Friday, March 27, 2009
Five Outlets & A Funeral
Sarah Lahey (Editorial Director of Born to Shop and my BFF) and I are on the road and headed to the funeral. We will drive from San Francisco to San Antonio and end up at a funeral in San Marcos, Texas.
We had a rocky start getting out of Tiburon and will share some of the details as they apply to all shoppers and shippers.Even the brands we trust the most, such as UPS, can be asleep at the wheel or at customer centers in India.
I have been sans domicile fixe for almsot six months and have accumulated a lot of t-shirts and WallMart pull on pants, so I prepared 20 boxes for UPS to ship to San Antonio so that we could fill the car with art and fragile antiques and the dogs, etc.
To make a long story short, UPS had the pick up order in their records but never checked the proper box to put it in action. We waited in vain for 8 hours and then went nuts when a day of our road trip began to disintegrate before our minds. We finally went online, opened a business account, printed out the labels and dragged all that stuff onto Sarah's porch. The house tilted forward. We left, not much caring who picked it up and grateful to not have to sit around another full day, waiting and hoping.
By 10:15AM, just two hours later than planned, we were headed south through The City, past San Jose and on to our first stop, Gilroy. This is a city that announces itself with its aroma-- you can smell the garlic capital everywhere, it's in the air you breathe. Serious shoppers can even stop at farm stands for garlic and garlic products.
The outlet center here, Gilroy Premium Outlets, has 145 stores. There are no signs on the highway before you get there, you are almost forced to pass it, take the next exit and cut back in a screwball fashion (the streets dont go through in a grid as they might) until you pass the business park and enter what is essentially a village of outlet stores. The exit you want, while driving south on Highway 101, is Leavesly Road, exit 355.
Three separate strip centers have been bought up, renovated and integrated to make for this outlet center which is neither a fake village atmosphere, like many of the Chelsea Village outlets, or any kind of modern cityscape, per the new American Mall concepts.
These are just jazzed up strip centers with nice landscapping, adequeate parking for a weekday, many fast food joints and many of the names we love to shop. Mostinteresting is the fact that the strips are seprated by main roads such as Arroyo Circle and therefore some of the designers, such as Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren and even Samsonite, have multiple stores as they must have marketing research that proves the chicken won't cross the road to get to the other outlet.
One portion of the 3-part centers has more retail devoted to children, this also includes The Paper Store which is a party store with great deals on wrapping paper,72 sq ft for $5.99. Most of the other stres are more brand oriented.
The higher end names are across the street on the south side of the complex-- everything from Starbucks to Eddie Bauer, Polo, Jones New York, Le Crueset, Nike, Pac SUn, BCBG, Max Studios, IZOD, Coach, Micahel Kors and even Sony.
I had just seen a stunning Michael Kors spring style handbag in a recent fashion magazine. His bags look like $3,000 but normally cost more like $300. At the outlet, prices were $150-200, obviously worth the price of gas.
All of the stores have a set of pictograms in the window-- no eating, no smoking, no dogs.
After al fresco lunch at McDonald's with Toffee and Junior Mint, we fled the doggy scene -- great ideas run in packs and many other diners were there with pets-- and went to the furthermost part of the center. Here I was sorely tempted by Auntie Anne's and Jelly Belly, but was not certain if they were true factory outlets. I mean, really.
Stores in this section included Timberland, Hugo Boss, American Apparel, Cole Haan and J. Crew. I went in for a Michele Obama moment. Now I must lsoe 20 pounds and tone the arms.
Then we sped south all the way on 101, passing America's fruit basket fields and pastures--sparkling green under the bright blue sky. Harvest season caused much activity in some fields and we were excited until we found out they were harvesting celery. How romantic is that? Not very!
We entered the wine country best seen in the mmovie Sideways, we considered tracking down the outlet store for J. Lohr, one of our favorite wines, but instead kept going toward Five Cities Drive, near Pismo Beach where Prime Outlets has a small outlet mall. Yawn.
We were exhausted by the time we got to our La Quinta Inn in Ventura but delighted to find that our $84 reserved from a hotel broker online (hotels.com)would be billed at the hotel's actual rate, $62. I also noted fine print about a $7 charge for a second person in the room and was able to get that removed.
The shopping never stops.