of the mall but if Target failed to spur those, one cannot the latest remodeling of that space to have a halo effect on the rest of the mall.

The mall also needs a renovation of its website, which—like the mall—has a mid- to late-1990s aesthetic. It also has a directory of stores that lists categories for which the mall has no stores.

Mall at a Glance

Anchors: Winners and, in an outbuilding, Superstore.

National chains: Aldo, Bentley, Claire’s, Dollarama, Dynamite, Fairweather, Garage, Moore’s, Northern Reflections, SoftMoc, The Source Sport Chek, Stokes, Sunglass Hut

Variety of merchandise: Good, although not deep in any category, most categories covered from clothing and accessories, to electronics and household goods. Two of the most significant categories missing are pharmacies and furniture.

Prices are in the lower- to middle-ranges.

Special notes: Many stores have their own exterior entrances

Food court: Lacks a food court perse but has several stands and faster food options, including locally owned and operated Asian, burger and pizza places, and snack foods including donuts and pretzels.

Wikipedia page: None.


Kittery Outlet Malls

20 Jul

Kittery, Maine. USA.

Note: Posts through the summer focus on malls in or near vacation areas, mostly in the US I-95 corridor. The Kittery Outlets are about an hour north of Boston.

Quick Review

Kittery, Maine was one of the original outlet meccas, starting as a collection of stores and eventually commercialized into a street of shopping comprising several somewhat scattered buildings on either side of US Highway 1. Some buildings only have three to five outlets, others have 20 or more. And unlike other outlet meccas, the different buildings seem to have different owners, providing the area with more variety in appearance.

Kittery is also a perfect location for outlet stores: it’s about an hour or so northeast of = Boston (providing access to millions of shoppers) and just over the border from scenic seaside Portsmouth, New Hampshire, making it a perfect location for a day trip.

More personally, Kittery provided my first outlet experience.

Like pleasant memories from the past, they have only deepened through the years, meaning expectations have only been elevated despite visits to some of the best outlet malls in the world. The expectations dashed when I visited in the early 2000s. Compared to the Wrentham Premium Outlets just south of Boston, they appeared ragtag and driving from building to building to visit just two or three jobs seemed inconvenient. (Or perhaps I became lazy.)

My visit in the summer of 2013 left me with a different impression. Perhaps because I was introducing my life and shopping partner to Kittery, perhaps tempered by 10 more years of outlet mall visits, or perhaps because I was on vacation, I was impressed by the Kittery experience this time.

Some characteristics I found especially helpful:

  • A large selection of stores, well over 100.
  • Among the selections are outlets that one cannot easily find at most other outlet malls, including Premium-branded outlets (which tend to have the best selections of stores). These include Calphalon, Crate and Barrel (which seems to have closed many of its outlet stores), and Orvis (which also has a limited selection of outlets).
  • For those seeking the outlet mall standards like the Gap Outlet, Polo, Brooks Brothers, and the outlet-mall-only Chef Collection, Kittery provides them, too.
  • Kittery even features some one-of-a-kind stores selling merchandise from other manufacturers and retailers, such as the Kittery Trading Post.
  • Many of the stores are actual outlets rather than factory stores. (An outlet sells discontinued and imperfect merchandise. A factory store often features products made especially to sell in the discount store, usually with styling and quality to match the lower price.) As a result, the mall features some unique finds not readily available elsewhere.
  • Although driving from building to building can be a drag, walking is reduced. On a hot humid August afternoon or, worse, during a rainstorm, that’s a perk. (Note to fitness buffs: you can park once and walk from building to building.)
  • Driving from building to building also encourages mission-focused shopping rather than browsing. That is, shoppers go to the stores that interest them rather than browsing past several stores that initially had no interest but because the shopper walked by it, they chose to enter and ultimately made an impulse purchase.
  • One of the larger buildings has a coffee shop where one shopper can rest while the other looks for bargains.

Kittery also provides a wider variety of dining options than many outlet malls, which usually have limited-selection food courts with even rarer seating and a few stand-only food vendors.

In other words, Kittery not only provides what people expect in an outlet experience—lots of stores and bargains—but also unique experience that discount malls don’t. (And if you’re up for a day trip, set aside some time to stroll the charming streets of nearby Portsmouth, New Hampshire.)

Mall at a Glance

Anchors: Crate & Barrel, Kittery Trading Post (a store selling several brands), Orvis, Ralph Lauren.

National chains: Aeropostale, Brookstone, Children’s Place, Clark’s, Cole-Haan, Ecco, Hanes, Izod, Nike, Old Navy, Puma, Sunglass Hut, and Timberland

Variety of merchandise: Excellent, nearly everything except books, furniture, appliances, and entertainment.

Prices range from lower-middle to upper-middle ranges.

Special notes:

Discount coupon booklet available to AAA/CAA members in information office

Well rest-roomed. Many available and all seemed to be clean.

Food court: None.   Instead, offers few eating outlets, mostly in free-standing or smaller buildings.

One place to note: Noel’s Café and Coffee House.   Has an amazing seating area outside and coffee house. Has tables, rides, and is covered—so no one needs to worry too much about the elements in warm weather. For those worried about cold weather, however, Noel has lots of indoor seating.

Wikipedia page (focuses on the entire town, not just the outlets):,_Maine


Christiana Mall

15 Jun

Newark, Delaware, USA

Note: Posts through the summer focus on malls in or near vacation areas, mostly in the US I-95 corridor. Christiana Mall is 45 minutes to  an hour south of Philadelphia, an hour north of Baltimore, and two hours north of Washington.

Quick Review

I began frequenting this mall over a decade ago on trips up and down the I-95 Corridor: I wanted some new towels from Macys on sale. And given a choice, I’d choose the Macy’s that didn’t charge sales tax—saving an additional 5 to 7 percent. (Christiana Mall is in the tiny state of Delaware, which doesn’t charge sales tax to distinguish it from its economically powerful neighbors of Maryland New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.) I bought the towels and revived my dormant Macys account during the purchase (for an additional 15% off). The net result of that experience: my Macy’s card gets regular workouts and I’ve been a regular visit to this mall ever since.

Its primary attraction was its sales-tax-free Macys. The mall didn’t impress me as much of anything special. One end of the mall was essentially dead when an anchor closed down and the selection of stores in the rest of the mall ranged from ho to hum (with the exception of Aveda, Pottery Barn, and Williams Sonoma).

Towards the end of the 2000s, Nordstrom’s announced plans to knock down the dead department store and build a replacement. In preparation, the mall gussied itself up. The exterior transformed with restaurants and other stores opening directly to the outside.

A new food court sprung up, with two of my favorites—the politically incorrect Chick-Fil-A and Carvel’s Ice Cream.

The store selection seemed to strengthen. Apple opened a store here and later, so did Microsoft. Target opened a large store. Fashion favorites like Armani Exchange, Anthropologie, Forever 21, and H&M moved in.

The restaurant selection strengthened, too. A California Pizza Kitchen opened up, as did a Panera—a notch above the food court in quality and a notch below a full-service restaurant in price.

Finally, after several years of construction, new on- and off-ramps from I-95 opened, somewhat fixing traffic patterns.

In other words, over the past decade, Christiana Mall has transformed from a mall I went to save a few bucks on sales tax at Macy’s to a mall I visit with some serious shopping intentions. Apparently, I’m not the only one who feels that way. If the information on the mall’s Wikipedia entry is correct, this mall is one of the top grossing malls in the US. Admittedly, it has not appeared on any top 10 lists I’ve seen but that doesn’t mean it’s not on a top 50 list and it might explain the significant improvements in the past several years.

Mall at a Glance

Anchors: Department stores: JC Penney, Macy’s, Nordstrom, Target.

Also: Cabela’s (separate building) and Cinemark Theaters.

National chains: Anthropologie, Apple, Armani Exchange, Aveda, Barnes & Noble, Clark’s, Disney Store, Forever 21, Francesca’s, Gap, H&M, House of Hoops by Foot Locker, Invicta, Kid’s Foot Locker, Microsoft, Oakley, Pottery Barn, Urban Outfitters, Victoria’s Secret, White House Black market, Williams Sonoma, and Zales.

Outbuildings include: Costco, Dick’s Sporting Goods, hhGregg (appliances and electronics), Michael’s, Petco, Sear’s appliances

Variety of merchandise: Excellent. Exceptionally strong in fashion and accessories, computer-based electronics, and sporting goods.

Prices are middle- to upper-middle range.

Special notes:

Even after rebuilding the ramps, traffic flow from I-95 to the mall still backs up onto the highway, especially during heavy shopping seasons.

Traffic flow within the mall property can be a bit screwy; relies on 1-way roads in parts and returning to I-95 is never as easy as one thinks it should be.

But finding parking never seems to be a serious problem.

One more issue: According to its website, youth under the age of 18 must be accompanied by a supervising adult age 18 or over after 5 pm on Friday and Saturday.

Food court: A variety of options—some atypical of the standard mall food court. Options include Chick Fil-A, Carvel’s, MasterWok, McDonalds, Mrs. Field’s, Ruby Thai Kitchen, SaladWorks, Sbarro, Subway.

Other options exist: For a break: Starbuck’s, Teavana, the café at Barnes & Noble, and Jasmine Smoothie (among others) are available elsewhere in in the mall.

Several restaurants are also available, including fast-casual favorite Panera and   full-service restaurants Brio Tuscan Grill, California Pizza Kitchen, Cheesecake Factory, and JB Dawson’s.

Wikipedia page: