Thursday, March 11, 2010

Ecofrugal fantasy mall

A couple of miles up the road from us, there's an old strip mall that's been undergoing renovations for most of the past year. Prior to that, it wasn't much use as strip malls go; the only stores in it we ever went to at all were the Asian supermarket and a huge discount warehouse called National Wholesale Liquidators, which unloaded at rock-bottom prices all the junk that other retailers couldn't sell. In amongst all the junk there were occasional gems, like the pair of compact fluorescent torchères we picked up for only $8 each, but finds like those were few and far between, and we weren't terribly sorry to see the place close down. However, I have found myself wondering, each time I passed by that derelict hulk, whether all the money the owners are putting into stucco and stonework will actually attract any new stores—and if so, whether they'll actually be stores I would want to patronize.

So I started thinking about what I'd really love to see move into this old, run-down strip mall once it becomes a new, spruced-up strip mall. Here's what my ultimate fantasy configuration would look like:
  • The former Asian grocery would become a new Trader Joe's. At present, the nearest one to us is in Westfield, half an hour away. With a new one a couple of miles away, we would no longer need to make a special trip to stock up on organic raisins and recycled-fiber toilet paper.
  • The big National Wholesale Liquidators space would house a new Habitat ReStore. These are like thrift shops for home improvement goods of all kinds, from tile to paint to furniture. The goods are donated and sold at, I'm told, mouth-wateringly low prices. I've never been to one yet myself, because the nearest one to us is in Freehold, half an hour away (in exactly the opposite direction from the Trader Joe's) and is only open from 10 to 3 on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Having one right in our back yard would be an ecofrugal dream come true.
  • The other big storefront, which I believe used to be a discount children's clothing store, would become a Goodwill store or some other big thrift shop. Right now, there is only one thrift shop within walking distance of here, and it has a very unimpressive, seldom-changing selection, plus it is only open about ten hours a week. There is a Goodwill store about 20 minutes away by car, but since it's not close to any other stores we patronize regularly, we have to make a special trip to visit it, so I seldom get the chance to browse.
  • One of the smaller storefronts could house a fabric store, a type of establishment that seems to be going the way of the dinosaur. The only big chain left is JoAnn Fabrics, and the nearest one of those is in the Mercer Mall, nearly an hour away. But we all know that lots of frugal practices and skills are making a comeback in this recession, so why not sewing?
  • And then, just to add an extra kick to each trip, I'd like to throw in a coffeeshop of some sort. A crunchy, hippie-type coffee bar offering Fair-Trade brew and soymilk would be great, but I'd settle for a Starbucks.
Hey, a girl can dream, right?


mfliving said...

How can you sully the name of National Wholesale Liquidators? It is on my franchise top five. (Along with Trader Joe's, Target, Steve and Barry's, and Dunkin'. Hey I'm from Boston -- Dunkin' has to be on the list or they make you leave New England!) National Wholesale Liquidators has most of items to which I am brand loyal (shampoo, cleansers) as well as other house necessities (compact florescents, picture frames, halloween candy, you name it), and it's all dirt cheap. Ours is within walking distance and when it closed down, I was so nostalgic, I kept the bright pink bag as the liner for our laundry lint collection and just kept emptying and reusing it so I could remember the store and sigh. Then, last week, they re-opened! Oh, joy! Rapture! Do not disparage the NWL. For shame.

Lobelia said...

Well, maybe your NWL was better than ours. (Sounds like they kind of deal in other stores' leftovers, so each particular store's selection may depend heavily on what is sold at other stores in the area.) I will agree with you on TJ's, Dunkin (Fair-Trade espresso!), and Target, but I found Steve and Barry's a disappointment. Sure, the prices are great, but it seems like you have to be a 17-year-old waif to look good in any of that stuff.