roadside stands: Good stuff in the Navajo Nation
It's not really a shop. It's people selling stuff out of their car/truck or from a little stand. Every day, these people get out in the sun and set up card tables to present their jewelry or other locally made crafts. For the life of me, I couldn't figure out where they went to the bathroom...there was literally NOTHING but desert for about a 20 mile radius at the place we stopped...which was just a turnout.
What to buy: The jewelry is excellent--I always support local artists/"merchants". And it's a great price considering what you would pay in a store. The people are SO nice--if you buy something. Jeanette was a little hesitant at first b/c these stands are all up and down the roads and she wanted to look around, but she said it reminded her of Guatemala--people trying to sell you anything and everything. Somewhat of a hassle. I bought a necklace right away--I loved it and it was $8.00. So, the guy and I talked about where we were going, where we had been while Jeanette was bartering.
What to pay: Depends on what you buy. Necklaces were $5.00-$20.00 and rings went up to $25. I didn't get a chance to price everything.
Hot Topic: Everything about the music
Folks, this is not what you might call a b1bob kind of store. I put it here not as a recommendation, but as something for folks from outside the U.S. to be on the lookout for as a curiosity when they shop at an American shopping mall. It was founded on the premise that no other retailers were taking timely advantage of the direct correlation between music videos, alternative artists, and teenage fashions. Hot Topic keeps up with music videos, concerts, and music magazines and claims to always be well ahead of the curve. They say that if it's happening in music related fashion, it's happening at Hot Topic right now.
What to buy: Some of the ugliest fashion called alternative can be found here as well as all manner of accessories. It's always fun for a square like me to come in here and check things out (like Spencer Gifts was when I was a kid).
Disney Store: A Mickey Mouse place to shop
Don't live near Disney World (in Orlando, Florida) or Disneyland (Anaheim, California)? Well, no problem. You can at least buy much of the same rubbish they sell in stores at the parks in all 50 states of the USA plus a few foreign countries. Disney Stores have become almost as familiar a fixture in most malls as The Gap.
What to buy: You can find toys, games, movies, music, clothing, small home furnishings, art, and collectibles at any one of hundreds of these stores.
The Museum Gift Shop: Almost every museum has one
At just about every museum worth its salt, there is a gift shop selling whatnots of that particular museum. The quality of the products sold varies widely, but it's usually overpriced because the museum has unique rights to sell the whatnots dealing with its subject matter. Some museums covering a controversial point in history take one side in that particular point of view and drive it home like a railroad spike. Some of these gift shops are inconvenient to access when the museum is short on staff. Some of these gift shops are too convenient in their strategic placement. Some museums make the gift shop the only point of non-emergency exit.
Spencer Gifts: Life's a party, they're makin' it fun
When we were kids going to the mall, my brother and I would always ask Mama and Daddy to let us wander into Spencer Gifts, not to buy anything, but to see all the weird merchandise they had for sale. The last time I went was at university when I went along with Matt Rogers and Dave Coolidge in Dave's rice burner (Japanese car) to the location at Springfield Mall for Dave to buy a can of fart spray (a worse odour than the real thing). It was back in the days when I was compact enough to fit in the hatch of the Honda CRX.
What to buy: All manner of joke items, party favours, and other rubbish made in Red China.
Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World: Outdoorsmen, take note
This is the perfect antithesis to the previous tip The Great Indoors. Men, while she's getting remodeling ideas there, you can go here to upgrade your fishing pole or hunting gear. The first time I've ever seen a Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World was at Concord Mills Mall in Concord, North Carolina. Four years later, another opened up closer to home in Ashland, VA. Each store is decorated like the state it is in. In the Charlotte area store is a 40-foot, (12 m.) rock climbing wall and a cascading waterfall descending into a pond with real fish. The Virginia store had an old country store where you could buy candles and fudge. Considerably larger than its Concord, North Carolina counterpart, there was a waterfall inside.
What to buy: Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World caters to fresh and salt water fishermen, campers, and hunters in the way of equipment, apparel and footwear.
What to pay: Although this is a hunting and fishing store, the prices aren't terribly cheap. It caters to a more sophisticated outdoorsman.
As Seen on TV: If you've seen it, they have it and more
If you've been in the USA for any length of time, you have seen numerous commercials advertising a lot of interesting gadgets you might not have thought possible. The good news is, you no longer have to wait 6-8 weeks for it to be shipped to you. You can now go to a mall near you and pick up your Houdini Corkscrew or whatever it is you're looking for.
What to buy: As Seen on TV offers a lot of intersting things like a liquid leather repair kit, various innovative cooking tools, and a flat screen telephone that can double as a calculator. Some things sold here border on the absurd, but some things can be useful.
What to pay: The prices are pretty reasonable. Many things are only $19.95, but that's a bargain when you consider you won't have to pay shipping and handling.
Carson Piers Scott: Stylish Old Department Store In Chicago
Inside Carson Piers Scott is your standard North American department that largely catters to middle class families. However it is the architecture of the building that makes, for me anyway, Carson Piers Scott interesting. Once I saw the fantastic metalwork facade, I had to go inside to see if the inside compared with the exterior. I was a wee bit disappointed but just the same the store is worth a visit if you are in Chicago's Loop district.
What to buy: This is your standard American large department store. Therefore you could probably pick up virtually any imaginable item while scanning through this huge store.
What to pay: Prices are about average.Related to:
- Family Travel
Hallmark Cards & Gifts: The one-stop "get out of the doghouse" shop
Hallmark is a nationwide greeting card company. It has a store at nearly every strip or shopping mall worth its salt.
What to buy: They offer cards for all occasions which you can imagine. They also sell party favours, gifts, candies and seasonal items. So, folks, if you step in it with both feet with respect to someone you love, Hallmark is your one-stop shop on the road to making it right again.
What to pay: Hallmark cards are reasonably priced, but the gifts and candy are a bit on the high side.
Great Indoors: A yuppified Home Depot
The Great Indoors is a gigantic store for those who are into remodeling and redecorating. (Menfolks, don't get dragged or coerced into going here, go to Bass Pro Outdoor World instead. She says, "It'll only be a few minutes." Remember, "Gilligan's Island" was supposed to be a 3-hour tour.) Its 50 showrooms in about a dozen states are about 130.000 square feet (about 40.000 square meters) are full of decorative-type items you wouldn't find at most other home furnishing stores. Obviously, this is not a b1bob kind of store.
What to buy: You will find all sorts of different faucet styles, appliances, decorative patterns, but you won't find things like fertiliser, garden tractors, and things like that, which sets this place apart from Home Depot or Lowe's.
What to pay: Just from the locations the company chooses to put its showrooms, it's a bit more expensive than Home Depot or Lowe's.
Tuesday Morning: World's greatest treasure hunt
Tuesday Morning looks at first glance like an upmarket gift boutique. This is not what one would think of as a b1bob type of store, but I went in there to buy part of Mama's Christmas present in 2005. However, the same types of merchandise you see in better department stores with well-known brand names come at 50-80% less than you would find there. With more than 700 stores across the fruited plain, there's most likely one of these in your backyard.
What to buy: Mama collects candles and I bought her some of various scents including that of herbes de provence. There is all manner of home furnishings and other gifts large and small.
Official Team Stores
Some professional sporting teams in the United States have stores which sell only officially licenced team products. I do not know whether these stores (together with the shops at the stadium) have a monopoly on licenced products, but here is where you will find the majority of them. On enlarging the photo, you will see two examples of this. Note that neither team is among my favourites. In American football, I am a fan of the Carolina Panthers and in baseball I like the Atlanta Braves. On top is the Official Washington Redskins Store. There is one store in Washington, DC (Union Station as in the picture), one in suburban Maryland, six in Northern Virginia, and one as far south as Richmond. On the bottom is the (New York) Mets Club House. There are three in the city (all in Manhattan, I believe) plus the featured one at Menlo Park Mall in suburban Edison, New Jersey. Other teams may have these official stores, but I single out the first two examples I found.
Sur La Table: A cook's paradise
For those of y'all from Roxboro, NC, Sur la Table is French for on the table. For those who know me well, this upscale kind of store would seem an odd fit for a cheapskate like me. However, I'm a smart cheapskate. Over the long haul, it actually costs LESS to pay more upfront for well-made cookware that will last decades than to buy the cheap stuff. Many folks might not know it, but I love to cook.
What to buy: As a rule, I hate shopping, but I enjoy browsing all the cookware, cooking tools, and recipe books. Some cooking tools I had never even heard of (not even on The Food Network) before doing my Christmas shopping here. I had the most fun giggling at some of the trendier items like cruets labeled huile and vinaigre (I'm fluent in French, folks, but this is the United States of America.) On top of that, they have in stock some of those giant economy sized pepper mills you see waiters carry around at many snooty restaurants. If you can envisage it in a kitchen or a restaurant, you'll find it here.
What to pay: Most things lean to the upscale, but there are some reasonably priced things too. When you don't know what to get the Emeril wannabe you know, get 'em a gift certificate.
Brookstone: The perfect innovative gift idea
When we were kids going to the mall, my brother and I would always ask Mama and Daddy to let us wander into Spencer Gifts, not to buy anything, but to see all the weird merchandise they had for sale. This is the place for grownups to do that.
What to buy: All manner of gadgets from office cubicle fans to automatic remote controlled vacuum cleaners are for sale here. For my fellow travelers, Brookstone also sells those T.S.A.-approved luggage locks so that y'all might recover a sense of security after they banned regular locks. Before Brookstone opened at Stony Point Shopping Centre south of the James River, I would always go to the one at Fair Oaks Mall in Fairfax. My university friend James would meet me there. Both of us are notorious cheapskates, so we never did buy any of the expensive gadgetry. Instead, James always likes to park it in one of those leather massage chairs. At $3000 U.S., he probably wouldn't buy one even if he won the lottery, but he likes getting an occasional free sample.
The Container Store: The original storage and organisation store
This tip is dedicated to American ingenuity. In what other country would you find a store that sells nothing but containers? You would be surprised by how much clutter Americans accumulate. In the late 1970s, a group of entrepreneurs opened up this place to solve that very problem. The store layout is neatly divided into various lifestyle sections including, but not limited to, closets, kitchen, and office. I first heard of this place in Northern Virginia while going out with a friend who was running errands.
What to buy: All manner of storage and organisation products can be found here.
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