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Mad for The Mills?

Kids, I have been to the retail mountaintop, and am here to report back, firsthand, on St. Louis Mills.

It's part of my job, so there I was with the unwashed masses at 8 a.m. on Thursday morning. (Get this: the stores didn't even open until 10, but the retail gods still managed to pack the place with people at 8 in the morning!! Celia and her guitar were there on stage, warming up the crowd, and I have to say that I'd probably go to the ribbon-cutting at a Dumpster if percussion-happy Joia were part of the festivities...)

Anyhoo, shoppers wandered around like the undead, peering into the closed metal grates of stores like Off Broadway Shoe Warehouse (which is so big that it's listed as an "anchor," not just as "footwear," on the store directory), Primarily Purple (just what it sounds like) and the omnipresent stalwart of the outlet mall, Big Dogs. Storekeeps were forced to adopt one of a couple of coping mechanisms when faced with the hordes who were prohibited by Mills management from being allowed in to spend with abandon until Miss Missouri finished her opening-day festivities: some shuffled around, checking stock and getting their registers ready for business, and others came to the grate to engaged potential shoppers in a little from-behind-bars banter. The gatekeepers at Marshall's MegaStore caved under the pressure and threw their doors open a full hour before showtime...and were duly rewarded with crazed shoppers who couldn't get enough. (Tangential question: how, on opening day of new shops in a brand-new mall, did several stores have "Clearance" and "Reduced Must Go Now!" merchandise from the get-go?)

My own assessment? Not too much to get excited about. I'd go back for Off 5th Saks Fifth Avenue Outlet, maybe Nine West and for the quirky Soda Jerks, who have nutty, regional soda favorites from around the country, available by the bottle (refreshing Moxie, anyone?). The inside skatepark and blacklight putt-putt course look fun. If you've got kids, they might dig the PBS playground area. Beyond that, just how many dollar stores does a mall need?? Trendspotters, keep your eyes on this one: a joint called Granny's, which is an "everything's-$3" store. Going after that upscale discount shopper?


Posted under Business District by Amanda Doyle on Mon., Nov 17, 2003 at 12:08 PM



Comments

Everyone's bound to be excited about a new mall, but under the shadow of this concrete behemoth, a more important shopping/community site just opened in St. Louis: CraigsList. The all-time best online classified site has finally generated enough critical mass here, and I couldn't be happier.

http://stlouis.craigslist.org/

* Disclaimer: I have no affiliation with Craigslist, I just think it's sweet.

[Posted by Will Horton on Wed., Nov 19, 2003 at 4:28 PM]

This morning [11-13-03] I attended the ground breaking ceremony for the North Market Place residential development located in the heart of the "Old North St. Louis" neighborhood, perhaps better known as the home of Crown Candy. The air was crisp, the sun was warm, and the mood happy and upbeat. Whether by accident or design, in the background directly behind the speaker's podium was the Arch, its smooth stainless steel skin and pleasing shape sharply visible against the solid blue sky.

The speakers kept their remarks brief. It became apparent there had been a remarkable number of dedicated individuals as well as cooperation by various organizations that together were responsible for bringing the project to fruition. Recognition was specifically given to an architect, a pastor and a nun from neighborhood churches, the alderperson, a housing specialist, and leaders of neighborhood organizations. The cooperation by bankers, government, realtors, builders, and other organizations was noted.

St. Louis Circuit Judge David Mason, board member of the Regional Housing and Community Development Assistance, drew laughs and applause when he told the short story of five frogs sitting on a fence, four of whom decided to jump off. No one volunteered an answer to the judge's question as to how many frogs were left, so he explained all five were left as the four had only decided to jump. He wryly noted that the North Market project thus differed from all too many other city projects where many decisions were made but action itself never took place.

I had come alone and so had the opportunity to closely observe the crowd. I saw people whom I knew and people whom I recognized. I also saw many more people than I could hope to ever meet and get to know, but all of whom who respectfully listened and enthusiastically applauded each speaker. All looked visibly excited not for what they might stand to gain personally, but because they recognized the project as beneficial to their neighborhood and their community. I realized with a bit of irony that I felt some pride in the groundbreaking of the development, even though I had neither any personal contribution to its planning nor had any personal stake in its success. I was simply proud to be a St. Louisian, and happy that all indicators led to only one conclusion--that this was going to be a very successful venture.

In the science of chemistry, there are two types of mixtures--homogeneous and heterogeneous. Sea water (water and salt) is an example of the former; water and oil is an example of the latter. In St. Louis, a "diverse" crowd all too often actually means a heterogeneous mixture. I realized this morning was unique in that this audience, comprising individuals of different races, financial status, ages and sex, was purely homogeneous. Their presence reflected not personal interest or concern or for those of only their own background. Rather, it was a singular shared concern and hope for the success of the project to the ultimate betterment of the community.

My thoughts drifted to the prominent article in the morning's Post-Dispatch reporting the opening today of St. Louis Mills, the county's newest mega-mall, described as the "ultimate consumer theme park." I wondered how homogeneous was the mixture of shoppers awaiting the opening and what sense of community they might have. Looking around at my fellow groundbreaking attendees, I was quite certain none were wearing a $599 Gucci suit--one of the "bargains" to be had at a St. Louis Mills store, whose manager was quoted as looking forward to the "feeding frenzy" to occur after the doors were opened. Even so, I knew I was happy to be standing in the middle of 14th Street, the Arch shining in the background, surrounded by and sharing the happy spirit and optimism of the neighborhood. I knew the North Market Place development had just experienced its first public success.

[Posted by Richard Swatek on Thu., Nov 20, 2003 at 1:43 PM]

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