The Bag Lady: Umbrellas, bags, gifts, and more
They call themselves a book and gift store for wild and whimsical women but I bought a delightful umbrella there which looks almost like a Tiffany lampshade. BTW, it was for a gift not my personal use. Being in the South End/Dilworth area, I expected it to be quite expensive but the price for my magnificent umbrella gift was only $22 and that was not a sale price.
What to buy: Handbags (purses), umbrellas, books, et al.
What to pay: More than you might expect in general but much more reasonable than the shops at South Park.
Eastland Mall: Requiem for a falling mall?
Eastland Mall was at one time Charlotte's premier enclosed shopping centres much the way Regency Square was in Richmond. While its more upmarket clientele have frequented the more uppity South Park Mall, reports of Eastland's demise are very much exaggerated. It has 3 on 4 of its anchor stores- Belk, Sears, and Dillard's remain. Different from the more upscale Southpark Mall with Sur La Table and Cheesecake Factory, etc., here you will find stores like Lim's, Payless Shoes, etc.
What to buy: There are 117 stores here so there is plenty from which to choose.
What to pay: All price ranges are represented here, though not quite as upscale as South Park Mall.
Bombay Bazaar: Stuff b1bob has never heard of
Bombay Bazaar is one of many ethnic stores in Charlotte. My friend Mark likes to cook Indian cuisine every now and again. I personally get on better at Latin American markets because I love to cook that style of food (which is ironically my specialty).
What to buy: As Mark says, you can buy "a bunch of stuff that b1bob's never heard of" here: things like, asoefatida, tumeric, fresh cardamom, garam masala, some chai (tea) and a few other Indian whatnots.
Ballantyne Commons East: Open that wallet...wide
Like Morrocroft, Ballantyne Commons East is an upscale strip mall with some chains that are found everywhere (such as Eckerd, Harris-Teeter, The U.P.S. Store, and Blockbuster) but it primarily offers stores befitting the affluent area like Providence Bistro, Port City Java, Zapata's, McAlister's Gourmet Deli, Wolf Camera, Cubbyhole, Wise Guy's Restaurant, and the Fox & Hound English Pub. There is also a YMCA, something not often found at a strip mall.
What to buy: You can buy groceries, pharmaceuticals, toiletries, coffee of any style, rent movies, work out, eat out and buy all manner of whatnots here.
What to pay: Many of the stores lean decisively to the upmarket.
Southpark Mall: Too rich for my blood
Southpark Mall features over 100 specialty stores.
What to buy: This mall appears to lean more to the fashion centre, but just about anything upmarket can be bought here.
UPDATE: I will no longer buy anything at this mall or any other by the same management (Simon Group) because another mall under their umbrella evicted a tenant based on the content of his store and applied this standard only to this vendor. If you're interested, write me an e-mail for more details.
Sam Bass Gallery: Guitars and race cars
If you were able to homogenize crafts indigenous to Central and Western North Carolina, you would almost certainly come up with something that included Nascar racing, country music, and various visual arts. Sam Bass has pretty well achieved that homogenization. You can see the result and get a good look at the life and times of Sam Bass by visiting his gallery across the street from Lowe's Motor Speedway. Sam is a painter and a musician and he loves stock car racing. There are several of his canvases in his gallery but canvases are not the medium for which he is most well known. Though his name may not be very well known for his "metal work," Sam has designed the paint schemes for dozens of race cars, which combines art and auto racing but there is also a strong portion of music in his resume. He was a long time collector of guitars (since he was eight years old) when the Gibson Company approached him in the late '90s with a request to decorate some of their special edition guitars. He has done several of those but perhaps even more remarkably, he now owns over 125 guitars, of which he plays about 50. The others are part of his memorabilia collection and several of both collections are in the gallery.
What to buy: Original paintings, diecast cars, posters, other collectibles.
What to pay: $10 to $!000+
If you happen to be in the Charlotte during our warmer times (which is really most of the year), we have at least five farmers' markets where you can get the freshest produce from farms in the local area. The ones with which I am most familiar are:
The Charlotte Regional Farmers' Market at 1801 Yorkmont Rd., on the west side of town. It is open Tues & Sat from 8-6 and Sunday from 12:30 to 6.
The Matthews Community Farmers' Market is on N. Trade St., just off of John St. (or Old Monroe Rd.). It is open Sat only from 7:30-noon.
The Gateway Village Farmers' Market is in the 1000 block of W. Trade St. on Fridays from 9 untild mid-afternoon.
The Center City Green Market is on 7th St, across from Reid's Fine Foods, near the end of the lightrail Blue Line. It is open on Sat from 8-1.
There is also the Tailgate Farmers' Market in South End and W. Park Dr. and Camden. It operates Tues from 4-7PM and Sat 9-1.
What to buy: Not only do they have fresh produce in season ranging from apples to zucchini but you will almost always find flowers, jams, jellies, pickles, and, quite often, breads and local handicrafts. It is almost worth a visit just to see what unusual produce the farmers are marketing on a given day.
What to pay: Sometimes you will not really get bargain prices but you will not get such flavor and freshness and flavor at the local chain stores either.
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The Wax Museum: Charlotte's best source of beach music
If you love oldies but goodies music, you may think that you have died and gone to heaven in this place, except we won't need money in heaven.
They are open from 11 AM every day except Sunday and close at 8 PM, Monday - Friday and at 6 PM on Saturday.
What to buy: The very best in old time music, especially beach music. They specialize in oldies, and things related, but they also sell almost anything related to music, from DJ services to dance videos. But they don't sell dancing shoes. If you want to buy your dancing shoes where you buy your discs, tapes, or even vinyl (If you don't know what that is, ask your parents.), you will have to visit Judy's in North Myrtle Beach, SC.
If you cannot get to Charlotte, they conduct an ongoing online auction of all things musical (Ever heard of Doo Wop?) on their website and on EBay.
What to pay: You get what you are willing to pay for. With their auction system, prices can go a bit high though so please be aware of what you are offering.
North Lake Mall
This mall is brand new- it just opened in September of 2005. Charlotte was lacking a decent mall north of the city, and this is finally it.
Northlake will have an AMC movie theatre, carries many upscale stores, and has a great INDOOR playground for small kids.
There is also a food court with all the basics (chick-fil-a, Italian, Japanese, etc.)
Go check it out!
Concord Mills Mall
Concord Mills is the newest mall in the Charlotte area. It opened in 1999. It claims to be an outlet mall, but there are a lot of normal stores too. This mall is very crowded around race time, because it's located very close to Lowe's Motor Speedway. Also, this mall is very long!!! It takes a while to get around it.
If you have kids, there is a big freshwater fish aquarium in Bass Pro Shops. I love to take my son here, he loves to watch the "fishies." :-) Also, there's a Jeepers! that is great for birthday parties, and it has a roller coaster and a lot of little kiddy rides in it. There's a new "speedpark" with go carts and putt-putt, and there's a carousel in the food court.
AND also, there's a Jillian's here. Jillian's has bowling, pool tables, arcades, and a dance club. AND there's an AMC movie theatre with stadium seating and 22 theatres. There are tons of normal stores and a Starbucks and ice cream places inside the mall.
NEVER go here alone.
I caught someone breaking into my car here once. And I knew a girl who got her tires slashed here. This used to be a nice, normal mall, but the part of town got bad, and now I don't think I'll ever return.
If you do decide to visit, there is an ice chalet in the bottom floor of the mall. ONLY do this during the daytime, please.....
This mall is quiet and refined.... You can find a lot of nice clothes here if you really want to shop. They have a nice restaurant or two tacked onto the mall, and they just redid their entire food court area, so it's much nicer than it used to be.
This is the more upscale Charlotte mall.
Used Records: Wanna' buy or sell some music?
There are couple of good places in town to buy or sell music. Ernie's Music in the Arboretum shopping center. You can also try Repo Records on Central Avenue for a good selection of edgy tunes.
UPDATE!!! I got this email from the owner of a new place . . .
"Please note that Ernies Music is now out of business. I own The Record Exchange
which has two locations in Charlotte - One at the former Ernies space at the
Arboretum, and the former Ernies space at Park Road.
We also are on line at www.trexonline.com."
What to buy: Alternative music is usually the strength of these places, but you'll find all kinds of bargains.
What to pay: 30% less than retail is a good ballpark figure.
Various: Charlotte . . . an antique hotbed
I'm not a big shopper at all, but if you're interested in antiques, there are plenty of stores around town to keep you busy for awhile.
The Metrolina Expo is a great place to shop for antiques and collectibles. In fact, it's the largest antiques mall in the country. Call 704-596-4643 to inquire about seasonal events. The Metrolina Expo is located at 7100 N. Statesville Rd.
You could also head down to Pineville, NC which is on the southwestern edge of Charlotte near Carolina Place Mall. The little strip of downtown Pineville has a few interesting shops.
What to buy: All kinds of antiques.
Stonecrest Shopping Center: A little farther south
Located in the ritzy Ballantyne area of south Charlotte just past Piper Glen and I-485 on Rea Road, you'll find this expansive strip mall. There is a Harris Teeter grocery store, a larger multiplex cinema (Regal Cinema), a Target, and numerous specialty stores. There's a great toy store here where I've purchased gifts for my nephew. You'll also find some interesting restaurants here including Miro, my favorite local Spanish place.
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